After 16 years as site director, Trent Meyer leaving Camp Fontanelle

David Burke

9/29/2020

Acknowledging that depression issues and his workaholic nature gave his job greater priority over his family, Trent Meyer will leave as site director at Camp Fontanelle before the end of the year.

“I’ve come to realize I put the camp above family and a lot of other things,” Meyer said. “I came to the decision through counseling that maybe it’s time for a change.”

Trent Meyer, right, and Camp Fontanelle staff prepare for a parade in Fremont in 2013. Photos courtesy Jane Van Horn, Camp Fontanelle

Meyer began in April 2004 as the only employee of Camp Fontanelle — responsible for everything from groundskeeping to cooking to marketing. Later, two fulltime employees were added. The number of campers grew as well, from 315 his first year to 765 in recent years.

The Rev. Lyle Schoen, president of the Camp Fontanelle site council, said that shortly before Meyer was hired, the Nebraska Conference voted to keep the camp open after its population steadily decreased.

Facilities grew at Fontanelle as well, and the camp is in the middle of a fund drive for additional buildings.

Meyer praised his bosses and co-workers and said much of his stress was brought upon himself.

“I never saw work as being a negative. I always enjoyed what I was doing out here,” Meyer said. “I just went over the edge too far with things and kind of got symptoms of burnout. I didn’t keep good balance and often chose doing things here at the camp over family.”

In a letter to the Fontanelle family, Meyer said health factors including his wife’s diagnosis and recovery from colon cancer in 2015 and his own rotator cuff surgery in 2017 were factors in his mental health. He was granted a sabbatical from the site council for 2017-18.

Tree climbing is a passion of Meyer's, as he works with campers.

While the coronavirus pandemic shut down all of the Great Plains camps to one extent or another, not having the usual summer traffic was a relief for Meyer.

“It’s almost a godsend for me,” he said. “I was feeling pretty overwhelmed before this year started, and it probably helped me more than anything.”

Meyer, 48, grew up in Snyder, Nebraska, and spent several years as a science teacher before joining Camp Fontanelle.

He and his wife, Shelly, have four children, ranging from 18 to 11 years old, and live on site at Camp Fontanelle.

“I’ve always told them they’re spoiled out here and they just don’t know it, with a 180-acre backyard,” Meyer said. “This has been home longer than I’ve been anywhere else in my life.”

Sara Shaw, camping ministries coordinator for the Great Plains Conference, said living on site adds to the stress of a job in leading a camp.

“You can’t turn off your phone and truly be off work,” she said.

Shaw praised Meyer’s work in leading the camp.

“He has really been a rock for Camp Fontanelle. He’s been a visionary for moving the camp along and keeping up with the needs and the demands and the wants of the ministry in that area. He has been a role model to so many staff people that have come through Camp Fontanelle through the years. He has been a good friend to staff and to myself.”

Meyer gets into the spirit of playing a clown on "scary maze nights" at Camp Fontanelle.

She said that Meyer has been a sounding board for many people through his job.

“He’s an extraordinary listener,” Shaw said. “He’s so mission-minded and so Jesus-minded that whenever his staff comes to him with a problem — or a camper or even someone on the site council or on the board — he will look at everything with an open heart and an open mind and try to relate any issue or problem back to Scripture.

“He’s so cool, calm and collected,” she added.

Schoen, a retired United Methodist pastor whose family has had a long history with Camp Fontanelle, praised Meyer for his ability to be a “scavenger” and find much-needed items for the camp, from structures to kitchen equipment.

Meyer, Schoen said, also volunteered to take a lower percentage raise than others at the camp.

“In his life, the camp always came first,” Schoen said. “He seemed to have a mastery of everything, in terms of relating to people, maintenance and groundskeeping, computer work at the office, paperwork … .”

Meyer said he has had a job interview for another position in the area. If he gets new employment, he will give 30 days’ notice. If he hasn’t found another job, he will give his notice at the end of November and leave by the end of the year.

“He’s going to be very missed by everyone,” Shaw said. “There’s no one who has been around Trent where he hasn’t changed their lives.”

Contact David Burke, communications content specialist, at dburke@greatplainsumc.org.


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