Justin & Cassie Mayer, our full-time Owners/Directors, have an extensive background in summer camping.
Having been campers, counselors, division leaders and ultimately head counselors within the Timber Lake Family of Camps, (Justin at Timber Lake and Cassie at Timber Lake West) Justin and Cassie have experienced the full range of what camp has to offer. Their daughters, Jolie and Sydney, are presently the youngest campers at West, so they really understand how it feels to be camp parents! Most importantly, Justin and Cassie consider all of their Timber Lake West campers and counselors to be their second family. During the winter months, they stay in contact with parents, campers and returning staff while also spending a great deal of time interviewing and hiring new staff members for the following summer.
Justin adds a sense of fun to everything he does at camp and is committed to providing West campers with the best possible summer experience. He spends his days and nights at camp working with campers and their families, guaranteeing that their needs and expectations are being met.
Cassie spends her summers working with prospective and current families, as well as West’s “camp mom,” a role that allows her to take care of our campers while also maintaining close ties with their parents. She does everything from clip campers’ fingernails to tuck campers in at night and her passion for West is evident from the minute that you meet her. Her Masters Degree in School Psychology provides her the base to give her all to each and every one of our campers.
Justin serves as a Board Member of S.C.O.P.E. (Summer Camp Opportunities Promote Education), an organization that funds “camperships” for children in need to attend not-for-profit sleep-away camps in the tri-state area, thus providing the benefits of a safe, well-supervised and enriching summer camp experience. Justin is also an active volunteer of the American Camp Association.
Jennifer DeSpagna , owner and director, has been a part of the Timber Lake West since its first summer in 1988. Jennifer was not born to camping. She was a late bloomer getting her first taste of resident camping, working at a sleep-away camp on Cape Cod, after her freshman year at Michigan. She held several positions there, during her four summers: Waterfront Counselor, Assistant Pool Head and Assistant Head Counselor for the CIT program. After graduation, Jennifer was hired by Lincoln Farm Camp as an Administrative assistant and in 1987 she became the Associate Director of Timber Lake West and ultimately Director. She not only enjoys working full time at camp, she is always amazed, after all of these years, by the remarkable and positive impact that camp has on all who share in the experience. Whether you are a camper, staff member or even a director, the camp environment changes you in ways you would never expect. Camp is a place that really appreciates your for who you are and be the best person you can be.
In the summer, Jennifer keeps in touch with parents and works directly with campers. During the winter months,she maintains contact with parents, campers and staff and plays a major role in all staff hiring and staff development. Jennifer brings to West an energy that is contagious, and is respected by campers and staff for her abilities and obvious love for camp.
Jennifer previously served on the Board of Directors of the American Camp Association-NY and has chaired several committees for the Tri-State Camp Conference, the largest volunteer driven conference in the country, sat on the Joe Krueger Educational Committee and is currently a member of the Public Guidance Committee for the American Camp Association.
Unique to Timber Lake West, and an integral piece to the puzzle, is the role of our Leadership Staff at camp. Each group has a Head Counselor and a Friendship Coach who act as the liaisons between parents and their children throughout the course of the session. Mature Division Leaders are the direct supervisors of the campers and counselors in their group and assist with all activities, bunk issues, and staff performance/evaluation. The role of the Coach is actually very similar to that of a parent. The Coach will provide attention and care to each camper by paying close consideration to the relationships and interactions they have with other campers and staff, monitoring that all special needs are being met, and serving as a compassionate and empathetic adult figure.
The key to your child’s great summer camp experience has everything to do with the quality of the staff. At Timber Lake West, we adhere to a simple formula: we want the BEST staff, at the BEST pay, trained to do the BEST JOB. With a 1:2 staff to camper ratio, we work to ensure the best possible care, instruction and supervision for our campers.
Our staff salaries are the highest in the industry, ensuring a wider pool of quality applicants (college sophomores start at a $2,500 base). Our full-year training program, which employs the services of top psychologists and experts in the child development field, provides our staff with the proper “tools” to work with campers to achieve our goals of building relationships and enhancing self-esteem.
Our in-bunk general counselors are chosen based on several interviews, reference checks and background checks. Our “specialty” counselors go through the same screening process, but are also all professionals in their fields. Our lead instructors come from winter jobs at esteemed private schools, universities and athletic facilities.
Additionally, our counselors are evaluated by their supervisors throughout the summer and are eligible to earn an additional $600 in cash bonuses. This Evaluation Program has evolved over the years and is one of the reasons that our staff grow so much throughout the summer. This means NO TIPPING for parents on Visiting Day or at any other time of the summer.