Matching grant funding new construction at Camp Sabra

Camp Sabra-2014

By David Baugher, Special to the Jewish Light

Some campers who return to the Jewish Community Center’s facilities in the Lake of the Ozarks will find new digs this summer thanks to a matching grant from the Staenberg Family Foundation.

“It was in part because of great need and in part because we saw the impact of new and wonderful facilities here at the J,” said Lynn Wittels, president and CEO of the JCC. “Camp Sabra has been here for so many years. It has such an incredible legacy serving both the St. Louis Jewish Community and really the entire country.”

The foundation has issued a $1.5 million matching grant to help fund six new cabins at Sabra, which have replaced an equal number of the camp’s 30 housing units. Four went up last summer and two were built previously. The dollars will also back the construction of two new shower houses with construction of the girls’ facility already underway.

About $800,000 has already been collected through the effort. Philanthropist Michael Staenberg says the money is part of roughly a million dollars he has dedicated to the camp over the years.


“I’ve been a big supporter of the JCC,” said Staenberg, whose family name is also on the organization’s $23-million Millstone Campus facility, which opened in 2009. “One of the things that helps the Jewish community is a strong overnight camp. Besides day schools, camping probably the number one reason people remain identified to Judaism and how they want to practice as Jews.”


The additions are part of an ongoing series of recent upgrades at Sabra, which include new swim and sail docks and a new health center.

“It really speaks to all of the work we’ve been doing at Camp Sabra over the last three or four years and the impact that the collection of those activities have had,” Wittels said.

Part of that work was the construction of the new Fox Family Theater. At the dedication for the facility, Wittels said it became clear what a big impact the revamp was having on the campers.

“The stories the kids and the counselors came down and shared with the Foxes were just heartwarming,” she said. “Tears came to my eyes. Tears came to their eyes.”

Programmatic improvements are also set for this year including human foosball and expansions to the stand-up paddleboard program. Camp leadership said enrollment was strong for 2015 with some age groups already at capacity.

“We are in such great form,” said camp director Terri Grossman in an email statement. “We’re hitting on all cylinders — registration is way, way up. Families are excited about camp, and kids are bringing their friends. All the renovations make beautiful backdrops for the incredible programming we’re offering by our amazing staff.”

Wittels said he new cabins will be bigger and provide more community space along with separate areas for camp staff and larger beds.

“They also recognize the changing needs of campers,” she said. “We built them in such a way that they’ll take advantage of natural air flow. They all have fans inside of them. They have built-in cubbies for kids to unpack their luggage.”

Wittels said that the matching grant effort applied only to the cabins and shower houses but that many opportunities existed for donors to give to address camp upgrades. She credited the foundation and the community for their support.

“We can’t thank the Staenbergs enough for their incredible generosity,” she said.

To donate to the camp, contact Grossman at [email protected] or call 314-442-3180. For more general information regarding the facility and scheduling, contact Kim Holtzman Sloan at [email protected] or call 314-442-3151.