A Letter to the Staff

This summer, Tye Edwards, one of our college-age interns, worked as the Camper Registrar. Tye is from Greensboro and grew up coming to Sawyerville Day Camp as a camper. She eventually become a high school staff member and then an intern. 

Tye wrote a beautiful letter that was shared with all of the staff this summer as one of the Prayer Partner letters they received. This letter came at the end of the week, and it sums up why being on staff can be challenging and why it can be so very rewarding.

Hello friends,

Congratulations, you found your way through the week of camp!!! I know it has been a long, hard fought journey of chaos, but it was all worth it.

I would like to first thank you all for ALL the hard work, dedication, energy, and love that you have shown around and/or to camp and this community. This has been a week to remember; one of those memories that will last with you and others forever. Although it may seem like you have not given it your full potential, it will be the littlest things that mean the world to these kids. I am here to let you know that you are appreciated because I was one of those kids, and I can testify that this project impacted me in ways I did not know it could.

As I recall, growing up in Greensboro was not so bad UNTIL we had to make summer plans. I thanked God annually for the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama because in 1993, Sawyerville Day Camp was born (not me, of course). I attended camp when I was around the age of seven, and I have been going ever since, faithfully. I staffed for four years, and now I am an intern as the camper registrar. Traveling down this journey, I have met some of the most outstanding and supportive people in my life. Some of you have watched and helped mold me into the person I am today, and I am so grateful for you. Without this opportunity, I would be still lost, trying to find my way, but because of this, I have learned that “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” It may not mean anything to you right now, but take a minute to reflect on all the smiles you created, friendships you built, and for most, stepping out of your comfort zone. Because of you, this community is united by love and others can see that from afar.

So, I think I speak for my community of Hale County when I say thank you. You gave us hope for a fun, fulfilling summer. Thank you for lighting up our world, but most importantly, thank you for letting your light shine for others.

With love and peace,

Ty’Nedra Edwards 🙂


From L to R: Hakeem Bennett, Emily Hooker, and Tye Edwards


Tye helping parents at camper registration


Summer to Fall at SDC

September has been a pretty exciting month in the Sawyerville Day Camp office. Here’s what’s going on these days:

Crystal Jones and Claire Cotten named Co-Executive Directors

Crystal will be the Executive Director for Programs and Operations, and Claire will be the Executive Director for Development and Communications. Learn more about our new leadership here.

Annual report postcard coming to a mail box near you

Hopefully you have already received our 2016 Annual Report postcard! This handy card highlights all of our accomplishments this past summer. Thank you to everyone who helped to make this summer such a success!


SDC 5K coming up – October 15th

Now’s the time to register for the fall 5K! The walk/run will begin Saturday, October 15th at 9:00am at St. Paul’s, Greensboro. The registration fee is $25.00, and 100% of the proceeds go to Sawyerville Day Camp. Register here.



New Executive Directors!

Sawyerville Day Camp announces new Executive Directors!

From the very beginning, Sawyerville Day Camp has been a collaborative effort. It takes hundreds of people from different backgrounds, hometowns, and faith communities to make this ministry possible – we run on teamwork! Having two directors feels like a natural next step. Crystal Jones and Claire Cotten will share the role and combine their gifts and talents to lead Sawyerville Day Camp and the Yellowhammer Learning Program together.

Crystal will oversee all aspects of the programs, from staff to transportation, housing to the pool, and will ensure that both the day camp and the learning program are efficient and effective. Claire will manage all communication outlets and encourage individuals, parishes, foundations, and corporations to become partners in the ministry. With the help of hundreds of volunteers, Crystal and Claire will continue to promote the mission of Sawyerville Day Camp: to broaden the horizons of campers and counselors, improve race relations in Alabama, and serve God through outreach.



Crystal Jones

Co-Executive Director for Programming and Operations
Say “hello” to Crystal!
Crystal’s very first summer at Sawyerville Day Camp was 1999 when she volunteered as a counselor in high school. Since then, she has served as the Staff Coordinator for many years and joined the year-round staff in 2013 as the Assistant Director for Staff and Logistics.

Crystal’s favorite part of the camp day is bus arrival and dismissal. She loves seeing the excitement on the campers’ faces as they arrive in the morning and the energy from the staff as the high-five goodbye and chase after the buses in the afternoon. She is most excited about her new role and exploring new programs for camp.

Crystal currently lives in Sewanee, TN where her husband Corey attends seminary. They have three beautiful children, McKeand, Thompson, and Anne Clark.



Claire Cotten

Co-Executive Director for Development and Communications
Say “hello” to Claire!
Claire first became involved with Sawyerville Day Camp when she volunteered as a counselor in high school in the summer of 2004. Later she became the Chair of the fundraising committee in 2011 and then joined the year-round staff in 2014 as the Assistant Director for Development and Communications.

Claire’s favorite part of the camp day is breakfast, lunch, and dinner when everyone sits down to break bread together. She is most excited about the growth of the Yellowhammer Learning Program and is eager to see where Summer 2017 takes us!

Claire lives in Birmingham, AL with her husband Andrew and their two dogs, Sawyer and Harper.

You Will Soon Witness a Miracle

The following reflection was written by Anne Douglass Williams, one of our 2016 SDC Interns. Thanks for sharing these words with us, Anne Douglass!

A few months ago, someone gave me their fortune cookie. Now, usually when I receive a fortune cookie, I laugh at the message about all the money I’m (not) going to make in the next week, all the lovers that are (not) going to flock to me in the near future, or all the opportunities for success that I (may or may not) receive. But for some reason, this fortune I received at the start of my crazy whirlwind of a summer was actually a substantial one.

You will soon witness a miracle.

Hmm. A miracle…interesting. Was I going to win the lottery? Was Jesus going to descend from heaven right onto my doorstep? Was I going to meet Harry Styles (hey, a girl can dream)? Well, just as I have done with all the other fortunes, I just shrugged it off and tossed it aside. And then I began my internship.

I worked for a ministry down Highway 69 in the small town of Greensboro, Alabama—a camp called Sawyerville Day Camp. I’ve been a counselor there for a good many sessions, but this summer was the first opportunity I had for a bigger leadership position. The directors put me in the position of a coordinator for the 9-11-year-old campers, almost 100 of which would come through each session. These kids come from all different backgrounds; they ride the bus from all different towns; they come with all different energy levels. And they are the outlet through which I see the Lord most in this entire world. Must be some pretty cool kids, huh? It has been a summer filled with memories (and miracles) I could write multiple books about, but for now I’m going to stick to one story, a story about one of the local staff members that volunteered the entire summer for my camp. For this article’s purpose, let’s just call him T.

So, at the beginning of the summer, T came into our new staff meetings completely silent, with nothing much to say and the desire to shrink backwards into corners whenever possible. He went about the first session with us not doing much in his small group besides carrying the kids’ bags around and keeping his kids somewhat contained. He did a substantial amount of work, but I could tell there just wasn’t much there that had him super connected to the camp and the kids he was working for. The camp requires long, hard hours of hard work; it demands your full attention and way more than just two eyes to watch all of your campers at once. T was a former camper who wasn’t quite sure how to be on the other side of things yet.

The next session, he completely came out of his shell (slowly but surely, of course). He took charge and helped with disciplining his campers in the most loving way, while teaching his co-counselors how to be a leader in the camp environment. The more he opened up, the greater we got to see his hilarious personality and all the gifts he could bring to the table.

Finally, during the last session of camp, I found out a little secret about T. All summer he had told me that he was allergic to the chlorine in the pool. I didn’t think anything of it; we required all the counselors to swim with their kids, but if someone had a medical issue with the pool, I just let them hang out in the gym. I mentioned his allergy to his sister, who immediately started laughing at me, because T had no allergies whatsoever. He was just trying to get by unnoticed. Of course, being in charge, I went straight up to T and confronted him about it, then took him to the gym where we kept all our supplies and let him pick out a swimsuit that he would be wearing in the pool for the next week. When pool time came around, I was supervising and watching everyone in the pool. We all encouraged T to get in and joked with him about how he had lied to us all summer, but when it finally came time for the pool, I found out that he wasn’t just being lazy—he was genuinely terrified of getting in the water. He told me he hadn’t been in the pool since about 6 years ago. I talked to him and tried to give him the courage to get in, but he still wasn’t having it. We walked out onto the pool deck and all of his campers’ eyes just lit up and their smiles got so big when they saw T was going to swim with them—they were the ones to encourage him to get in eventually. He crept down the stairs slowly, holding on to the rail for dear life, terrified he was going to drown (even though he was so tall the water barely even went up to his chest). His kids swam all around him, splashing him, jumping on him, completely freaking him out. It was awesome. I was witnessing a 15-year-old boy facing his fears of the deep and the unknown because of his love for the kids. I was witnessing pure trust. I was witnessing, truly, a miracle.

T grew so much this summer and completely transformed into the biggest leader within both the camp and the community he lives in. It was the biggest honor getting to work in the scorching Greensboro heat—the place that helps people grow substantially and get outside of their comfort zones.

As I was cleaning up my room at the end of the summer, I found the fortune under a bunch of papers on my bedside table. You will soon witness a miracle. I laughed a little, because one miracle was all that I was promised by that little slip of paper, but I truly witnessed millions. I tucked it in my Bible, placing it on my favorite verse that had so greatly helped me through the summer, thinking of T and all my children that shaped me into a leader and helped me grow so much in my faith.

 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

T is a light in this world. I am a light in this world. We are the lights of the world, and the darkness cannot overcome us.

By: Anne Douglass Williams



What Sawyerville Taught Me

Believe it or not, today is the last day of Sawyerville Day Camp for Summer 2016. We’re sad to say “see you soon” to our campers, and we’re so grateful for all of the fun and fellowship we’ve experienced together this summer. The Lord is surely in this place!

This morning, one of our staff, Ahmad Bennett, 20, shared a reflection with Upper Camp. His words are a great reminder of all of the good things that have happened this summer and all of the reasons why this ministry is so important.

“This week at camp I learned a lot. And what makes it so special is that I got to learn new and exciting things about Christ with all of you. Upper camp is hands down the best camp SDC has to offer, and I hope each person in this room got something out of this great experience.

Camp has always been my escape route from boredom and getting into trouble. I feel safe when I’m at camp. It’s always been great to meet new faces and get to see each generation of Sawyerville grow. We’ve been around for 23 years. I’ve been here about 15 of those 23, and I can tell you that Sawyerville taught me to be humble,  have patience, and to love God, and to feel his presence in whatever you do.

This week at camp we found our way by learning to accept a new friend and sharing this experience with them. We are not perfect people, as you saw earlier this week. Even some of the most famous and influential people in this world had problems that most if not all of you don’t even have to worry about, and they changed the world. I believe that Sawyerville Day Camp is a way for all of us to  find ourselves and become able to change the world one day as well. All of you are the future, and I hope that after you leave here today you still take God with you in whatever you do.” – Ahmad Bennett


Ahmad and a camper from Upper Camp

In the coming weeks, we’ll continue to share photos and memories from this summer. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instragram, Twitter, and here on the blog. Are you receiving our monthly e-newsletter? If not, sign up here. We’ll keep you up-to-date with all things SDC and YLP.

Thank you again to all of the individuals, churches, and foundations who gave so generously to make both the day camp and the learning program possible. These programs take an army to put together, and it wouldn’t happen without each of you! It’s all for the kids!

Camp is Part of our DNA

Thank you, Church!

The Rev. Rob Morpeth, who helped to begin Sawyerville Day Camp in the early 1990’s, recently made the excellent observation that camp is an integral part of our DNA as a diocese. We began with Camp McDowell and grew to include Special Session, Bethany, Foothills Day Camp, and, of course, Sawyerville Day Camp and the Yellowhammer Learning Program.

As a diocese, we love camp! We crave that kind of community, that kind of fun, that kind of worship. Here at SDC and the  YLP, sharing camp, the thing we love so much, with the children and youth who live in Hale County is a sign of our church at its very best.

Offering these camps here in Greensboro would not be possible without the support of parishes all over our diocese. We are very grateful to every vestry, ECW, Sunday school class, Cursillo reunion group, and parish who banded together to share money, bathing suits, pool towels, pool noodles, books, meals, snacks, school supplies, and so much more!


Financial Donors

All Saints’, Birmingham • Canterbury, Tuscaloosa • Cathedral Church of the Advent, Birmingham • Christ Episcopal Church, Tuscaloosa • Church of the Epiphany, Guntersville • Church of the Good Shepherd, Montgomery • Church of the Nativity, Huntsville • Grace Episcopal Church, Mr. Meigs • Grace Episcopal Church, Sheffield • Holy Spirit, Alabaster • Holy Trinity, Auburn • St. Andrew’s, Birmingham • St. Bartholomew’s, Florence • St. Francis of Assisi, Indian Springs • St. James’, Alexander City • St. James’, Livingston • St. John’s, Montgomery • St. Luke’s, Birmingham • St. Mary’s-on-the-Highlands, Birmingham • St. Mary’s, Jasper • St. Matthew’s, Madison • St. Michael and All Angels, Anniston • St. Michael’s, Fayette • St. Paul’s, Greensboro • St. Philip’s, Fort Payne • St. Simon Peter, Pell City • St. Stephen’s, Birmingham • St. Stephen’s, Huntsville • St. Thomas, Birmingham • Trinity Episcopal Church, Clanton

Supply Donors

Cathedral Church of the Advent, Birmingham • All Saints’, Birmingham • Ascension, Birmingham • Canterbury, Tuscaloosa • Christ Church, Albertville • Christ Church, Fairfield • Christ Church, Tuscaloosa • Epiphany, Leeds • Hood Shepherd, Montgomery • Grace Episcopal Church, Mt. Meigs • Grace Episcopal Church, Sheffield • Holy Apostles, Hoover • Holy Spirit, Alabaster • Holy Trinity, Auburn • Church of the Nativity, Huntsville • Church of the Resurrection, Rainbow City • St. Andrew’s, Birmingham • St. Catherine’s, Chelsea • St. Francis of Assisi, Indian Springs • St. James’, Alexander City • St. John’s, Montgomery • St. Joseph’s on the Mountain, Mentone • St. Luke’s, Birmingham • St. Mark’s, Prattville • St. Mary’s-on-the-Highlands, Birmingham • St. Matthew’s, Madison • St. Michael and All Angels, Anniston • St. Michael and All Angels, Millbrook • St. Michael’s, Fayette • St. Paul’s, Fairhope • St. Paul’s, Greensboro • St. Paul’s, Selma • St. Philip’s, Fort Payne • St. Stephen’s, Birmingham • St. Timothy’s, Athens • St. Wilfrid’s, Marion • Trinity, Florence

Meal Providers

All Saints, Birmingham • Church of the Ascension, Birmingham • Christ Church, Fairfield • Christ Church, Tuscaloosa • Church of the Ascension, Montgomery • St. Andrew’s, Birmingham • St. Francis of Assisi, Indian Springs • St. Luke’s, Birmingham • St. Mark’s, Prattville • St. Mary’s-on-the-Highlands, Birmingham • St. Michael and All Angels, Anniston • St. Paul’s, Greensboro • St. Paul’s, Selma • St. Thomas, Birmingham • St. Thomas, Huntsville • Cathedral Church of the Advent, Birmingham • Third Street Church of God, Greensboro • Trinity Episcopal Church, Demopolis • Wilson Chapel United Methodist Church, Trussville

From the Book of Common Prayer, For the Unity of the Church: Almighty Father, whose blessed Son before his passion prayed for his disciples that they might be one, as you and he are one: Grant that your Church, being bound together in love and obedience to you, may be united in one body by the one Spirit, that the world may believe in him whom you have sent, your Son Jesus Christ our Loud; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Dear Mr. President

On July 22nd, the Yellowhammer Learning Program will host the second-annual Parent Showcase. At this event, students and their families will enjoy dinner together, and afterward, the students will present all the wonderful things they worked so hard on this summer. They’ll share artwork, read from their journals, and maybe show off a few new chess skills.

The event will be a time for students and their families to pat one another on the back for a job well done. The students are already looking forward to the big day, and the teachers are encouraging them to invite those with whom they want to celebrate.

Two students took that invitation to the next level and invited The President and First Lady of the United States! They worked with their teacher to craft a letter that was mailed directly to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.


Julie Williams and a student work on the letter to the Obamas.

Julie Williams, a member of St. Thomas, Huntsville and an English teacher at Huntsville High School, taught the Writer’s Workshop class and helped the students pen their letter to Barack and Michelle Obama.


Students in Writer’s Workshop with their teacher, Julie Williams.

Unfortunately, the President and First Lady are unable to attend the Parent Showcase. They sent their regrets with heartfelt congratulations on the students’ accomplishments this summer. We’re sorry that the Obamas won’t be there, but we’re still thrilled to share the evening with family and friends! The students, families, teachers, and teaching assistants have so much to be proud of!