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Meet Lindsay Schwartz of United in Harmony and Camp Harmony in West Los Angeles

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lindsay Schwartz.

Lindsay, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
United in Harmony, Camp Harmony has been in my life for over 20 years. I started as a volunteer cabin counselor with Camp Harmony as a rising Sophomore in High School. After that, I was hooked. The impact on me from the program was tremendous. I continued as a cabin counselor for the next three years then moved to a volunteer Unit Head position through college, volunteer program director after college and then I was invited to join the Board of Directors while running our Leadership Group.

After college, I started a career in catering and events while continuing to volunteer for Camp Harmony. I started to look for a career change after eight years in the industry and coincidentally Harmony was looking for an Executive Director to take over for the retiring Executive Director. I didn’t know this could be a dream of mine let alone a reality for me. I was so honored to be invited to lead an organization that shaped me into the woman I am today. I have been the Executive Director of the organization since 2016.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
In 2018 Camp Harmony lost its campsite of over 18 years in the Woolsey Fire. Not only did we lose our beloved campsite but we lost two shipping containers filled with all of our program supplies. We were faced with having to buy all new supplies while finding a new campsite to accommodate our Winter Camp Session schedule for February.

We thankfully found a campsite that could accommodate us, however it was a bit smaller. We were determined to still accommodate all our campers and brought in RVS, Tents, extra power and heat. We managed to have a successful camp after facing tragedy in losing our home. We were all happy being together and saw how the heart of the program continued to beat no matter where our camp was held.

From this campsite, we found a larger camp to accommodate us for our Summer session. We were able to accommodate close to 400 campers, our largest camp session ever. We were looking forward to coming back this Summer.

Unfortunately, COVID 19 hit. We were forced to cancel our annual fundraiser, leadership letter-writing campaign and all other fundraising efforts. We were determined to still make camp happen, but as COVID progressed we made the inevitable choice to cancel our camp session to be held this August. This is the first time we won’t have camp in over 31 years.

We are currently working on virtual programming to stay connected to our campers and counselors. We want to make sure they are getting a little bit of the Camp Harmony feeling while home.

Please tell us about United in Harmony and Camp Harmony.
United in Harmony is a non-profit, non-sectarian organization that was established in 1989 as a response to homelessness and poverty facing children in our community. United in Harmony’s mission is to provide impoverished children with hope and opportunities. United in Harmony’s overnight-camp program (Camp Harmony) is designed to help children develop positive self-esteem and to thereby inspire and empower campers in their future endeavors. At Camp Harmony, children grow through interactions with teenage and adult role models while experiencing nature, exploring arts, sports, and an array of other enriching activities.

Camp Harmony provides local high school students, who volunteer as cabin counselors, with the opportunity to learn the importance of giving back to their community. Students apply from over thirty different high schools throughout Los Angeles and as far away as Orange County and San Diego. High School counselors provide leadership and serve as role models to the children. The goal for counselors is to encourage campers to stay in school and aspire to complete secondary school and see college as a viable option in the future. Counselors are chosen through a rigorous and competitive application process for their commitment and dedication to the mission of the Camp Harmony programs and exemplary character.

I am most proud of the campers that are coming back and volunteering as cabin counselors. They are eager to give back to the organization that gave to them. Some have moved into Unit Head positions and continue to volunteer as adult support staff as well.

It’s also wonderful to see so many of our past counselors continue in philanthropy in their adult life. Many have taken on careers that have been inspired by their time with Camp Harmony.

It’s really unbelievable that I am the only paid employee of United in Harmony. Everyone else is a volunteer. They leave work and their home life behind to come up and run a camp for these children in need.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
The bad luck of losing our campsite in 2018, although devastating, ultimately lead us to a new location that would allow us to serve more children in need.

Covid-19 is the ultimate bad luck…it is pushing us to redesign our programming however, nothing will compare to actually being at camp together.

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Image Credit:

Watermarked images by Brian Kramer

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