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~ shared by Martin Lessner
It seems that among a certain set of athletes, the traditional 100 mile bike ride or 26.2 mile run is (yawn) no longer a worthy goal. Hence the proliferation of "Ultra" sporting events, like triathlons, Ironmans, and events combining mental challenges with exhausting "feats of strength."
For example, consider the "Super Spartan" which "provides an 8-mile battlefield of insane mud running with 15+ obstacles to test your physical strength and mental resolve. This mud fest of a race will have many trials to push you to your full potential!" And then, of course, there is the granddaddy of all challenges, as written up in Outside Magazine, where few finish, and with a web site that says it all: YouMayDie.com
Now consider, if you will, a longstanding tradition, the Woodloch weekend. Woodloch is a family retreat facility, laid out on a lake surrounded by about 150 acres of woods, ten miles from the PA/NY border. For eight years, my family and Jeff W.'s family, along with three other college friends and their families (a/k/a the "Penn Pals") spend a winter weekend competing in various events against scores of other families from New York and Philadelphia. The ultimate prize is the gold Woodloch medal, to be worn proudly around one's neck while walking around the dining room.
This year's weekend was in cold and snowy mid-February. A Friday night arrival allows us to warm up in the "Cash Cab" event, modeled after the TV show. In a promising start, we win in a comeback in the final round of the 55 minute event, with a question right in my knowledge sweet spot: "What is the sum of (a) the year of the First Continental Congress plus (b) the year Disney World opened in Orlando?" A team gold medal is our reward for my overruling a certain history major and pop culture expert who pressed for dates a year off the correct answer (1774 + 1971 = 3745).
This is merely a warm-up for Saturday's main events. First up is the 7:00 a.m. father/son basketball game. On one side, five guys in their late 40's, in wildly varying physical shape. On the other side are 17, 16, 15, and two 13 year old boys. My son Zack had been talking smack the whole prior week, labeling me as "not good at basketball," another college pal as "not athletic enough," and accurately describing Jeff W. as "injury prone." The games were tough, with lots of sweat and elbows, and ended in a father/son split of 1 game apiece, and no serious injuries for the dads (for now).
Next up at 10:00 a.m. is the premier event, the Scavenger Hunt. Although the actual event is a strictly timed one hour affair, preparation begins months in advance. It starts with playing various online games on the Woodloch website. Attaining a certain success level at these online games yields a partial list of items that will be required if a team wants to have any chance of winning in February. Before we left for Woodloch, Dan K. was kind enough to loan me his "Born to Run" album on vinyl. Other clues resulted in our team pre-gathering the following:
- Return of the Jedi on VHS
- Count Chocula cereal
- a winning lottery ticket
- Tim Tebow rookie card
- Halle Berry perfume
- pretzel M&Ms
- autobiography of Mark Twain vol. 1
- Volkswagen key
- "Lost" season 6 on DVD
Other competitive teams of families show up with these items too. And most show up with laptops and iPads for easy access to the internet, all the better to answer the questions and mind benders to be handed out shortly. After the instructions and checklists are distributed (to all teams at the same time), the one hour clock starts. Our captain delegates to everybody their role, matching as many items on the lists as possible, whether it is the kids dressing up funny, composing a song, or the wives solving puzzles and finding other items (but not taking something from another team or the gift shop, because that is considered "stealing").
Jeff and I are assigned to go after the 150 point bonus. Out the door into the 10 degree morning, we run a half mile to the snow-covered nature trail. Along the trail some trees have small signs tacked on them, with a foreign word or phrase, some in German or looking like German (but really gibberish). We separate and run along different parts of the trail. Upon spotting a tree with a word nailed to it, we take out our blackberries and e-mail it back to a teammate sitting by a computer in the main lounge. In about half hour, with frozen hands and cold feet, we run back from the trail to the main lounge, where our teammate has run the words through a German/English translator. The few random words actually in German (head, comb, awake, rise) are part of a Beatles song, but which one? With a little help from my friends, it comes to me that these are words from "A Day in the Life", which I then have to sing from memory to Joey (the longtime Woodloch MC and judge). After an off-tune rendition of "Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head", Joey gives me a code, which I then use to navigate through a web site, which eventually plays a short music clip, which I identify as "Lovely Rita." We get our bonus points, and in the end, win the silver medal.
The events keep coming. Next up is the father/son football game on a field covered with ice and snow. Again, injury potential is high, but the Dads escape unscathed. Jeff and I then run 5 hilly miles on a road leading down to the NY border on Delaware River, arriving back just in time for the "Name that Tune" competition. For the first time ever, our families beat the other 24 teams, mainly on the strength of our early teenage daughters, who fuel a last round comeback based on their knowledge of "songs" from the last three years. Class of 1985 members are clueless.
Sunday: on the court by 7:00 a.m. for father/son basketball, Part II. This time, the dads squeak by, two games to one. Then the 10:00 a.m. Winter Olympics, with six timed events involving tubing, sledding, running up and down snow covered hills, shooting a hockey puck, and the ten person team "running while bound together with a giant bungee cord" event. The last Olympic event involves running up an incline, touching a flag, then sliding down a steep slope to touch another flag. We do not win the Winter Olympics. In fact, we finish near the bottom of the 24 teams. And in a recent update, Jeff W. informs me that "the huge bruise from the Olympics Butt-Slide Event debacle is still there."
Two o’clock is the "Amazing Race." Among the many implausible events, Jeff and I are delegated by our captain to gather points by running a half mile to a snow bank. I then drag Jeff down the hill by his feet, and he struggles to do the same for me up the hill. For this we get a piece of paper, which allows us to run a half mile back for further instructions. These further instructions send Jeff and me back on another half mile run, where we must knock over water bottles with a pendulum, play "Bop-It" 25 times without error, run some more to a different location, eat a full large snow cone drenched with red-dye laden syrup (this was the hardest event, resulting in both brain freeze and stomach ache), and rotate a stack of 20 cups without dropping. Then a half mile run back to the lodge. Meanwhile, the rest of the team is playing charades, running around the campus taking pictures of certain things (the snowplow, the tree by the lake, etc.), and solving puzzles. Our streak continues, and we take the bronze medal. Meanwhile, my son Zack returns with the gold medal in the Texas Hold'em Tournament.
By four o'clock on Sunday, Jeff's non-"injury prone" streak comes to an end. The late afternoon football game on the snow and ice has Jeff trying to cover a teenager. For no good reason (age?), Jeff's hamstring goes south. Immobilized, we flag down a bus to take Jeff back to the lodge. Pretty much the end of the competitions, save for the wrap-up "Family Feud", where we go down in flames in the second round, unable to name all ten items on the board "that would fall out of your pocket if you were turned upside down."
In conclusion, when I read about the Ultra endurance "Super Spartan", "You May Die" competitions I could never do, I take solace in the fact that my almost 48 year old body and mind survived the trials of Woodloch, with many keepsake memories of family and friend teamwork in the face of stiff competition from those always tough New York and Philly families.
Martin Lessner is a long-time Woodloch guest and friend.
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~shared by J. Ranner
Teddy bears, red roses and little tiny conversation hearts everywhere you go, from the most upscale shopping venues on Fifth Avenue to the gas station counter in downtown Hawley.
Love is in the air. Every February 14th, couples (and hopeful romantics) let the world know their intentions with fancy dinners, sentimental cards and in some cases, the presentation of jewelry and other elaborate gifts. That's what love is all about, right? Taking one day of the year, going over the top and letting the world know that "she's mine."
Nope. Not to me. And I feel I'm not alone.
My experiences and observations of what I consider to be "true love" are really more eternal. You don't take one day of the year to let someone know how important they are to you- you let them know every day of the year, and not always in grand fashion. Subtle hints of care often speak volumes over razzle dazzle. To me, those are the couples that endure and last.
I've been working at Woodloch for over 16 years and have lost count of all the sweet gestures and stories I've seen over the years from our guests. I've seen many romances - TRUE ROMANCES - develope and flourish right before my very eyes. I've had friends meet their soul mates here, then I've watched their families grow. There's seriously something about Lake Teedyuskung that brings out the best in all of us. In the end, "little things" collectively end up as being "the big things" after all.
Recently, we've received a flood of special Woodloch love stories. So, in the spirit of the season, I'd like to share just a few of them with you today.
"My husband and I have been going since we were 17 - we are both approaching 50 now (totally crazy). We have been visiting Woodloch as teenagers, newlyweds, "babies on the way"; "infants in tow"; "toddlers in tow" and now "mini adults in tow. We have certainly passed on your tradition to our children who are now entering adulthood and still beg us to take them twice a year."
"My wife and I were fighting. She just had our second son a few months ago. She was complaining that we never do anything fun because I was always working. It was just before labor day 2007. I stormed away and went on line. Found Woodloch and booked Labor Day weekend. I came downstairs and said, 'I booked a trip - happy?' That was 6 years ago. We just had our 12th visit. Best fight we ever had."
"When my husband proposed I knew the only place I wanted to get married was Woodloch. It's like going home again! Now I bring my children every year and hope they will continue the tradition when they have families of their own one day."
"My parents would go yearly with another couple in the early 1980's. We always heard great stories and were shown beautiful pictures. My brother and sister in law were the first ones to accompany my parents and loved it! Before you knew it we all joined it (mid 1980's). As each year passed it grew into nieces and nephews joining us every October. We continued to go even after my Dad passed away in 1994. Unfortunately we lost my Mom in 2010 and my nieces and nephews are in college so each year since then it is now my husband and I carrying on the tradition. We know one day my siblings and their children will be back again when possible. We love it and can not imagine a year without Woodloch. Wonderful memories...priceless."
"My only son dressed as Tigger asked his wife to marry him in the dining room."
And this is just a sampling of the great stories we have- and I know there are many more out there! Feel free to share your special tale in the comments section below!
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~shared by J. Ranner
It’s a typical off-season Friday afternoon at Woodloch. The air is cold, but the sun is shining and the winds are still. Though things appear calm, we all know that something is coming. We don’t let our guard down for one second in anticipation of what is on the horizon. No, nothing scary- actually quite the opposite: we have another weekend jam-packed with Girl Scout groups.
As they arrive in our lobby, one by one they bop along with a wonderful zest for life and warming smiles on their faces. They’re here to participate in our marquee events such as Scavenger Hunt, Winter Olympics, Cupcake Wars and more not only for the coveted gold medals but also for customized Woodloch badges that will soon be stitched on their sashes. Needless to say, their presence is always known- their enthusiasm and laughter buzz like a nest of honeybees wherever they travel off to.
And of course, THE COOKIES. They always seem to have them in close reach. For years, our scout groups would have some extra boxes here and there and simply leave them with staff as a “thank you” for a fun weekend (or perhaps as an underhand attempt at gaining a few more points for Scavenger Hunt… but who are we to judge?). Thin mints became a staple in our break rooms.
As Woodloch employees, however, fresh baked goods are never really out of our reach- extra breads from the bakery are often left up for grabs to those who need it. As sweet of a gesture as it may be, the treats could be put to a better use. And those thoughts led to the creation of our first “OPERATION COOKIE DROP.”
Throughout the winter months, each visiting Girl Scout will be given the opportunity to donate a box of Girl Scout cookies into our special “Drop Crate” located in our Main Lobby. Upon doing so, they receive a special gift from Woodloch as a “thank you.” At the end of the season, every last Caramel DeLite, Shortbread, Peanut Butter Pattie and everything in between will be shipped overseas to the brave men and women serving in our armed forces. Everyone is invited to drop hand-written letters into our mailbox for the soldiers as well.
I’m a firm believer in “little things”- when all is said and done, they end up really being the “BIG THINGS” after all. In this case, it’s not just a cookie that a soldier is receiving.
The cookies are a warm and happy reminder of home, bringing comfort to those who are clearly in an uncomfortable place.
They’re a reminder to our protectors of exactly what they’re protecting.
“They’re a small token of gratitude… but it’s a great way for all of us to start,” says Joey Ranner, Activities Director. “I have to smile every time we start initiatives like this- our guests (Scouts and non-scouts alike) spring into action and share that Woodloch warmth with others. Watching a plan unfold firsthand reminds me of how fortunate I am to work with such good company.”
If you’ve happened to outgrow your berets and would still like to help, fear not: all of our guests are free to write letters in our lobby and purchase cookies for the cause.
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~shared by J. Ranner
It seems like just yesterday the autumn foliage was glimmering in brilliant shades of amber, fire red and golden yellow and I all I kept hearing about was how excited everyone was for "Pumpkin Latte Season" at their neighborhood Starbucks.
And now, times have changed.
Today, I am working from home as last night's snowfall has made a mess of our local country roads. Sleigh riding was great fun as a kid- not so much in a vehicle as an adult. Which makes me reminisce of the snow days of old. How I have missed them!
When I wasn’t working on a school project that I had most certainly banked on completing due to a snow day, I used to love spending hours outside sledding around. When it got too cold I’d fire up my loyal Super Nintendo. And slowly but steadily I’d find ways to drive my mom insane. And the best way to deal with all the added stress? Therapeutic cooking.
I don’t believe my mom is alone. I think cooking works as a nice release for many that are stressed out- and it also doubles as an enjoyable activity in itself. So back by popular demand (and with the recipes YOU asked for!) please enjoy these wintry recipes to help warm up your season!
Woodloch Pines Chicken Soup
(just in case you happen to catch cold!)
• 1 ½ quarts chicken stock
• 6 chicken bouillon cubes
• 5 tbs. rice
• ¼ cup butter
• 7 tbs. flour
• 2 c. cooked chicken, cut up
• 2 tbs. chopped parsley
Cook rice, set aside. Bring chicken stock and bouillon cube to boil; reduce heat to low. Heat butter in small pan; stir in flour until smooth. Stir mixture into hot soup until desired consistency is achieved. Add cooked rice and cut-up chicken. Garnish with chopped parsley.
Woodloch’s Famous Chili
(just in time for Super Bowl Sunday!)
• 2 tbs. lard / bacon fat
• 3 lbs. lean beef chuck, cut into ½ in cubes
• 2 onions, coarse chopped (1 ½ cups)
• 6 tbs. pure ground hot chili
• 3 tbs. cumin
• 2 tbs. pure ground mild chili
• 1 ½ tsp. minced garlic
• 1 tsp sea salt
• ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
• 1 ½ c. beef broth
• 3 mild or hot green chilis
• 1 large chopped tomato
• 1 tbs. crushed chili Caribe or red pepper flakes, to taste
• 1 tsp. dried oregano, soaked in ¼ cup warm beer
• 1 tbs. cider vinegar
• 1 tbs. tortilla flour or cornmeal
Melt lard / fat in large Dutch oven or heavy pot. Add meat in 2 batches if necessary & cook on all sides until it loses its pink color. Add onions, ground hot chili, cumin, ground mild chili, garlic, salt and black pepper. Add water to barely cover the meat, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered 1 to 1 ½ hours until meat is almost tender, adding more water if needed. Add 1 cup of beef broth to the chopped chilis, tomatoes, chili Caribe, oregano-beer mixture & vinegar. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring often. Stir tortilla flour into remaining ½ cup beef broth, then stir into chili & simmer 15-20 minutes until meat is very tender and sauce is red-brown.
Woodloch’s Streusel Cake
(Great for breakfast, dessert… and any other time of the day.)
STREUSEL CRUMB INGREDIENTS:
• 4 oz. butter
• ½ tsp salt
• 1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
• 4 tsp. cinnamon powder
• ½ c. shortening
• ½ c. brown sugar
• 1/3 tsp vanilla
• 5 ½ c. flour
INSTRUCTIONS: Mix all ingredients except flour together until creamy. Add the flour then mix again. Mixture will become crumbly.
• 1 2/3 c. sugar
• 6 oz. butter
• ½ tsp. salt
• 5 lg. eggs
• 1 1/3 c. milk
• Vanilla to taste
• 3 ½ c. cake flour
• 1 tbs. baking powder
INSTRUCTIONS: Place butter and sugar in a bowl and beat until creamy. Add eggs, vanilla and milk and mix. Add remaining ingredients and continue mixing until smooth. Add half of the batter to your 9” x 13” cake pan. Sprinkle lightly with the crumbs. Using measuring cup, pour remaining batter over the crumbs. Top cake with more streusel crumbs before baking. Place in oven at 375 degrees and bake for 35 minutes. After baking, let cool before cutting into 2 inch squares and serving.
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~Shared by J. Ranner
Anyone living on the Atlantic seaboard can expect snow during the winter season, but exactly how much is the million-dollar question! The Pocono region generally sees an average of about 55 inches of powder per year with the occasional blizzard spiking that total every so often.
But what happens when Mother Nature doesn't cooperate? Snow has been fallen and melted with little to no consistency thus far in 2014. Inconsistency! Today alone, we are going to be shifting from 40 degrees and rainy to bone dry conditions well-below ZERO degrees with windchill! With some of our busiest guest counts of the year, all of whom were expecting a "winter wonderland," what ever could we do to cope with Mother Nature's shenanigans?
The answer: WE MAKE IT SNOW! That's right, since 1991, Woodloch has been manufacturing piles and piles of artificial snow to keep our guests happy all season long. Once temperatures consistently reach 20 degrees and below, we fire up our snow guns and magically transform a blank canvas of grass into a towering mountain of white. Woodloch sculpts their own snow tube runs!
We get a lot of questions on our snow-making operation so we thought we'd give you the behind-the-scenes scoop on the magic!
- Woodloch has three "snow guns" similar to those found at ski resorts. At peak operation, they transform 60 to 70 gallons of water into snow per minute!
- With ideal conditions, i.e. very low temperatures and humidity, the guns can make more than enough snow to fill four triaxle dumptrucks in eight hours!
- Our "Snow Cat," which resembles a bulldozer and a tank, is used by our staff to craft our tube runs. It is also used throughout the season for one to two hours a day grooming our runs.
- On average, we need about 10 solid nights of snowmaking to have enough powder to manufacture our tube runs. In total, it takes us about two weeks to manufacture and sculpt our tube runs!
- Water for the runs is supplied to us by both Lake Teedyuskung and our private water tower.
- The snow will typically stay with us through the winter season as long as temperatures aren't unseasonably warm. The last of it is pushed in the lake around the start of April. If it wasn't, the massive quantities would linger on the beachfront until about May!
If you haven't yet had the chance to see these mechanical marvels in action, you have the perfect opportunity right now! Round up your friends and family, and grab a snow tube ... I'll race you to the bottom! We can't wait to see you this winter!!
Woodloch Winter Wonder from Woodloch Pines on Vimeo.
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~shared by J. Ranner
At the risk of compromising my job, I'm just going to say it: I ABSOLUTELY LOVE DISNEY AND EVERYTHING THEY STAND FOR. True, to a degree they bring some of our stiffest competition to the table and in theory could bippity-boppity-boo me right out of a job, but one simply cannot deny the joy that their characters and movies bring to all of our lives.
I was 9 years old when The Lion King came out in 1994, and outside of Toy Story and Up, it remains my favorite Disney film to this day. The animation, the great sing alongs (hakuna matata!), and even the morals and advice still resonate with me to this day. Perhaps the most poignant of all of the scenes was during Simba's vision of Mufasa on the plains when he told his son, "REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE." Four words that essentially define the entire movie... and life for many of us.
That's when I remembered "who" Woodloch is. We are a family resort that has lasted through nearly 6 decades by not compromising our identity. We are a collection of wonderful people that offer our talents, care and spirits to making sure that our guests always feel as if they are company in our own home. So it's only appropriate that our last bit of good deeds showcase that personality...
WHAT WE DO BEST
9. Holiday Senior Center Cooking Class - If you've ever had the pleasure of catching one of our midweek cooking classes, you'll know that they provide the perfect combination of delicious Woodloch dishes with our staple comedic antics... a meal and a show, so to speak! This year, during our winter "shutdown" period, both Joey and Chef Dave volunteered their times to provide local seniors from Honesdale, Hawley and Hamlin with a special on-the-house Cooking Class.
Better yet, Avery Transportation of Beach Lake, PA- the same company that escorts many of our seniors here during normal midweeks - provided free transportation to and from Woodloch for all of these seniors. All in all, nearly 40 of these seniors were treated to knowledge, entertainment and of course, all of our delicious cooked goodies!
10. Pre-school Story Hour - Let's not kid ourselves: the excitement and anticipation of Santa's arrival can push young children to be a little... squirrely during the holiday season. We were all there once, so don't deny it.
Yet I've found nothing better to bring children to bay than the almighty power of books. Therefore, Woodloch's fantastic kids program hit the road to a local day care to bring happiness to both children and daycare staff alike. Stories and snacks were shared as we guided kids through our holiday arts & crafts project. Even our mascot Boomer got in on the fun!
11. Taking our Show on the Road - I sometimes sit in awe at the amount of talent that surrounds me every day in the workplace. Many of my co-workers aren't just good at their jobs; they also are incredibly talented with showsmanship. This is exactly why we enlisted Eric and Sammy from our Social Department to put together and perform a "Holiday Storytellers" program for the eager audience at The Mountain View Care Center.
Together, they pooled their talents to provide residents with holiday songs, storys, jokes, and even "Uncle Sammy" reading some Christmas poetry. And since most of the residents were on the "nice" list, jolly ol' St. Nicholas himself appeared with a bag full of delicious chocolate chip cookies to share with his friends. After all... tis the season to not count calories!
12. Saying "Thank You" - I'm grateful that the Kiesendahl family makes an effort to bring this up at every company gathering. Verbatim, they tell us: "almost every resort has facilities. They all have food and they all have entertainment. What continues to make us special is YOU. Without the staff, we simply wouldn't be the same."
When I hear that, I not only know that it's the truth (let's face it, we're AWESOME), but also that the family is being genuinely sincere. To reinforce that idea, for our last objective in the 12 Days of Giving, the family called several staff members up to the office, gave their heartfelt thanks, and simply handed them over a little bit of cash to help with the expenses of the holiday season. Nothing more, nothing less. Just showing their appreciation.
From a personal point of view, this was one of the best holidays I've celebrated in my life not because of gifts I received but because I truly felt like I was able to spread cheer through our 12 Days of Giving. I've also been beaming with pride of my co-workers all season long.
It truly always IS better to give than receive!
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~shared by J. Ranner
Many moons ago, I was a business student trying to learn as much as I could about the economy, salesmanship, consumer trends, advertising and management. And while deep down I truly love the subject matter and the challenge it presents, I was always thrilled to choose my "gen ed" credits in school. They offered me a chance to free my mind from the business world for a few hours and appreciate all kinds of arts, sciences, and humanities.
My favorites of these electives were always Philosophy courses. Even if it had "nothing" to do with my ultimate career goals, I was always up for a good spirited debate with friends on the issues. One of the topics that I latched onto and kept in my life long after my last Scantron was the definition of "Good." What makes something or someone good? Is there such a thing as "good for the sense of good" without any selfish alterior agendas.
I've come to the conclusion that there certainly IS. It's entirely possibly for all of us to commit truly good deeds so long as we expect absolutely nothing in return. The deed is the reward in itself, so to speak. The next set of our "12 Days of Giving" objectives all centered around what you might call "random acts of kindness."
THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS
5. The Salvation Army "Angel Tree" - Back in early November, a tiny Christmas tree was placed in our staff dining area with the names, ages, and needs of local children on tags. And little by little, the spirit of the season drove our employees to each "adopt" a child and ensure that they have a nice holiday. Little did we know that the program would take off the way it did!
What started off as an uncertain 50 names being placed on our tree was quashed with our signature positive energy. Not ony were all 50 names snatched up within a few weeks, we kept going until over 115 children were adopted and shopped for. Storage for the gifts spilled out of the normal executive office hallways... and into the executive offices themselves!
6. Coffee Shop Takeover - Because you're a loyal reader, I'll be frank with you about myself: my day simply cannot start without a proper cup of coffee. Throw in anxiety about shopping, bills, and work pressure and I will eventually transform into your worst nightmare. But not if I get my coffee. It makes everything right in the world, and I feel I'm not alone on this issue.
So on one chilly morning a week before Christmas, I sent my boss (loving the role reversal) and our very own Road Trip Concierge to surprise some people with an unexpected free cup of joe at the Northern Lights Coffee Shop in downtown Scranton. For an hour, patrons showed up and were treated to delicious java and a holiday greeting from the Woodloch family.
7. Free Hugs - Outside of this marvelous microcosm I like to refer to as "Woodloch Land," the world can sometimes be a very cold and dark place. And sadly, I sometimes feel that society is slowly descending into a state where outward love and compassion are taboo- if a man kisses his girlfriend in public, we're so quick to stare, scratch our heads, and even be outwardly disgusted. I don't buy that at all. Show love and let someone know how you feel while we're here and can do so, because NONE of us know what lies ahead in the future.
But, as Dr. Marvin would say, "baby steps." So moving directly between the lines of yuletide fire (i.e. busy shopping malls on a December Saturday morning), Woodloch sent a collection of our most cuddly and friendly faces to offer those in need "FREE HUGS." Distraught and stressed out shoppers and even employees approached us with our "FREE HUGS" sign. Little gestures like that can certainly go a long way- sometimes, everyone just needs a hug.
8. Random Gifting - Once again, I'm pointing the finger of blame upon "society." Everyone always thinks that no matter how great of a thing might be happening directly to you, there's always some kind of "catch." There's no such thing as a free lunch.
Except when there IS.
Once again utilizing a crowded shopping mall as our environment, The Woodloch Crew purchased a stack of Visa gift cards that can be used literally everywhere. And then, we simply handed them out to people that looked like they needed a picker upper. We said "Hi- happy holidays," made our drops and disappeared as mysteriously as we had arrived. We got a great reaction, including one from an employee that was down on his luck.
So just like Stella from "A Streetcar Named Desire," every once in a while, you actually CAN depend on the kindness of strangers. Especially if Woodloch has anything to say about it!
Catch our last bit on our "12 Days of Giving" initiative here!
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~shared by J. Ranner
Whenever you might feel alone in the world, remember these words:
"Play a little part in something BIG."
Whether we realize it or not, the cogs of the world and life are ALWAYS turning and the smallest things that we do- no matter how miniscule they may initially seem, can go on to impact the world in ways we never could have imagined.
Over the past month or so, I've had the pleasure of coordinating and participating in Woodloch's inaugural "12 Days of Giving" initiative. And truth be told, it was personally one of the most rewarding holidays I've ever celebrated.
But that's getting ahead of myself.
The 12 Days of Giving program's objectives spanned from icredibly simple to rather challenging- but all brought some form of joy into lives of recipients and givers alike. I feel that they can be broken down into three different but equally important categories:
- "The Greater Good" - together everyone achieves more.
- "The Kindness of Strangers" - pay it forward...
- "What Woodloch Does Best"- using our personal strengths to bring cheer!
THE GREATER GOOD
1. Woodloch's Hunger Relief Record Attempt - On November 23rd, 2013, guests, staff, friends and other volunteers assembled in our Heritage Night Club and rewrote history. With the help of our friends at Pocono Pro Foods, we collectively assembled 656 hunger relief packages in one minute and 18 seconds, setting a world record. After celebration, volunteers from Woodloch and the Pike County United Way distributed all of the packages to chuches, rescue missions and food banks in the local area.
2. Supermarket Tailgate Food Collection - Along the same lines of our world record, this objective brought together two of the basic cornerstones that have made Woodloch guests happy since 1958: "eatin' & competin'." With the help of Gerrity's local grocery stores, the Woodloch gang braved the cold December winds to have a "parking lot party"- grilled food, live music, games and giveaways drew crowds to donate canned and non-perishable goods. After a great afternoon, donations were immediately dropped off at The Scranton Rescue Mission to provide those in need with a holiday feast.
3. Adopt-a-Family - They're the first cheery staff members you'll typically meet when visiting, so it's no suprise that the ecclectic family at our Front Desk spent a good deal of time and resources to adopting not one but TWO local families in need this season. Together, they collected what they could- toys, clothing, and food items to be directly handed to local families in need.
4. Operation Christmas Child - in conjunction with local churches, Woodloch started their own drive for "Operation Christmas Child" shoeboxes. Basically, shoeboxes are filled with essential items for children - including soap, socks, toothbrushes, shirts, paper and writing utensils - as well as toys. The boxes are then shipped to children around the world in need and distributed. It's a fun way to help a child that has almost nothing to his or her name. After weeks of strong efforts, Woodloch pooled 31 boxes together and sent them away. "Every box means a child didnt have to go without a Christmas present," says Tammy Compton of Woodloch Reservations. "Every box lets a child in a third world country know that they are loved."
Here's PART 2 of our 12 Days of Giving!
Woodloch's Hunger Games: Breaking a Guinness World Record from Endless Echo on Vimeo.
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The greatest gift you'll ever receive isn't found under any tree. What is it? Well, that's up to you.
"Love," said my friend Katie O'Hara.
"Family," said my friend Sam Postrion.
Love's the secret ingredient found in every batch of homemade Christmas cookies - better still when shared with others. It's found in fixing supper for a lonely neighbor or reaching out to an elderly shut-in, clearing snow from someone's sidewalk, or just brushing snow from a family member's windsheild.
It's that special gift of self found in serving others: at a soup kitchen, ringing the bell for the Salvation Army, placing presents beneath the Angel Tree, and more.
It's taking the time to tell someone else - -with or without words --that they matter, that they're special, that you care.
That's what Woodloch did this season with its 12 Days of Giving, including a record breaking weekend when 400 staff members, guests and friends assembed a whopping 656 hunger relief packages filled with Thanksgiving food items for families in need. With the generous support of Pocono ProFoods and the United Way, the charitable event was accomplished in 1 minute and 19 seconds - earning a place in the Guiness Book of World Records.
There were gift-filled shoeboxes collected for Operation Christmas Child to benefit children around the world, toys collected for the Salvation Army's Angel Tree - benefiting more than 100 families, gifts for Toys for Tots, hug deliveries at area shopping malls, and random gift giving to name a few. The latter involved the Woodloch crew handing out pre-paid Visa gift cards to random shoppers.
One heartfelt recipient sent back an email. Woodloch worker Sam Monaghan had spotted the man at a Scranton mall. He looked a little down, so she approached and handed him a gift card.
Here's what he emailed back: "I just wanted to let someone from WoodLoch know how much the gift card for $25 they handed out at Viewmont Mall on Saturday 12/7 meant to someone. I am a housekeeper and as I was pushing my trash cart, I was handed a card. I am constantly being handed things from people, be it sales or religious stuff, or things people want thrown away. I took the card, and simply stuck it in my pocket. I probably did not even say "thank you." But when I got back to the break room and saw it was a gift card for $25, I went back out looking for the people to say thank you. You see, I had given someone else some money for gas earlier in the week, and was going to run out of gas myself before payday to get back and forth to work. So the $25 gift card was an answer to a prayer. You can not out give God. Bless you for your gifts. One of the other housekeepers found a gift card in the trash, and it answered a specific prayer request for him too. Thank you so much, God Bless, and Merry Christmas."
It's like motivational speaker and author Leo Buscaglia once said: "Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment or the smallest act of caring all of which have the potential to turn a life around. "
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~Shared by M. Crandall
Everyone celebrates Christmas a little differently. Traditions vary from home to home. My family started a tradition years ago. We would buy pajamas to open on Christmas Eve; we'd all change into a PJ’s and wear them to bed and continue to wear them Christmas morning to open our presents. On Christmas morning, we would each open our stockings one by one. My husband always sneaks something fun into each stocking, you might find a can of spam, canned meat or something really ridiculous. It always makes us laugh.
I have some amazing co-workers that wanted to share some of their Christmas traditions as well.
Laura Molins, Front Desk/Reservations, says, “Every Christmas Eve, we celebrate the Italian tradition of the seven fishes and eat a seafood feast for dinner in honor of my Italian heritage on my mother’s side of the family. We spend the day in the kitchen cooking all the seafood together, which always includes lobster, mussels, calamari, tilapia and scallops.”
Tammy Compton in the reservations department says, “My mom would always allow us to open one gift on Christmas Eve. Sometimes we chose well and enjoyed a new toy for the night; sometimes we wound up wearing new pajamas. You know, the gift you love to get when you're older, but not so much as a kid. Then we’d gather around the Christmas tree and play 'I Spy.' Someone would find a decoration and describe it by color, and the listener would have to figure out what they were talking about. If you were close, they’d say, 'You’re warm or hot.' If not, you were cold. My sister, brother and mom were great at playing the game; I always seemed to get frustrated long before figuring it out. It was one of those games that didn’t cost anything but was loads of fun. I haven’t thought about that in a long time. My beloved mom has passed away. My siblings are older, but that was the good stuff. Great family at Christmas time can’t be beat.”
Colleen Mitchell in Reservations says, “We wake up around 9:30 am. Mom makes a pot of coffee; we play Christmas music and open all our presents. Towards the end of opening presents, my dad would make breakfast. We all get ready, dressed in nice outfits, take some family photos, and drive to Grandma’s house in New Jersey to have dinner with my mom’s side of the family. We enjoy great memories.”
At Woodloch, family and traditions are what it’s all about. What are your most memorable Christmas memories or favorite holiday traditions at home or at Woodloch?