Translated to English from an article that appeared in the Lithuanian Newspaper “Draugas” on May 28, 2022, written by DR. ROMUALDAS KRIAUCIUNAS
On August 2, 2020, a video concert titled "Dainava in Our Hearts" was presented on YouTube. If not for the corona virus pandemic, that concert would not have happened. The campers would have come to Dainava themselves and experienced what the concert was trying to recreate. In the videotape of the concert, Dana Rugienius, chairperson for the Board of Directors of Camp Dainava, explained that the summer of 2020 was dedicated to the renovation of the camp ("Draugas", 2020.10.6). Beginning with the summer of 2020 till the present date, the Board of Directors of Camp Dainava decided to continue with the much needed, significant renovations at the camp. Board members Dana Rugienius and Marius Laniauskas agreed to share more about the status of the renovation process. Here are some questions I posed to them:
What would campers and guests immediately notice when returning to Dainava? What has changed? When campers arrive, they will immediately notice the newly paved asphalt roads leading to all the buildings, and the newly poured cement paths leading to the Hill of the Crosses and the girls’ and boys’ barracks. Honoring the founders of Camp Dainava, an impressive granite monument has been erected at the entrance of the outdoor chapel. Campers will enter most buildings through new doors. Upon entering the girls' and boys' barracks and the dining hall, everything has been updated: new floors, new ceilings, new light fixtures, freshly painted walls and modern, updated washrooms.
Other completed work, but not immediately noticeable, is also important. What else has been done? Other, less noticeable, but equally important work completed is as follows: new roof shingles on the main building named in honor of Dr. Damusis, as well as on the barracks and the dining hall; the installed ventilation in these roofs will help ventilate the buildings in the summer heat; all electrical sockets in all of the main buildings have been updated. The kitchen of the dining hall was completely renovated: the walls were newly painted, an industrial refrigerator was bought, and new storage shelves were installed. Also, the kitchen was rearranged to allow for better airflow as well as making it more practical for the entire kitchen staff. On exploring the grounds, campers will discover two completely renovated fishing piers, newly installed benches in the campfire area, and an upgraded sand volleyball court with newly cemented posts, new net, and rope boundaries.
What type of help do you get from volunteers? Camp Dainava, from its inception, was built through the efforts of dedicated volunteers. A considerable group of volunteers has also stepped up for these enormous renovation works. The following volunteers performed a large part of the previously mentioned improvements: Zita and Antanas Kuseliauskas and Audrius, Rita and Petras Rusenas took care of updating the kitchen and electrical systems. The buildings were painted by Vitas Underys, Ruta and Linas Mikulionis, Vitas Sirgedas, Kastytis Giedraitis, Egle and Marius Laniauskas and the Gaska family. Installation of benches at the campfire site, restoration of fishing piers, clearing of forests, etc. was accomplished through the efforts of Marius Grazulis, Ramunas Balciunas, Rima and Tadas Birutis, Marius Polikaitis, Dana Rugienius, Rich Tarbunas and Ron Padalino. Algis and Saulius Petrulis did some heavy lifting by moving and arranging all of the beds in the barracks, after the installation of the new floors. The design and installation of the monument was headed up by the Board of Directors chaplain, Father Lukas Laniauskas, SJ.
Without a doubt, there had to be projects that required the hiring of specialists. Which of these works should be mentioned and what was the approximate cost? The most complex jobs that required the hiring of contractors were the following:
The redesign and expansion of the bathrooms in the main building named in honor of Dr. Damusis - ~$450,000
Cementing of paths and asphalting of roads - ~$300,000
Newly shingled roofs on the barracks with improved ventilation - ~$50,000
Installation of new vinyl flooring in the barracks- $44,000
Newly shingled and repaired roof with improved ventilation on the main building, named in honor of Dr. Damusis - ~$43,000
Ceiling and light replacement in the barracks ~$29,000
To maintain Dainava, you need dedicated, committed volunteers, hired specialists and ... money. What are the costs involved in these improvements or repairs, and how are they being handled? Reliable and specific financial support is obtained from the Lithuanian Foundation, Inc., Camp Dainava Foundation, other sources and individual benefactors. Are those funds enough to cover all of the necessary improvements? We are extremely grateful to all of the foundations, organizations, and each and every individual who had and those who continue to see the need to maintain Camp Dainava. Their donations, in any amount, large or small, are greatly appreciated. We have received valuable and continued financial support (2017-2022) from the following entities: Lithuanian Foundation, Inc. ($170,000), Camp Dainava Foundation ($107,000), Cleveland Lithuanian Development Fund “Plėtra” ($55,000), and The Ateitis Relief Fund, Inc. ($26,000). During the Camp Dainava capital campaign drive and extending into the pandemic era (2017-2022), Camp Dainava benefactors donated ~$826,000. Larger donations were received from the following benefactors: Dr. Jonas Jurgutis, (on behalf of his family and especially in memory of his brother Jurgis - $280,000, to cover all cement and asphalt jobs), the family of Gintaras and Gloria Vaisnys ($50,000), Laima (Nainytė) and Vacys Garbonka ($25,000), and two anonymous families ($130,000 and $110,000). Without all of these generous donations, it would not have been possible to complete all of the necessary upgrades that every camper will certainly appreciate.
What are the larger projects anticipated in the near future? We foresee the following projects: the building of a pavilion attached to the main dining hall, which will be used during meals and various activities for larger numbers of campers (due to the pandemic and material shortages, this project has been postponed until this fall); on the wish list, requiring further donations are the following projects: flooring and carpet replacement in the main building, named in honor of Dr. Damusis; asphalting of the remaining roads and outdoor sports courts; reconstruction of the cross (created by artist Viktoras Veselka) at the end of the entrance drive.
This summer marks exactly 65 years since the start of the first summer camp at Dainava. It was a camp for girls run by the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These Sisters were the first to act as the camp’s administrators. The camp is now managed and administered by Dainava's Board of Directors. Who makes up the Board of Directors, and what are their responsibilities? Volunteers with experience in various fields and professions, who care about the maintenance and administration of Dainava, worked and continue to work as board members for Camp Dainava throughout the years. They not only donate their ideas and valuable time for this purpose, but actively participate in projects, as well as donate funds. Led by the board’s inspired visionary chairperson, Dana Rugienius, today’s Board of Directors consists of the following members: Lina Aukstuolis-Milko, Gintas Gaska, Dr. Andrius Giedraitis (co- treasurer), Marius Kasniunas, Father Lukas Laniauskas, SJ (chaplain), Dr. Marius Laniauskas (secretary), Gytis Mikulionis (co-treasurer), Algis Petrulis, Dr. Audrius Polikaitis, Audrius Rusenas and Dr. Marius Tijunelis (medical advisor for camping groups). These individuals are willing to share their expertise and knowledge in the following fields: faith education, legal advice, administration, engineering, craftsmanship, accounting, architecture, and medicine. Ultimately, it is their past experiences and love of Camp Dainava that motivates them to give of their time, talent, and treasure. In addition to the administration/maintenance of the camp, it is important to mention and sincerely thank the long-time, very reliable, live-in camp caretakers, Wendell Crites and his wife Barb, who for many years have taken care of the grass cutting, snow shoveling, and the daily upkeep needing attention.
Anything else you'd like to mention? The Board of Directors would like to acknowledge and thank Andreja (Damusis) Memenas for volunteering her time and expertise in newly creating the Camp Dainava website www.dainava.org. Andreja also, together with Lina (Damusis) Nicklin, administers the Facebook page "Lithuanian Youth Camp Dainava" and Instagram "campdainava". We invite readers to visit the mentioned sites, to find the latest news about our beloved Dainava! Our special thanks to the former chairperson of the Board of Directors, Dr. Romualdas Kriauciunas, who, together with his entire family, have donated their time, talent (writing articles in the Lithuanian press), and resources. Sincere thanks.
Thousands of campers have grown up in our beloved Dainava, often referred to as "little Lithuania" abroad. Camp Dainava belongs to all of us. Let us continue to support it and donate, thereby ensuring the bright future of Camp Dainava!!!