Tamarack Camps

Tamarack Camps makes up budget deficit by eliminating nine staff positions.

Featured photo via Tamarack Camps Facebook

Shortly after Labor Day, Tamarack Camps enacted a workforce reduction in response to an approximate $250,000 budget deficit, according to a formal statement from the organization.

The reduction resulted in seven full-time and two part-time positions being eliminated. Responsibilities have been reassigned among existing team members, the statement said, with sufficient resources to successfully cover all programs.

Gone from the Tamarack “team” page on the agency’s website are photos and information about those who are part of the workforce reduction, some who had held high-level positions. CEO Steve Engel has led the team since 2010.

In its statement, Tamarack attributed the financial deficit to shortfalls in anticipated camper tuition and off-season rental income. More than 1,000 youth participated in Tamarack summer programs, consistent with past years.

Tamarack Camps, established nearly 120 years ago as the Fresh Air Society, operates Camp Maas in Ortonville with 1,100 acres of woods, private lakes, nature trails and the Farber Farm. It also runs teen travel trips and outpost programs, family camps and year-round programming, manages the Jewish Community Center day camp, hosts Israeli campers each summer, takes its own teen mission to Israel every other year, runs a special needs camper program and more.

The organization has a national reputation among Jewish camps. And, over its long history, the camp has a strong legacy of campers spanning generations of Jewish Detroiters.

Tamarack Camps has a $9.1 million operating budget. As an agency of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, it receives an annual allocation from the Campaign/Challenge Fund. Amounts fluctuate from year to year, as with other agencies, because of donor designations as well as agency and community needs.

In fiscal year 2017-2018, Tamarack Camps received $493,242. In 2018-2019, the amount was $632,662 (up significantly because of real estate needs); and $617,211 for 2019-2020, with money allocated for its Israel mission.

“As our community understands, workforce reductions are sometimes necessary to ensure that an organization remains sustainable, efficient and high-performing,” the statement said. “We are certain that these actions will allow the agency to continue to provide the high-quality programming, services and rich informal Jewish education that our community has come to expect. We have undertaken this effort as a steward of community dollars, taking into consideration our best projections of community demographics, philanthropy and needs.”

A statement from Federation supported Tamarack’s decision to reduce its workforce.

“Understanding that staff reductions are difficult decisions to make,” the Federation statement said, “we support Tamarack’s commitment to maintaining fiscal responsibility and to ensuring the ongoing strength and vitality of the organization.”