Kyle comes to Holmes with fifteen summers working in camps and over a decade of professional experience as an outdoor and environmental educator, most recently as Teen and Adventure Programs Manager at Massachusetts Audubon’s Wildwood Camp in Rindge, New Hampshire.
Kyle graduated from Southern Utah University where he studied Outdoor Education, and is certified as a Leave No Trace Master Educator and Wilderness First Responder,
Kyle has a commitment to outdoor education and the development of teen leadership. He has worked or volunteered with the Boy Scouts of America, The Harry Reid Center for Outdoor Engagement, the Appalachian Mountain Club, Tenafly Nature Center, Mass Audubon, the outdoor ethics program Leave No Trace, and private guiding companies across the country. He is a founding member of the Professional Development Committee at the New England chapter of the American Camp Association.
John “J.J.” Branin
J.J. started his culinary career at the age of 16 as a dishwasher for a Mexican restaurant in his hometown of Cedar City, Utah. However, his desire to do good in the world started from childhood with the values instilled by his loving family and his faith.
Taking the exhortation to “feed my sheep” somewhat literally, he pursued a career in food and hospitality knowing that providing people with good food and the small comforts of life was a powerful way to better not only their lives but his own as well.
After years of working at mountain resorts and for a non-profit hospital. J.J. and his wife Ashley packed up their lives out West and moved to Holmes where J.J. is afforded the opportunity to share both his love of food and his desire to make a positive difference in people’s lives.
Ashley was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area but moved to rural southern Utah when she married J.J., which was something of an adjustment. Being in the woods of New York has brought her back to the green environment she used to know.
Although she double majored in English and Spanish at Brigham Young University, Ashley’s professional experience has seldom utilized the literary knowledge she gained in college. She has been a paralegal, a campaign manager, a nanny, a cashier, a receptionist… She was pleased to learn that her experience in bookkeeping could be useful to Holmes Camp.
Soon after arriving in New York, J.J. and Ashley welcomed Ozzie, a pit bull/labrador/chow chow mix, into their home and hearts. He has become the unofficial Camp Dog as the three of them explore the trails and interact with the camp’s visitors.
We are richly blessed to have a person who keeps things running at Holmes Camp and Retreat Center with tremendous ingenuity, tenacity, and talent. Need something fixed? Not only will Paul have the diverse skill and knowledge to fix it, he’ll do so with parts from existing inventory. He’ll keep in the forefront of his mind questions such as: how can we do this project efficiently, cost effectively, aesthetically pleasing and in the best interest of our campers and guests? And he will think long-term, about how this fix will hold up, and what we’ll need to do to keep it operational. He is a remarkable Jack-of-all-trades, master of most.
Paul’s first experience at Holmes was in 1968 (the “Summer of Love”) as a self-described “Director’s Brat.” He spent a week at cabin 7 while his father, Rev. Ariel Verdesi, who was serving as chaplain for the week. A few years later he had a memorable experience as a camper with current Holmes Board member Ansley Lamar as his counselor. Paul joined the summer staff in 1975 as a Maintenance Assistant and began his career dealing with all things electrical and mechanical. This was an exceptional summer in Paul’s life where he met many of his lifelong friends. Paul returned each summer thereafter, spending the off-seasons as an auto mechanic, and earning master certifications from the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence. Paul attended Bridgeport University, where he majored in mechanical engineering, and commuted to camp each weekend to help with maintenance projects. In 1982 Holmes Director Don Hostetter asked Paul to come on board full time as part of the Westminster Transformation Fund to help complete the newly constructed Agape Center. Paul later enjoyed working with Interim Director Bill Key whom he considers a mentor. Bill encouraged Paul to become a Standards Visitor for the American Camp Association working to help accredit other camps. A process he enjoyed for ten years. Working on Agape, Paul worked closely with Red Gibson and Davy Nielsen, and met Harry Borg, an electrician who hired him as an apprentice.
Paul earned his Putnam County electrician license and in 1989 was added to The Holmes Camp permanent staff. That same year, he married another Holmes participant and staff member, Brenda Donohue. They constructed their log home on a lot they purchased near Denton Lake. In 1999 Jacob was born, and Benjamin in 2000. He is very proud that Jake and Ben are part of a group of kids that call themselves “Camp Cousins” many of whom are offspring of the summer of ‘75 staff. The entire family is devoted to Holmes, it’s in their blood. Paul keeps a watchful eye at all times and gives tender loving care to our infrastructure and equipment. If there’s a problem, anytime day or night Paul responds and manages the issue. We are richly blessed by the skill, devotion, and loyalty of Maintenance Specialist Paul Verdesi.
Grace Buck joined the Holmes family in December of 2019 as our Office Administrator. She is your first point of contact when reaching out to Holmes, works with rental groups and is responsible for our weekly Enewsletter – among other things! And, like all of our staff, Grace is always ready to jump in wherever an extra hand is needed.
Prior to joining Holmes Camp and Retreat Center, Grace worked as a Development Assistant for Legal Services of the Hudson Valley. Before Legal Services, she spent 14 years as the Community Outreach and Events Manager at a local Land Trust. Professionally, she brings to the camp her love of organizing events, working with community and volunteer groups and more than 20 years of fundraising experience.
Grace grew up in Putnam Valley, NY then moved to Patterson, NY – a stone’s throw from the Camp . She spent weekend of her youth in Holmes, NY at her Grandparents house on Drew Road – and remembers fondly long walks on Ludingtonville Road and feeding the duck in the lake – back when there was still water in it! As a kid she spent summers camping in Upstate New York.
Grace lives in New Fairfield, CT with her husband, two children and dog, Oliver.
After working at Holmes Camp and Retreat Center in 2018, Charlie has rejoined the ranks and now uses his varied experience to help keep our camp running – literally. With almost forty years of running an auto business under his belt, he has proven himself invaluable in keeping our fleet of aging work vehicles on the road. His dedication to camp life is long-standing: his first camp job was at Upper Delaware Campground when he was only 13. In addition to his mechanical skills, he uses his expertise in electrics, carpentry, and construction to help maintain the beauty and functionality of Holmes Camp.
Charlie was born in Westchester. When he’s not involved in one of the many upkeep projects here at Holmes he enjoys restoring and showing cars.
Aly joined the Holmes staff in the summer of 2023. He is a retired firefighter that loves the outdoors and enjoys learning new skills in the maintenance department!
When he’s not at camp, Aly enjoys spending time with his family and traveling.
Board of Directors
- President: Mark Hostetter
- Vice President: Paul Alcorn
- Treasurer: Liann Ainsworth
- Secretary: Linda Burpee
Hudson River Presbytery
Deborah Milcarek, General Presbyter
Board Nominated Members
Flora Wilson Bridges
Long Island Presbytery
Kate Jones-Calone, Acting General Presbyter
New York City Presbytery
Mary Newbern-Williams, Gap Presbyter