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Evicted from its office and cabin, local families work to revive Camp Fire Central Coast

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When local youth nonprofit Camp Fire Central Coast shuttered its Grover Beach office in March at the start of COVID-19, participating parents, kids, and volunteers all looked around for a plan to move forward.

But it didn't exist, and one wasn't coming.

TAKING INITIATIVE Parents are working to save Camp Fire Central Coast, a nearly century-old youth organization offering outdoor and educational activities for kids. Cadence Clift, left, and Levi Clift are members of the Nipomo Camp Fire club. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SAVE CAMP FIRE CENTRAL COAST
  • Photo Courtesy Of Save Camp Fire Central Coast
  • TAKING INITIATIVE Parents are working to save Camp Fire Central Coast, a nearly century-old youth organization offering outdoor and educational activities for kids. Cadence Clift, left, and Levi Clift are members of the Nipomo Camp Fire club.

"There was basically no plan," said Pismo Beach resident Heather Muran, whose 11-year-old daughter is an enthusiastic participant in the outdoor-focused youth program. "We started asking questions—emailing, writing letters, making phone calls. ... We were all just looking for a plan, and that plan never materialized."

Not only did no plan materialize, but according to Muran, the nonprofit's board of directors suddenly stopped communicating with families.

Meetings got canceled. Staff were laid off. The club got evicted from its office in Grover and its historic cabin at Buena Vista Park in Santa Maria that, for years, hosted club activities.

Muran said she and others eventually learned that all of the board members had quietly resigned.

"They all just left," she said. "I've never seen a board abandon a thriving organization like that. It's really disappointing. ... We have been putting in countless hours to get this organization back on track."

Thanks to the hard work of a few dozen Camp Fire families over the last several months, Save Camp Fire Central Coast is slated to hold an election on Jan. 14 to seat a new board, recently sending ballots out to member homes. After that, the group plans to reorganize to become the newest iteration of Camp Fire Central Coast.

"Our kids need it," said Muran, who's running for a board seat.

Founded in 1923, Camp Fire Central Coast provides outdoor and educational experiences for hundreds of youth participants in San Luis Obispo and Northern Santa Barbara counties—hosting summer camps, after-school programs, community service projects, camping trips, hikes, and more.

"Really, it's an organization dedicated to youth building their individual passions—or like Camp Fire says, their 'spark,'" Muran explained. "It's about developing those passions through creativity, the outdoors, and community service."

Relying on the energy and effort of volunteers and parents, Muran said Camp Fire's leaders have come up with virtual activities during COVID-19 to keep its programming alive and families connected. Now, they are eager to start planning a new future with a new board.

It's all a passion project for Muran, who's watched her daughter reap the benefits of the program.

"I've seen her grow independently," she said, "finding her passion and creativity. She loves the outdoors. We do hikes and overnight campouts. That's been so important now, especially with COVID-19 and us all being connected on our devices. It's so much more important right now to get outside."

Community members who want to support Camp Fire Central Coast or become members can contact Muran at mrsmuran@gmail.com.

Fast facts

The city of SLO launched its new Buy Local Bonus program, which rewards residents who shop at local businesses with free gift cards purchased by the city. Shoppers who submit $100 worth of receipts from SLO stores (excluding box stores, grocery stores, lodging, and gas stations) will receive a $20 gift card from participating local businesses. Email your receipts to supportslo@slocity.org or visit slocity.org for more details. The Buy Local Bonus program is part of the city's $3.4 million campaign to support the economy during COVID-19.

The SLO Children's Museum is going virtual for its annual Noon Year's Eve party. At 11:45 a.m. on Dec. 31, community members can log on to a livestream and learn about New Year's Eve traditions around the world, participate in a scavenger hunt, and more. Visit slocm.org/noonyears for more information.

• Friends of Morro Bay Harbor Department held an art auction on Dec. 21 to help improve harbor services in Morro Bay. Local artist Ardella Swanberg donated her piece Harbor Storm for the auction, and proceeds will support the purchase of a new patrol boat for the Morro Bay Harbor Department. Δ

Assistant Editor Peter Johnson wrote this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send tidbits to strokes@newtimesslo.com.

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