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Volunteer Story: Rod & Jan Matz

In the midst of staff training and kicking off summer, I got a chance to sit down with Rod and Jan Matz to hear their camp story.  If the name Matz sounds familiar, yes, Rod and Jan are the parents to Tim “Timmy” Matz who currently serves as our maintenance director at our Okoboji location. 

The Matz family has been part of the ministry of IOLBC for many years with Jan attending camp here since she was just twelve years old.  That first summer she showed up with out a registration, paid a $20 fee, and found herself spending the week at camp with her sister Linda for the week.  In those early years of being a camper, Jan remembers buying chocolate marshmallow ice cream cones from the canteen and starting the day with the Pledge of Allegiance before getting in line for breakfast in the dining hall.  She learned how to peel an orange with a spoon and proper table manners with the saying “Janet, Janet strong and able; get your elbows off the table!”  Just as is done today, afternoons were spent at the beach (weather permitting) with special care to stay on the sidewalk as they went around the English Family Resort (now a part of camp known as the English Village).  And, not that she ever had any personal experience with it, campers who misbehaved spent time in the kitchen peeling potatoes or scrubbing pots and pans.

In 1973, through their involvement at Hawarden American Lutheran Church, Jan was able to introduce her husband Rod to camp through a volunteer trip.  Rod (and future maintenance man Tim) joined the group doing repairs and updates to Upper Thomsen Center (where the program offices and Escape room are currently located).  All three of Rod and Jan’s children attended camp with Tina and Tim eventually working at camp and all three returning at times to volunteer.  Their two sons have especially fond memories of coming to camp with a group of families from church staying in Christopherhaus in the winter and the old Beach House in the summer. 

One of the more recent ways Rod and Jan have been involved with camp is as the volunteer leaders of our Travel Camp program.  They have faithfully hosted trips to places such as San Antonio, Savannah, Mackinaw Island, The Ark Encounter and more.  They can remember thinking “What did we get ourselves into?” as they drove away from camp on the first trip they were leading but, as those who have gone on trips with them can attest to, they found a great rhythm that helped everyone feel connected to each other and have a great trip regardless of the destination. 

The family still makes regular appearances at camp, now most often during Quilt Auction weekend where they have been known to find themselves bidding against each other for a favorite quilt.  Additionally, they spent many years are the primary makers of the Lefsa many have enjoyed at the annual Scandinavian Feast having recently passed the tips and tricks of the trade onto a new generation of Lefsa makers.  How did they get into the lefsa making business?  I wondered the same thing!  I was told “It’s Rodney’s fault” as he had found out the camp was ordering lefsa and simply could not stand for such nonsense.

Over the years, both Rod and Jan have appreciated how the camp has been a place which strengthened their faith and where they found lifelong, quality friendships.  Between bus trips and Elderversity, they have found a special community through camp which has seen a group of people making random pilgrimages to Hawarden in recent years to enjoy some of the famous Matz pies.

Overall, a common theme in talking to the Matz’s was how much they experienced God through and appreciated how welcoming the staff has always been during their many stays at camp.  Camp has always been a peaceful place they don’t want to leave. 

Fun Facts:

-       Rod is a photographer by trade and has taken many of our summer staff group photos throughout the years and has recently helped with the photography of our quilts for our annual Quilt Auction.

-       Both Rod and Jan celebrated their 80th birthdays with family and friends at the new Beach House in the last couple of years.

-       Once upon a time, Jan made some cheesy popcorn to share as a snack.  It did not turn out well.  However, Mitsu was so wanting to be welcoming to them that he was still determined to eat the entire portion gifted to him.



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