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The reaction of those visiting Camp Konocti for the first time, campers, parents and visitors alike, is virtually unanimous...surprised admiration. Most have heard about the camp and have expectations ranging from simple and rustic to Spartan. Few, if any, expect an outdoor summer recreational facility that rivals any of the best private summer camps. Then again, founder Joe Mazzola was always determined that the sons and daughters of the members of Local 38 would enjoy the same recreational opportunities as the sons and daughters of "the bosses."
It was an audacious idea even in the 1960’s when unions were at their strongest. Today, with unions facing falling membership numbers and numerous benefit cutbacks, it is completely unique. The simple fact that it not only survives but flourishes with regular maintenance, upgrades and expansions, is a testament to the officers and members of Local 38 and their dedication to that vision.
More importantly, for members covered by the contract that included contributions to the specially designated trust, the two weeks of summer camp for their sons and daughters remains completely free. Unions have long negotiated wages, working conditions, pension and health benefits—benefits that directly affected the working members. But this is a family benefit, one which specifically addresses not just earning a living, but contributing to the lives of union families.
Since its establishment, Camp Konocti has been carefully nurtured by former Business Manager Larry Mazzola Sr., current Business Manager Larry Mazzola Jr., and all of the officers and trustees of Local 38. It has become a reality that has enriched the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of Local 38 members and their families.
"Camp Konocti is a completely unique benefit," says Mazzola Jr., when asked about the camp. "I don’t know of another union that has anything like it. I spent lots of time at Camp Konocti growing up. Many of the friends I have today, as well as the deep personal relationships I have with many other Local 38 members, grew directly out of my time a Camp Konocti.
"It showed me what workers can do when they come together in a labor union," he continues. "None of us could operate Camp Konocti on our own, but together we have created a very special place that has brought experiences and memories that would be out of reach for most working families."
Brother Mazzola Jr. is not alone in his assessment of Camp Konocti. Local 38 members and families, as well as UA members throughout the country, know all too well that the price tag on private summer camps, often in the thousands of dollars per week, put them well out of range for anyone but the most affluent families. Camp Konocti is one of Local 38’s proudest benefits and traditions.
While the Camp Konocti facilities are first-rate, even the finest physical plant means nothing without people to work it, and Camp Konocti has the very best.
Camp Director Bill Olinger is currently in his 23rd year working at camp, including 15 years as director. He is joined by a veteran group of counselors and support staff. Many staffers attended camp in their younger years and have now graduated from campers and Counselors in Training (CIT) to full-fledged counselors. Still others are college students or graduates whose interest in physical, outdoor or developmental education have led them to work at Camp Konocti during the eight-week long season.
A FREE BENEFIT
Camp Konocti is a free benefit for the sons and daughters of Local 38 members working for contributing employers. Members who do not work for contributing employers, grandparents, family members, building trades members and even the general public, can send their children to camp for various reduced rates.
The season is divided into four sessions and grouped by age, ranging from 7 to 14 years old. While the beginning sessions concentrate on developing camping safety skills such as swimming, boating, hiking and outdoor education, the later sessions include water skiing, dances, evening programs, and other teen appropriate activities.
Campers are housed in tent cabins whose sides are open to the warm Lake County days and cool evening breezes. There are four stations—pool, dock, arts and crafts, and recreation—and campers rotate through the stations so they enjoy all the camp activities.
In addition to the support from Local 38, Camp Konocti owes much of its success to the hard work of it’s support staff. "This season we will have a new Camp Director," said Mazzola Jr. "After 15 years as Camp Direcotr Bill Olinger's schedule is such that he is stepping down as Camp Direcotr. Luckily for us Steve Hays, who has served the past four years as Assistant Director, will be taking over and continuing the camp's proud tradition of providing first class recreational opportunities for the sons and daughtersof Local 38.
?"I do want to say a special thank you to Bill for his more than 20 years of service and dedication to the camp," Mazzola, Jr. said. "While he can't continue as the director, Bill will continue to be involved with camp in an as-needed consulting position."