Back to Camp with Christodora

With Christodora’s annual Campfire Autumn Gala Dinner coming up in November, I sat with Eva Pomice—an active member of the charity’s board—who provided insight into the extraordinary organization.

Q: Tell me about the goals of Christodora.

A: Christodora provides over 3,000 New York City students with experiences in nature and environmental education on a year-round basis. We have camp at Manice, our Berkshires wilderness program; afterschool and weekend conservation programs in the city; and a hands-on ecology curriculum taught by our educators in public school classrooms.

Q: How does Christodora differ from other organizations with similar missions?

A: Christodora has an explicit focus on building life skills through wilderness immersion. We work with young New Yorkers from underserved backgrounds from middle school through college—half our staff is made up of alumni. Campers hike and canoe, but also learn about forest ecosystems, animal behavior, and practice organic gardening. Leadership and team-building exercises are tied into activities like navigating a night hike, forging an incredibly close community. Students have gone on to become scientists and educators, and, needless to say, fierce protectors of the environment.

Q: What is the history of the organization?

A: Christodora was founded in 1897 as a pioneering settlement house on the Lower East Side serving low-income New Yorkers, mostly new immigrants.

Q: What is your role in the organization and why did you choose to become involved?

A: I’ve been on the board for more than a decade, co-chaired the Campfire Dinner, and served on various committees. I was drawn by the fact that it’s a small organization with a big impact, and there are many opportunities to work directly with students.

Q: Who are the other key players?

A: Tania Pouschine, longstanding board chair and treasurer; Pamela Manice, president; Judith Rivkin, executive director; and Matthew Scholl, program director, are all extraordinarily dedicated.

Q: I know the Campfire Dinner is the organization’s biggest fundraising event. I’d love to hear more about it. 

A: Christodora Campfire, our autumn gala dinner and auction, is held in November at the University Club. It’s an elegant, fun evening and, as with any campfire, the highlight is the storytelling. This year our honorees include two women who started our camp in middle school and became hooked, eventually becoming outdoor educators. One is now an accomplished geoscientist and the other is the chief sustainability officer for the city of Newark, New Jersey. Year after year, these stories show how lessons learned in nature change lives in the city.

 For more information on Christodora and to buy tickets to the Campfire Dinner at the University Club, visit christodora.org.