At the Hoffmann Bird Club, we rely on the generosity of our members and supporters to continue our important work in bird conservation and education. Donations to our club can be directed towards one of two funds, depending on your interests. Your contribution to either fund is greatly appreciated and will help us continue our mission of promoting appreciation and understanding of avian life. Thank you for your support!
History of the Marilyn Flor Campership Fund
The Hoffmann Bird Club has been providing full scholarships for area youth to attend a nature camp for over 25 years. We feel that supporting children in learning about nature provides a life-long understanding of our world. This campership fund was started to honor Marilyn Flor at Pleasant Valley Nature Camp. Marilyn was Pleasant Valley’s Nature Educator and Assistant Director for over 30 years. As the director of the Pleasant Valley Day Camp, she developed their various programs, providing the campers with a well-rounded educational experience. Many of these children went on to careers in the natural sciences and became future members of the Hoffmann Bird Club and staff at the Pleasant Valley Sanctuary in Lenox.
In 1995 Marilyn retired from Pleasant Valley, and the Hoffmann Bird Club started the Marilyn Flor Campership Fund. The late David St. James, author of the “Birds of Berkshire County” and outstanding naturalist, was instrumental in structuring this campership fund. The fund solicits donations from club members at the time they renew their annual dues in September for the Hoffmann Bird Club. Over the years, many people have generously supported this effort. After retirement, Marilyn continued bird-watching and observing nature from Rockport, Massachusetts. Marilyn passed away in April 2022 at 87 years old. The camperships all take place at Massachusetts Audubon Pleasant Valley Nature Camp in Lenox, Massachusetts, which offers camps for children aged 3 to 17 years old.
The Hoffmann Bird Club accepts applications for this Campership from members each year funding usually 1-2 campers per year. These campers often send lovely thank you cards, including drawings of their experiences at the camp. Some campers have given us in-person presentations of their time at camp. Campers were invited to the club annual banquet, so that our members could meet them and encourage their interest in nature. Dave St. James structured the club so that this campership would be a benefit to members, so their children or grandchildren would have the opportunity to attend camp. Also, the camperships were awarded to children that had an interest in nature, but were not able to attend a camp due to financial reasons. We would identify these children by speaking with elementary school science teachers and principals to find students. This became increasingly more difficult since we wanted to protect the privacy of the individuals. Also, there sometimes were problems with the parents not being able to provide transportation to the camp.
During the last decade, our donations for students with a financial need, was given directly to Pleasant Valley to distribute the camperships. This arrangement protects the privacy of the campers and identifies youth where the parents have an interest, and the means, to bring the child to the camp. The Hoffmann Bird Club Executive Committee reviews any applications from club members, and awards full scholarships based on the balance of the fund and the cost of the camp.
Over the past few years, our members have been extremely generous, and we have been able to award 4-6 scholarships per year, the majority of which go to students with a financial need or to increase the diversity of the nature camp. Pleasant Valley expanded the program in 2021 to include a second location at Canoe Meadows in Pittsfield and the Nature Camp in Lenox. Their goal is to reach children from low-income families and communities of color who would be unable to attend a nature camp without financial assistance. They have developed relationships with several organizations to increase the diversity of campers. These organizations include VIM (Volunteers in Medicine), Community Health Programs, MACONY Pediatrics, and the Afghan Resettlement program. In 2021, they served 300-400 campers and offered 35 full scholarships totaling $16,000 to increase their camp programs’ socioeconomic, racial, and geographic diversity. They also offer partial scholarships based on a sliding-scale family income basis which totaled $12,000 in 2021. The demand for scholarships always outnumbers the funds available. More information is available on their website.