History

Cabin Street

The Cheshire YMCA, a non-profit corporation, owns and operates Camp Takodah. The Cheshire County Y was organized December 8, 1913, and the first County Y camping program was conducted in 1914 for two weeks at Swanzey Lake, under the leadership of Howard T. Ball, the first County YMCA Secretary. Fourteen boys, plus leaders, had few conveniences, little equipment, and slept on bags of straw in tents. In 1916 a similar camp was held on Tolman Pond, directed by Daniel Lorentz, second County Y Secretary.

Our camp was named “TAKODAH” by Elgin A. Jones, a member of the County YMCA Board of Directors. Takodah’s motto, “Friendly to All”, is a reflection of the friendship shown to Mr. Jones on a visit to friends amongst the Sioux people in South Dakota.

In the summer of 1919 our present site in Richmond was leased. It had on it two buildings and three tents, and included 63 acres of land. Our present office building was used for a lodge, and the older section of Hobby Nook was the dining room. Each camper brought his own plate, knife, fork, spoon, and a tin cup.

Our first camp property (60 acres) was purchased in January, 1920 for the price of $2,200. Mr. Lorentz resigned in 1920 and was succeeded by Victor H. Smith, who stayed one year.

Oscar L. Elwell was employed in July of 1921 to be this YMCA’s fourth Secretary. The Elwells (Uncle Oscar and Aunt Frances) were encouraged by the County & directors, campers, parents, Takodah alumni, business firms, professional groups, service clubs, and friends to develop the finest YMCA camp in New England. We now have over 50 buildings and own more than 400 acres of land. Girls’ programs were started throughout Cheshire County by Aunt Frances, and Takodah girls’ camp was begun by her in 1922. The Elwell team led Camp Takodah for fifty years, achieving a combined century of service to youth, which is recognized on the sundial monument near Hobby Nook, and exemplified in the Alumni- donated Elwell Chapel.

Martha Fisher joined this YMCA staff in March 1946, and served as secretary to Oscar Elwell and Fred Toot. In 1980 Martie became the Administrative Associate to the Executive Director and Registrar for Camp Takodah. From 1946 until 1975 she spent summers in residence at Takodah, directing office operations for camp and corporate life alike from our Richmond camp office. After 1975, she kept up involvements on property on registration Sundays each period, as well as other visits from time to time. On April 1, 1993 after 47 years of service to the County YMCA and Camp Takodah, Martie retired. In retirement Martie remains active as a consultant with issues that arise and remains active with Camp Takodah’s Alumni efforts. Her contributions and service to the YMCA will forever have an impact on the quality and style of service offered by the County YMCA.

Frederick P. Toot joined the YMCA team in January 1971. Fred played a critical role in navigating the post-Elwell era and reforming the vision of the YMCA. Under Fred’s leadership, the Cheshire County YMCA focused its efforts on providing programming and service to all Cheshire County (NH) communities. Fred served the YMCA until 1977, when he turned over leadership to Bill Allen. At the Annual Meeting 2005, Fred and his wife, Jan, returned to Camp Takodah, with their son Gregg’s family and grandsons, to received the ‘First Foundation Block Award’ for Cementing and Implementing New Visions for the Cheshire County YMCA’s Future.

Bill Allen joined the YMCA staff in 1971 as Associated Director for County Program Services. He lived in Pinewood Cabin and ventured out of camp daily to develop new county programs services. In 1976-77 he designed and developed the day camp model. When Fred Toot left in 1977 Bill became Executive Director of the YMCA. In 1984 Bill returned to a more hands- on involvement with camp as Administrative Camp Director for Support Services. In 1986 he became Director of YMCA Camp Takodah, and in January 1988 he turned over the general management of the YMCA to Kevin Curtis, Executive Director. Bill left the Cheshire County Y at the end of 1989 to become Executive Director of the Children’s Center of the Upper Valley in Lebanon, NH.

“Buffalo” Bob Smith joined the Takodah family in 1976 as Assistant Camp Director under Fred Toot. Bob’s involvement brought our YMCA team to three full–time YMCA directors, serving as the Association’s Program Director. In 1978 he became the first year-round resident on Takodah property in Big Pine. Bob served with four colleagues (Fred, J.E.F. Craig, Latta, Bill), making his mark felt as a most competent leader of program staff teams. He weathered three leadership transitions and in each void filled the leadership needs with competence and skill. In 1984 Bob became Associate Camp Director and administered day and travel camping. In 1985 he became the day-to-day operations director for Resident Camp Takodah. Bob died on Takodah property in November 1985 and was laid to rest behind the altar in the Elwell Chapel.

J.E.F. Craig was employed in 1978 as the first Camping Services Director, and was charged with keeping the high quality of Takodah programs through skilled, mature leadership, program skills, creative ideas, and friendly-to-all spirit. Under his leadership we developed the Hornet’s Nest Day Camp, soccer and tennis camps, mini camp, a computer camp, and horsemanship. In November 1983, J.E.F. left for other YMCA involvements.

Latta Johnston became Camping Services Director in 1984 and served for one year.

Steve Russell became Camp Director of YMCA Camp Takodah 1986 and served for one summer.

Bruce Holloway joined the Cheshire County YMCA in 1987 as Assistant Camp Director. In November 1987 he became Associate Camp Director. In 1993 Bruce accepted the additional role as Camp Takodah Director. In December of 1993 Bruce left the YMCA as a full–time employee to pursue a career as a classroom teacher.

JEF Craig returned in 1990 to serve as the County YMCA’s General Director, and was to remain with the YMCA through 2006. Under JEF’s leadership, the Cheshire YMCA’s Developmental Travel, Day and Resident Camping programs saw record enrollments. Under JEF’s leadership, the YMCA undertook its first major Capital Campaign, raising funds to erect a new Dining Hall and Program Center at camp. The Dining Hall would be named for JEF following his retirement. Beyond 2006, JEF remained active as a volunteer Mini Camp administrator, advisor to future directors, and gave interim guidance in the winter of 2009.

Michael Hoefer started work as Camping Services Director in December 1993. Bringing with him a strong love of Takodah and fifteen summers experience on Cass Pond, Mike proved a great steward of the Takodah tradition while transitioning many of camp’s programs and policies to meet the needs of families in a new millennium. Mike’s legacy at camp included a remarkable development and expansion of Takodah’s Outdoor Education programs for local schools. Mike moved on from the YMCA in 1999, but remained active as a policy volunteer, later joining the YMCA’s board and serving as its vice-president and chair of several key committees.

Over the winter of 1999, Erin Friedman, a recent graduate of Springfield College, joined the YMCA team as Takodah’s first Director of Outdoor Programs, working to further develop the Outdoor Education and Summer Adventure Camp programs. Many of the School Programs Erin pitched and creatively developed are still in force today. In 2003, Erin returned to Springfield College to pursue a Master’s Degree and take on leadership in Springfield’s student YMCA activities.

From 2003 – 2006, Chris Ortiz joined the Camp Takodah team and brought new leadership and enthusiasm to the Director of Outdoor Programs Role. A teambuilding and Ropes course expert, Chris’ leadership and passion for training others saw a whole generation of Takodians find their legs as teambuilding and Ropes Course facilitators. Under Chris, our school program client base grew significantly and Adventure Camps moved further afield, seeing successful trips venture as far as California and Hawaii.

In August 2006, Susan Vosik joined the YMCA team, replacing Ortiz as Director of Outdoor Programs. Sue substantially grew our client base, but departed to further her graduate studies after one year.

Following JEF Craig’s retirement in 2006, the YMCA took on Bob DeJong as its new Executive Director. Bob left the Cheshire YMCA in July 2009

From 2007 – 2008, Chloe Holmes joined the YMCA team as Director of Outdoor Programs. Chloe was a lifelong Takodian, and her work was vital in sustaining our School Programs and Adventure Camps through a difficult economy.

William Therrien joined the Cheshire YMCA team in the winter of 1999. A Takodian since his youth, an outdoor educator and classroom teacher, Therrien worked to develop and re-vitalize Takodah’s programs for a changing clientele – re-designing the Leadership Training programs and curriculum, adding performing arts and horsemanship, guiding the expansion of shoulder season Outdoor Education, expanding the ropes course, improving staff training, and making character-building a more intentional part of every child’s experience. Willy was a vital anchor for Takodah and the YMCA through several difficult corporate transitions. Willy left the Cheshire YMCA in 2013.

Scott Peckins joined the Cheshire YMCA as the Executive Director in 2010. Scott strengthened the organization’s relationship with the town and the community, built a stronger management team, improved financial performance, and created a new village at Camp Takodah to accommodate concurrent camping. He also expanded the campus by purchasing the Alumni House at the end of the camp’s driveway. Scott left the Cheshire YMCA in 2014 to pursue a similar position at another YMCA.

Visit our Leadership page to learn about our current Camp Takodah leaders.