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'We lost everybody except for one person': St. Ann cancels summer camp over staffing shortage

This year was supposed to be the camp’s first year back open since the start of the pandemic, but a lack of staff quickly changed those plans.

ST ANN, Mo. — Families in St. Ann are going to have to find an alternative to the city’s summer camp. 

The camp isn’t happening this year because there just aren’t enough workers to run it.

This year was supposed to be the camp’s first year back open since the start of the pandemic, with plans to welcome back more than a hundred campers. 

But a lack of staff quickly changed those plans. 

Tim Younker is the director of the St. Ann Parks and Recreation Department. 

“We only had a couple of applications turned in," he said. "We waited as long as we could and about a week before registration was supposed to begin, the first part of May, the city made the decision not to have camp.” 

It’s not for lack of trying. The city’s parks and rec. department stepped up its recruiting back in February.  “We went through some of the local colleges -- community and junior colleges -- and we also went through the local high schools,” Younker said. 

He says that before the camp shut down for the pandemic, most counselors would come back summer after summer. 

“Usually we have about three-quarters of our staff return every year and I only have to replace about a quarter of them…. With us not having camp for two years during the pandemic, we lost everybody except for one person,” he said.

From the playground to the picnic tables, Tiemeyer Park will be much quieter this summer with no campers to use them, and no counselors to supervise.  

“We’ve had a few disappointed parents and children and I really feel sorry for the parents because they rely on this as daycare for those 6 weeks,” Younker said. “We have pretty much the same families who enroll year after year.” 

Larry Parent enrolled his kids and his nephews in the city camp decades ago. “They loved it. They really enjoyed it,” he said. 

Now his grandson plays in the same park. 

St. Ann’s camp needs anywhere from 15-18 staffers to run smoothly, and with only one employee on board this year, it just couldn’t work. 

“We realized we just weren’t going to be able to get this staffed and we wanted to let parents know as soon as possible to get some options for other camps before they closed up due to maximum enrollment," Younker said.

5 On Your Side was told the city is exploring all options to try and create some sort of camp experience.

"We are currently looking into doing what we call 'mini-camps'. It would be like one week long. But they probably would not be full days. We are looking at that trying to get a couple weeks scheduled," Younker said. "Talking to the director at Overland. I think they're going to possibly wanting to do a co-op thing where we would possibly do a couple of weeks at our location in St. Ann. They would do a couple of weeks at their location in Overland." 

He says officials will make a decision on that mini camp plan in the next couple of weeks.

In the meantime, St. Ann is referring parents to a few other nearby camps so families can secure a spot for their children before it's too late.

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