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Free pizzas serve as community outreach

Hidden Valley Camp does its part to help feed the community
By Fran Gonzalez | Jul 24, 2020
Courtesy of: Hidden Valley Camp Hidden Valley Camp Art Coordinator Elise Willingham, left, and Program Director Aileen Rosen hand off pizzas.

Montville — Hidden Valley Camp has a history of promoting service projects that engage campers and help the local community.

In a conversation with The Republican Journal July 23, HVC Program Director Celie Deagle said that even though the camp stopped its operations this year because of concerns over the coronavirus, the staff still wanted to continue the community service model by helping people in the community.

"We wanted to connect with people in this time of need," she said, adding that they decided to offer food because it is an "immediate" need. So Deagle, along with seven or eight other staff members and a couple of residents, began to make pizzas.

"It's universal," she said. "Everybody loves pizza."

The camp started offering free community pizzas around a month ago, and the volume of pies, she said, has grown exponentially. "We started slowly the first week with only about 20 pizzas — last Sunday we were up to over 50 pies."

The group starts assembling the cheese pizzas with homemade sauce around 3 p.m. on Sundays in the camp dining hall and the pies are then wood-fired in a large clay pizza oven.

"A couple of years ago, we had a couple of talented artists who dreamt up the pizza oven idea," Daegle said. The sculpted pizza oven has a clay dragon with blown glass eyes adorning one side.

"It's great to use it in a way that benefits the community," she said.

Once the pizzas are complete, a driver shuttles the pies up to the end of Hidden Valley Road at Center Road, where camp staff hand off the pizza boxes to people at a booth.

Deagle said there was only one time when the volume of pizza-making production got to be stressful. "In the third week of doing this, with the placement of our sign, we got more people than expected," she said. "We kept saying — we need more pizzas."

Donations are also accepted and each dollar received will be matched by HVC to benefit Waldo County Bounty's food distribution network.

"The effort has grown and it's good to see the community rallying behind it," she said.

Daegle has been with HVC for seven years, this year being her first as a program director. This summer, she said, has been sad and disappointing not seeing the kids. The camp has put many programs online to connect with campers, but "we still miss the kids."

Camp Director and co-owner Peter Kassen echoed the thought and said the kids need this opportunity to get out into wilderness. "It's disorientating," he said."It's hard all-around,"

With many of the staff leaving mid-month, Sunday, Aug. 16, will be the last day of the community pizza effort, he said. The camp, Kassen said, has already collected over $600 for Waldo County Bounty and hopes to collect as much more by mid-August.

HVC's pizza booth is at the intersection of Center Road and Hidden Valley Road in Montville and will be handing out pies from 5 to 6 p.m. on Sundays. The pizzas are on a first-come-first-served basis and people are asked to wear face coverings when stopping to pick them up.

Georgia Livermore, James Nightengale and Celie Deagle, from left, all Hidden Valley Camp program directors, prepare dough for community pizzas. (Courtesy of: Hidden Valley Camp)
(Courtesy of: Hidden Valley Camp)
The wood-fired clay oven used to bake pizzas was constructed several years ago by a couple of artists on staff at Hidden Valley Camp in Montville. On a recent Sunday, staff baked over 50 pies in the dragon oven. (Courtesy of: Hidden Valley Camp)
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