Our 16th year has come to an end...

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Our 16th year has come to a close and a lot more than my hair color has changed over these wonderful years with amazing young people! As I recall the necessity to create an income flow in the summer and having a reason for my Event Planner and my best high school helper to have plenty to do in the summer, we struck out with no knowledge of what a Business Model meant. Thank goodness I was in good hands with then Kristin West (Ellison ) and Megan Gunnels (Moyer) because you would have thought we were all PRO's.

Maddie Miller (Left) and Elizabeth Pipkin (Right)

Maddie Miller (Left) and Elizabeth Pipkin (Right)

The evolution of this program has seen growth in the number of weeks from three to six and the students enrolled from 12 to 32, with a waiting list every summer. We have attracted and maintained students for 4-5 years and we have created Junior Counselors and Counselor positions that have allowed the best of the best to maintain their relationship with us. New this year was the introduction of the Scholarship Program, introducing our Camp to area schools and allowing educators to be part of the selection process for a child they felt could benefit from our experience. We were delighted to have 4 very remarkable students join us through the Elizabeth Pipkin Scholarship Awards. Elizabeth was instrumental in creating the Junior Counselor Program and her senior project for Augusta Prep was writing a proper business model and corresponding with the educators and finally making the selections. She is headed to UGA with a firm background in workplace experience and writing a business plan.

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I continue to be passionate about CAMP and the young people that have given this experience the stellar reputation it holds. Putting their best foot forward was a closing post by another amazing young person that has been part of The VeryVera Cooking Camp between being a camper and a counselor for 13 years! Maddie Miller (last one on the left) could run it and will excel in all she does, as she, too, heads to UGA to study Early Childhood Education.


Our Culinary Director, Kameri Johnson shows that passion for food and food preparation can be learned through experience and her job as Associate Producer of The VeryVeraShow gave her the necessary tools to take the lead in the kitchen during the summer while we take a break from filming. She rose to the occasion and the students and counselors loved her!

Caroline Williams (Left), Angie Lee (Middle), Kameri Johnson (Right)

Caroline Williams (Left), Angie Lee (Middle), Kameri Johnson (Right)


Angie Lee's magic in Curriculum Writing came true as each week had an amazing theme, great crafts and wonderful recipes. She was here long enough to make sure it was all "said and done" and has moved on to work on her Masters in Dietetics at Augusta University.

Finally, I bid farewell to an outstanding Camp Director, Caroline Williams, who accepted her role with the utmost gusto and staged each day with poise and grace. Her "peeps" stepped up and as the smallest person in the room, her BIG personality and LEADERSHIP SKILLS paid off successfully each and every week. She leaves to pursue her Masters in Dietetics from Georgia State University but not before she leaves her mark with the most outstanding legacy: The VeryVera Camp Manual. Her organizational skills, passion and acceptance of responsibility will live forever through the pages of this book. I am grateful beyond words.

Kameri Johnson (Left) and Caroline Williams (Right)

Kameri Johnson (Left) and Caroline Williams (Right)

For me, it's the core of my passion. It's the idea that grew BIGGER than I imagined. It's left Augusta to be represented in franchises among private schools in many cities where our show airs. We are thrilled to continue to watch those numbers grow and the locations add up. In the meantime, I treasure the friendships I continue to make with the young women and men that are old enough to be my children or young enough to be my grandchildren. My family just keeps getting bigger.

Celebrating 16 Years!

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This Summer at VeryVera Camp has been a Summer to remember! With record breaking sign ups and a waiting list growing by the minute, camp this year is off to a great start! If you did not have the opportunity to join in on the fun this Summer, let me catch you up on what’s been happening! 

The VeryVera Cooking Camp celebrated a birthday this year, turning 16 years old. If you ask Mrs. Vera this is quite the accomplishment seeing as how camp was a way for her catering business to make money during the Summer months. Now the VeryVera Cooking Camp is an integral part of the VeryVera business, brand, and legacy. Over the years it has continued to grow bigger and better. This included the introduction of franchises two years ago, which has grown into 5 franchise locations this year! 

The Augusta location will see almost 200 children this Summer walk through the doors of the VeryVera cottage. We also have about 15 counselors cycling through each week, most of which are previous campers at VeryVera Cooking Camp. Our camp is spread out during the months of June and July with different age groups and experience levels every week. So far, we have seen Pre-Beginners (aged 6-7), our first group of Beginners (aged 8-10), and our Advanced Beginners (aged 11-14). Each week is a new adventure as each age range brings new challenges and excitement. 

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June 3rd we opened our doors to the first round of campers. Our youngest campers bring so much joy to the cottage each and every day of camp. They were filled with enthusiasm and an appetite to learn. As most of you know, the VeryVera way is to not only teach culinary skills, but also make a lasting impact on other important skills that seem to be a lost art now-a-days. Table setting, table service, napkin folding, decorations, place cards, party favors, creativity, and etiquette to name a few. This year, campers took time to learn the importance of having a party favor for their guests. Campers made homemade animal crackers with a handwritten note for their guest to take home on banquet day. Our theme of the week was “Into the Jungle”, which as you can see, campers dived into this concept and really made it their own.

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June 10th, was another exciting week of camp. We moved up the age bracket to our 8-10 year olds and our theme changed to a “Dino-Mite” party! Themed recipes included ‘herbivore bites’, bugle ‘dino- claws’, and a ‘dirt pudding cup’. Culinary skills, fun, and nutrition are all a part of our mission. Therefore, we have recipes that reflect all 3 aspects of the VeryVera brand incorporated in our modules. These are values that we hope will help them in their future endeavors.

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June 17th began our Advanced Beginner camp which is available for campers aged 11-14. This was a fantastic group of campers. We even had a few campers who were from out of town who we hope to join us again in the years to come. One camper came from Atlanta while we had another camper who was visiting from Tucson, Arizona. WOW!  This age group is always a favorite, as these campers gain such an appreciation for why and what we are trying to teach at camp. The theme of the week was the “Wild Wild West” and campers came ready to learn new skills and make new friends. This week we introduced partners in the kitchen setting rather than a group setting. The campers loved this idea as it gave them more creative freedom in the kitchen as well as the ability to learn more closely culinary skills that they would otherwise miss in a group setting.

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June 10th was also the week that our franchise Beaufort Academy kicked off! This has been such an amazing year for Beaufort. We had a lot of interest in our augural year, we know this franchise will continue to be a big success in the future! Beaufort has already seen two weeks worth of campers which means they have completed both the Pre-Beginner and Beginner modules. They will have one more week of Beginner campers at the end of July! Look at all the fun our Beaufort campers have had so far this Summer!

Our Charleston franchise at Porter Gaud has also been having an amazing Summer! Porter Gaud hosted their Beginner campers mid-June with a group of all young ladies. This power group, showed their love for the kitchen by creating their own delicious treats! We have featured a few of their creations! Elle’s “The Cyclone”, Gardner’s “Chocolate Star”, and Julia and Molly’s “Peanut Butter Cups”! 

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Pre-Beginners in Aiken, SC

Pre-Beginners in Aiken, SC

This week we have two franchise locations kicking off their VeryVera Camp weeks, both our Aiken and Macon locations are in the swing of things this week. Our Aiken camp is hosting our Into the Jungle theme which seems to be a favorite with these young campers. There is a lot of energy and smiles in both the kitchen and craft/education room! Even though Aiken is our franchise right next door to our main Augusta location, we have lots of interest and participation! Macon, GA is Vera’s hometown and what a great place to host another VeryVera Cooking Camp franchise location?! Stratford Academy is hosting over a dozen campers this week who are participating in our “Dino-Mite” Party adventure! Check out our social media pages to stay tuned on all the fun this week!

As you can see, we are busy busy with VeryVera Camp this Summer! We have enjoyed all of the campers at all of our locations and their love and passion for VeryVera, the kitchen, and having a blast. We cannot wait for the reminder of our camps to kick off this Summer. We will host 3 more camps in July at our Augusta location as well as a week of camp in both Beaufort and Charleston. Though our Augusta location is sold out, our Beaufort and Charleston locations have a few more spots left! Check out our website for more details. And though you may have missed VeryVera Cooking Camp this Summer, we host activities for children all year round. Check out our social media pages (Facebook and Instagram @veryveracamp) and our website (www.veryveracamp.com) for more information on our latest classes and be the first to know of Summer Camp registration in December for Summer of 2020! 



Getting Ready for Camp!

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Hello friends, my name is Anna Schermerhorn and I’m the Very Vera Cooking Camp summer intern. I am happy to be sharing what we’ve been working on to get cooking camp ready; but first, let me further introduce myself.

I am a rising junior at the University of Georgia where I study Family and Consumer Science Education. This field of study was previously known as “Home Economics Education”, which is what our beloved Vera Stewart studied back in ‘74. When I discovered the Very Vera cooking camp earlier this spring, I knew I had to be apart of it. I thought I had discovered it too late in my life, as I have long sense aged out of the Advanced class. However, I didn’t let this deter my hope of developing culinary skills, etiquette, and an appreciation for home economics along side of campers. In late May, Vera and Caroline Williams, the wonderful camp director, welcomed me to the team.

I spent my semester at UGA excitedly anticipating my time at the Cottage. I’ve carried that same enthusiasm into my work preparing for camp. Here at the Cottage, we’re in the process of getting new hardwood floors. This is exciting, but it means all the office supplies and office staff are working closely in the kitchen. For me, this is actually a comfort, since the kitchen is my happy place. In fact, as I’m writing this, I’m watching Vera prepare her homemade lemon crisp cake. Kitchen Aids are whirling in the background and the smell of fresh creamed butter waft through the air. The Cottage provides and unique and truly home-y work environment.

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In an effort to provide that same warm and hospitable environment to our incoming campers, I’ve scrubbed the front porch, washed the rockers, and planted new peonies in the window boxes. Inside the Cottage, I’ve cleaned, organized, and taken inventory of all of our kitchen supplies. This hard work prepared me and Caroline to place our first order of ingredients with our local Sysco representative, Seth.

In the meantime, Caroline and I have combed over each original recipe to document common allergens such as nuts, dairy, and eggs. This is time consuming, yet crucial to the safety of our campers. Caroline, a future registered dietitian, has spent months planning, testing, and tasting healthy recipes for our campers. She and I are so excited to be with them in the kitchen this summer!


See y’all in June,

Anna Schermerhorn



The Elizabeth Pipkin Scholarship

My name is Elizabeth Pipkin, and I attended VeryVera Cooking Camp from 2008 to 2011. Cooking has always been a way I have connected with my family members. Whether it be preparing shrimp and grits with my coastal grandparents, grilling doves with my dad after a hunting trip, or making sausage and beans with my grandfather who made it in the army, cooking has always been a way of connecting with them. For this reason, cooking is close to my heart. When I found out about the camp, I wanted to sign up immediately.

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VeryVera Camp was located in a massive building on Washington Road. This meant that the camp was set up in the middle of the kitchen that produced thousands of cakes a day for shipment across the United States. On the first day, we were toured around the busy deli, the massive kitchen, the long dishwashing station, the hectic packaging room, and my favorite, the ginormous freezer rooms that could hold the entire group of kids. It was such an amazing opportunity to see the “behind-the-scenes” of such a large scale business. For years, my family would order a cake for a birthday party, but I never had the chance to see how much work went into choosing the right companies to buy ingredients from, baking and icing the cake, and packaging it.

The week of camp included included cooking, baking, etiquette, and crafts. We also gained new friends, leadership skills, and a new appreciation for the work that goes into making a dish. At the end of the week, we created a banquet for our guests so that they could enjoy food we prepared for them. It was the best part of the week. I returned for the next three years, each one the best part of the summer. After I aged out, I still wanted to be involved with the camp. I wrote a letter to Mrs. Vera, asking to volunteer during a session. She hired me for one week which meant I was the first junior counselor. Creating the same wonderful experience my counselors made for me was my goal. I made every effort to engage with every child in my group. As a result, each kid was given the opportunity to improve their cooking skills and work as a team. To this day, these campers still run up to me in public to tell me about how much they enjoyed their experience.

This past summer, I was given the opportunity to start a scholarship program for kids who would benefit from the camp. The camp has provided me with leadership skills, confidence, the ability to work with others, and six years of job experience. I wanted this to be attainable for everyone. I contacted every school in the Augusta area, asking teachers to nominate their students. The entire team read through each and every application, and we chose four outstanding winners. Our winners included Annaliese Dresser from Saint Mary’s, Archer Battle from Heritage Academy, Avery Lutz from Blue Ridge, and Graeme Slater from Lake Forest Hills. All of whom will join us during VeryVera Cooking Camp 2019!

This program will continue annually. In the fall, information will be sent to Richmond and Columbia county schools about the rules and deadlines of the spring application process. My next goal is to work on plans for continuing to fund this program. We hope to receive even more great applications in the future!



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Our newest franchise location, Beaufort Academy!

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As I have watched the VeryVera Cooking Camp grow from it's humble beginning in 2004, there is one common denominator:  LOVE. Equipped with a Home Economics degree from the University of Georgia in 1974, I headed straight to a high school classroom where I stayed for the next four years. Just recently I had the privilege of welcoming back one of my former students and her daughter to join me for a class at our Cottage. 

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The love of teaching, my passion for cooking and entertaining, my Martha Stewart "want-a-be" eye and my entrepreneurial spirit have all found a home in the curriculum in our Camp.  The right of passage at the age of eight in Augusta for years was enrolling in Cooking Camp.  When our retail location closed in 2013 and we moved into our Cottage, I lowered the entry level to six because our kitchen space and use made that option viable.  

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What has transpired over these almost sixteen years is something I never anticipated early on.  As Camp has grown, so has it's roots.  We've gone from using full-time staff as counselors to hiring college interns. We've taken that a step further by opening up Junior Counselor positions and allowing former campers to apply once they reach the summary of Advanced classes in Camp. I have even had campers as guests on the show and this past year, awarded a former Camper/Counselor with a scholarship he is using at Presbyterian College.

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The biggest news is the Franchise aspect.  Three years ago, with our VeryVera Show being syndicated, we felt the opening of Camps in other areas would be a nice compliment to the show and a great community involvement for our brand with our viewers.  We now have locations in six other areas and are continuing to grow.  Our newest location is Beaufort Academy in Beaufort, SC and I am especially moved by that decision, as my husband and I have a home there.  I truly feel that Beaufort is part of my personal community and I can't wait to visit the campers there this summer.

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The BEST part of Camp to all of us that are involved is the difference we are making in young people's lives.  Camp is not just about cooking:  It's the recipe that failed and how you will fix it.  It's the opportunity to market the product you made today and how you will attractively package it and calculating your cost to determine a price.  It's overcoming being shy in front of people you don't know and it's understanding that hard work pays off.  These are all lessons they can take back with them to school in the fall.

If you have interest in our program, from having students enrolled or opening up a Franchise, please contact our Director, Caroline Williams at caroline@veryveracamp.com.  

When Creativity and Nutrition Meet

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Hello! My name is Angie Lee and I am the Cooking Camp Curriculum Director for VeryVera! I joined the VeryVera team back in September of 2018 and it has been an interesting 5 months at VeryVera! From brainstorming various themes, creating the designs for modules, to recipe testing and making crafts each day, each day is filled with new surprises! Now, how did I find my way to VeryVera in the first place? Back in August, one of Vera's former team members, (Anna Mutimer) approached me about this job opportunity while I was giving a MyPlate presentation across the street at the Junior League of Augusta. I remember her saying "Vera will like you already since you graduated from the University of Georgia" (Vera's alma mater)!

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To back track, I completed my bachelor's in Dietetics at the great University of Georgia. Before I decided to pursue my degree in dietetics, I was originally an art major my first year at UGA. I realized after a year, art wasn't something I was truly passionate about and decided to focus on something I loved more: food. Now I am currently enrolled at Augusta University's Coordinated Masters and Dietetic Internship Program to  become a Registered Dietitian. However, I did not throw away all my creativity when I switched majors. As you will hopefully see in this Summer Cooking Camp, I have worked diligently to create each module to fit its theme and included recipes and activities for the campers to express their creativity. My vision for Cooking Camp is to provide campers with a guideline, but also give them the flexibility to express themselves and create their own original piece of work. Not only do I wish for the campers to be creative with their crafts, but also in the kitchen and in their life outside of Cooking Camp. Creativity is something that cannot be taught and is a way of expressing oneself differently than the next person. This is how I also view the field of nutrition. Most of us are able to choose what we want to eat and how we want to incorporate specific foods into our diet. There is no one specific way to be "healthy". We all make individual efforts to incorporate healthy habits into our lives based on our current lifestyles, likes and dislikes, and other factors. I hope all VeryVera campers can come this summer and express their creativity with all the fun activities I have created for them!

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Sadly, I will not be able to attend the summer camp due to my school schedule, but I do hope every camper enjoys each curriculum I have planned out! Caroline Williams (Camp Director) and I hope they enjoy all the monkey business in the "Into the Jungle" and have a rawr-ing time at the "Dino-Mite Party", and bring out those cowboy/girl hats for the "Wild, Wild West"! They may also be featured in a film with our "Top Chefs" and get to learn new languages as "World Travelers"!



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Developing my Professional Skills

Hi everyone! My name is Caroline Williams and I have just completed my first month of working at VeryVera as the new Camp Director and Director of Education.

A little bit of background about myself: I grew up North of Atlanta in Suwanee, GA and completed my Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics at Samford University in Birmingham, AL. I have always had a passion for working with others and making food fun and enjoyable for all. I am so excited to have the opportunity to work at VeryVera where I can do all of these things on a daily basis.

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Since graduating from college in December and throughout my first month here in Augusta, I have learned so much about myself and am continuing to do so everyday. Other than learning how to survive outside of the college bubble and in the real world, I am learning who I am and growing into my full potential as an individual. Working at VeryVera with Vera Stewart is helping me to understand key characteristics of being a working woman in the world and allowing me to grow into my full potential. There are certain skills which I am learning, that are needed in order to be successful. Organization, confidence, consistency, responsibility, and leadership are the five words that come to mind. As a young woman newly placed in the business world, these are five characteristics that I believe are important to prioritize, I continue to develop my professional skills while working at VeryVera.

Growing up, I cannot speak enough to how often I heard motivational speakers at school or athletic events and program leaders speak about the importance of leadership skills. Working at VeryVera, I am learning a whole new meaning to being a leader.  Every team member needs to show their leadership qualities to help better the overall organization. There is no I in team. You cannot just have one individual running an entire company. I am proud and honored to have the opportunity to be able to work as a team member at VeryVera and contribute on a daily basis!

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In this same way, I hope to instill this knowledge in the campers during our Summer camp program this summer. Having leadership qualities is important for everything you do in your life, whether you end up being the boss of your own company or you work for someone else!

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On top of learning life skills and key characteristics for success, I am excited to be preparing for an amazing Sweet 16 Summer Camp! Most of my days are filled working with Angie Lee who developed all the curriculum for our Summer Camp 2019. We spend lots of time in the kitchen recipe testing to ensure that all modules will be a huge success this year! Just graduating with a degree in Nutrition also brings an interesting twist to developing a great summer camp curriculum.  

Overall, I am thrilled to be a part of VeryVera and cannot wait to work with your children at a future Birthday Party, Saturday or Summer Camp!



My Toughest and Best Boss

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Hi! My name is Elizabeth Davis and I am originally from Augusta, GA. I currently live in Nashville, TN, where I have spent the past 10 years working in Marketing & Communications for various healthcare companies.  I can say without a doubt that working at VeryVera during my high school days as an "elf" was one of the most influential learning experiences of my career. Over the years, I have often been asked the age old interview question, "Who was your toughest boss?" My response for 10 years has always been Vera Stewart. 

At the tender age of 15, I had no clue that what Vera was instilling in her staff/me early on was that perfection comes from hard work, and attention to detail means more than just making sure the cake knife also made it in to the box. It was about presentation in the way your brand is seen everyday by every single person that comes in contact with it. You usually only get one chance, so you have to make sure that chance counts. 

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Watching Vera Stewart work taught me what it means to absolutely love what you do. She took a dream and made it into this amazing, woman-led business. That by far is the greatest gift she could have given me. Its enabled me to have conversations with executive team members over the years and really understand what it means to build a dream. Without Vera, it would have taken years for me to truly comprehend that lesson. 

Every piece of advice learned while working at VeryVera has lead me to a career that thrives on my attention to detail, presentation, brand awareness, and the ability to understand my audience. Work for Vera Stewart and it will be the biggest gift you can give to yourself, but while you're at it, make sure to taste test her strawberry layer cake...I still have dreams about it.

A Recipe for Success

Ever since I was little, I have loved being in the kitchen. It started when I would help my mom make sugar cookies for every holiday – Christmas, Easter, Halloween, it didn’t matter. Our old-fashioned sugar cookies are still my favorite cookies to bake as well as eat.

I remember how nervous I was before starting VeryVera Cooking Camp for the first time. I was excited to learn more about cooking, but I had always been I little shy. My worries flew away, however, as soon as my mother, baby brother, and I were greeted by a smiling Ms. Vera outside the door. The tradition of being greeted by Ms. Vera is one of my favorites because it helps the campers feel more relaxed and excited about starting camp. When I came back the next year, I was less nervous because I knew what to expect.

Six years later, I was offered the opportunity to be a counselor with the VeryVera Cooking Camp. I was amazed to find that Ms. Vera still greets every one of her campers every morning. She takes the time to learn their names and what makes them unique. My baby brother, now 10 years old, started camp for the first time last year, and Ms. Vera still remembered him from my days at camp.

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For me, the most special part of a week at VeryVera Camp is not the activities, etiquette practice, or cooking. (Although all of those parts have stuck with me even today.) To me, the best part about VeryVera Camp is the special attention paid to each student and the opportunities campers are given to grow and continue to improve throughout their week at camp and beyond.

The etiquette that I learned during my two years at camp has come in handy for me quite often. Most recently, I visited Disney World for a marching band trip. My friends and I went to a restaurant in Hollywood Studios with a 1950s kitchen theme. There, our waitress jokingly demanded that we set the table as part of our before-dinner chores. I was the only member of my group who remembered how to do it, so they all made me help them! Thanks, Ms. Vera!

Lily Jaremski

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A Camp Dream Come True

Hi everyone! My name is Grace Thexton. I am a former VeryVera camper, and now I'm a junior counselor for Summer Cooking Camp! It all started at my first day of camp in the summer of June 2011. I loved every minute of it and couldn't wait to go back every day! I learned so many new skills in the kitchen and etiquette that impressed my entire family.

 
 

I have learned so much from Cooking Camp, such as confidence and manners, that apply to my everyday life. One thing I will never forget about is when I was named Camper of the Week during my second year at Camp. I knew at that moment I wanted to be a counselor.

 
Camper to Counselor!

Camper to Counselor!

 

In 2015, my dream came true and I received a letter from Vera asking me to be a counselor! My first week was scary and exciting as I had to learn so much and continue to learn every day. I knew the counselors had to do a lot of work when I was a camper, but I never knew how much work it actually took. I know the values I've learned from working with the staff at VeryVera are setting me up for a bright future. Cooking is a lifelong passion, and now teaching children to cook is an experience I will cherish forever!

A Day in the Life of a VeryVera Camper

VeryVera camp is a summertime tradition here in Augusta. I attended camp when I was a child and now as Camp Director I get to see the whole operation from a different angle. For those of you who are not as familiar with the VeryVera Camp Program, I'm going to walk you through a typical day at camp from beginning to end.

Greeting campers as they arrive

Greeting campers as they arrive

  • 8:45 Doors open and campers arrive. Campers find their seat and begin working on their arrival activity. Campers are free to talk as they work. On Monday we open the doors at 8:30 so that parents can get a tour of the facility.
  • 9:00 Camp begins. The Camp Director will give opening remarks, go over rules, and give any notes from the previous day.
  • 9:15 Campers are divided into groups of 6. They get new groups each day to encourage making new friends! From here the groups head into the education room, the craft room, or the kitchen. Each group does all 3 rotations every day. 
  • 9:15 (In the kitchen.) The kitchen rotations are 1 hour and 15 minutes long. During their time in the kitchen the camper:counselor ratio is 3:1. Campers work with counselors to prepare 3-4 recipes, depending on difficulty of the recipes.
Advanced Campers make crepes

Advanced Campers make crepes

Advanced Beginners practice dicing

Advanced Beginners practice dicing

  • 10:30 Snack and restroom break. Campers get a snack and water break every day. During this time campers are free to talk amongst themselves and use the restroom. At this time, counselors are setting up for the next rotations and mingling with the campers. 
  • 10:45 Craft room.  (The time in the craft and education rooms combined is 1 hour and 15 minutes. Campers switch halfway through so they are in either room for about 35 minutes) Campers do 1-2 crafts every day, accompanied by a lesson. The purpose of the craft room is to encourage an entrepreneurial spirit in campers by helping them create innovative packaging and to foster creativity. The craft room is also used to reinforce lessons that campers learn such as table settings and table service.
A camper paints a tote bag

A camper paints a tote bag

Two Advanced Campers in the craft room

Two Advanced Campers in the craft room

  • 11:15 Education room. Campers that are in the craft or education room switch to the other room after 30-35 minutes. Some campers may go to craft first and some may go to education first. The counselor:camper ratio in these rooms is 3:1. The education room is where campers learn home economics, napkin folding, etiquette, nutrition, and much more! A favorite lesson from last year was our taste bud activity where campers learned about sweet, salty, bitter, and umami and which parts of the tongue each taste corresponds to. 
Beginners practice table service

Beginners practice table service

Campers are doing a taste bud activity in the Education Room

Campers are doing a taste bud activity in the Education Room

  • 12:05 Lunch preparation begin. Campers begin to break away from their groups around 12:15 and start washing their hands and setting the table. Everyday a new group of servers is chosen randomly and tasked with the responsibility of serving lunch to their peers.
6-7 year olds help each other set the table for lunch

6-7 year olds help each other set the table for lunch

  • 12:20 Lunch is served. Campers generally eat whatever they made in the kitchen that day. We encourage campers to taste everything on their plate, you don't have to love it but you do have to try it! Our pre-beginners surprised us by being the most adventurous eaters last year! 
Pre-Beginners enjoy a lunch of macaroni and cheese with ham, blueberry muffins, and apple slices

Pre-Beginners enjoy a lunch of macaroni and cheese with ham, blueberry muffins, and apple slices

  • 12:45 Campers clear their plates.
  • 12:50 At every VeryVera Camp Banquet, campers give a brief introduction to the group. We use the last 10 minutes of every day to practice introductions in order to take some of the fear out of public speaking. 
  • 1:00 Campers go home! 
A Camper speaks at the banquet

A Camper speaks at the banquet

VeryVera Cooking Camp is more than just a few recipes! We are an etiquette school, a teacher of traditions, a lifetime of memories, and the #bestsummerever! Be sure to go through our other blog posts from former campers and counselors to get an idea of the lasting impression that VeryVera Camps can leave.

 

Learning from VeryVera

Hi! My name is Carter Boardman. I am from Augusta, GA and was lucky enough to work for VeryVera during high school. I could honestly go on for pages about the many reasons I love Vera Stewart, lessons I learned from her, and my experience working at VeryVera, but the key takeaway would be that hard work most definitely pays off. This is something that I was grateful enough to learn at a young age from Vera. Working at VeryVera during high school was one of the best decisions of my life. I started working at VeryVera as a holiday “elf” but I loved it so much that I continued into the summer.

Work for Vera Stewart and I promise you’ll go places. Her attention to detail, persistence, leadership, and tough nature are just a few of the qualities that lead Vera to be the successful business woman she is today. At the time, I didn’t realize she was instilling these qualities in me, but as I graduated high school, college, and moved to New York City to work for a high fashion designer, Stuart Weitzman, I quickly noticed I owed Vera for where I had landed. It is extremely important to learn these traits at a young age as they will carry you from job to job no matter what you choose to do with your life. I started working in Public Relations, followed by events and VIP management and now I am working on a massive development that is opening in Charleston, SC. While each of these jobs are different they all require attention to detail, persistence, and leadership. Nothing comes easy but if you work at it you will be recognized and you will excel.

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Journey to Junior Counselor

Hi, my name is Macie Wier and I am in eighth grade at Davidson Fine Arts School. Cooking delicious recipes has become a favorite hobby of mine all because of VeryVera Cooking Camp. I started camp when I was in third grade, five years ago. When I was in third grade, I showed up for my my first day of camp and Ms. Vera came in to greet us with a big smile. When I first started coming to cooking camp at a young age, I wasn’t very interested in cooking, but I absolutely fell in love with it after my first day.

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At camp, I learned many things I use in everyday life. I learned how to set a table, fold napkins, table manners, and proper etiquette. I used to be shy and scared to speak in front of others, but at VeryVera Camp I learned how to introduce myself properly and speak to adults. VeryVera Camp is where I learned my manners and why we need them. I still have my old recipe books from when I first started camp, and I still look through them today to get some great recipe ideas.

This past summer was my first time being a camp counselor and it was such a great experience. I learned so much--especially how to work with kids, teach, work as a team, and so much more. It was so amazing to see what it was like to be a camp counselor and to work at VeryVera after being a camper for five years. Then, I came back as a camper for Advanced camp! I cannot wait for this upcoming summer to be with the campers and be a junior counselor!

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Valentines Day Camp Recap

Love was in the air this past weekend at our Heart-y Party-themed Valentine’s Day Camp!

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The party got started as campers arrived and were greeted by the larger than life conversation hearts on the porch of the cottage.

In the kitchen, we prepared a Strawberry Pretzel Salad that was “pretty in pink” and perfect for a Valentine’s-themed lunch. Campers loved crushing the pretzels by hand, although a food processor works as well!

We got our Valentine’s kiss in the form of jumbo Hershey’s Kisses made of chocolate crisped rice cereal and marshmallows.Wrapping them in tin foil created that familiar silver look and made these the perfect party favor! Campers can recreate this recipe at home using any chocolate-flavored cereal.

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Cheesy Heart Dippers were a fun and delicious addition to our lunch menu. Campers enjoyed rolling out the pizza crust, cutting a heart-shaped piece of mozzarella, and crimping the edges to create a cheese-filled, heart-shaped package. We brushed them with garlic butter to make the perfect side for a pasta dish. Campers said that they would put pepperoni inside to create a pizza heart!

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Our older campers also made some sour cream muffins from the recipe in The VeryVera Cookbook. Those were a hit!

The 6-7 year olds helped prepare the day’s snack by taking a halved and cored apple and dipping the cut side in cherry gelatin powder. The result was a heart shaped sweet treat that was easy to make and fun to eat.

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The crafts for this camp were really fun to make, as paint is the favorite craft medium of all age groups! Campers stamped beautiful patterns onto tea towels using sponges cut into heart shapes. These are perfect for use in your kitchen or hanging as a decorative bathroom towel. We used acrylic paint that holds up to washing really well, so campers can enjoy these for years to come!

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We also made the coolest homemade Valentine cards that feature a secret message that can only be revealed by scratching off the metallic layer! Print off the template and create these at home for yourself! Start by writing a message on the big purple heart, then cover it with clear tape. A 1:1 mixture of metallic acrylic paint and regular dish soap is used to create the scratch-off coating. These DIY Valentines are perfect for teachers, parents, and friends and the idea can be used for many different holidays and events!

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Valentine’s Day is a fun holiday for kids because everyone can get involved and the message is so positive. We hope you enjoy your Valentines Day celebration as much as we enjoyed ours!

A Journey Through Cooking Camp

Hi, my name is Reece Whatley. I am in the ninth grade at Evans High School, and I have always enjoyed cooking. Even before discovering VeryVera Cooking Camp, I loved to help my mom and grandmother in the kitchen with whatever they might be cooking.  

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I began my journey with VeryVera when I was seven years old and asked to attend Cooking Camp. Much to my surprise, this was so much more than just a Cooking Camp. On my first day, I was greeted by a huge smile from Mrs. Vera and all the wonderful counselors. 

Not only did I learn how to measure ingredients, but I learned proper etiquette, manners, and how to set a table. I also learned how to introduce myself to a group, which has already helped me so many times in school. Through my years of Camp, I accumulated some of my favorite recipes and still make them to this day. In the summer of 2017, I had the privilege of becoming a junior counselor.

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This experience taught me so much, from leadership skills and teamwork to mistakes not being a bad thing as long as a lesson was learned. I got to meet so many wonderful campers who were excited to learn new things. Then, I went on to complete my last year as a camper during the week of Advanced Camp. I will always have the memories of being a camper, but I look forward to making new memories as a junior counselor!

'Tis the Season

Our Christmas Saturday Camps are in the books! We had so much fun these past two weekends cooking and crafting with our friends! I can’t wait to tell you all about it, so I’ll start with our Arctic Affair Saturday Camp, held December 9th.

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In the kitchen, we made chocolate cookies that we decorated to look like melted snowmen, using Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups as hats. The campers enjoyed squishing orange candies to make the poor snowman’s nose!

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We put sugar cookies in the food processor and used our hands to mix in cream cheese to form sweet little sugar cookie truffles. Once those were dipped in melted white almond bark, we called them “Snowballs” and topped them off with blue sprinkles.

Don't worry, he already made his snowballs...

Don't worry, he already made his snowballs...

Some super fudgy brownies were next on the menu, but we added a Christmas twist! We baked them up in a deep dish pie pan and cut them into wedges. Red M&Ms candies took a starring role as Rudolph’s nose, and pretzel twists were the antlers! Everyone found that the pretzels don’t break perfectly in half, which means each set of antlers is unique! If you want to try this brownie recipe for yourself, click here!

In the craft room our campers made slime, a crowd favorite that will last all season! They also decorated a wooden snowman that their families will display for years to come. The snowman was created by stamping a face onto a piece of wood, and using a sock for a hat! This craft was super fun, and can be done on a budget by using reclaimed wood if you want to build a whole family of snowmen for your coffee table.

 
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Our Saturday camp held on December 16th had a “Christmas Around the World” theme, so each recipe and craft was representative of a different country. For example, Poinsettias are native to Mexico and one of our crafts was making a beautiful garland made of paper pinwheel poinsettias. We told the campers about the different backgrounds of each craft and recipe while they were working on their morning work, so we had lots to talk about during each activity. Here’s a rundown of what we did!

 
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In the kitchen we made Brazilian Brigadieros, which are really yummy chocolate caramel candies that get rolled into balls and coated in chocolate sprinkles. Then we moved on to Kolache cookies, a variation of a recipe from the Czech Republic that get filled with jam and dusted with powdered sugar. Some of the campers thought this cookie tasted like biscuits with jelly! Our last recipe was a candy cane cookie ball. This used chocolate sandwich cookies and cream cheese, but a peppermint twist was added by using flavored coffee creamer and forming the cookie ball around a Candy Cane Hershey’s Kiss. Many of the campers already knew the history of the candy cane, and it was fun to hear them tell the story of the German peppermint stick. To top it all off, we decorated some sugar cookies to have with lunch, because Christmas isn’t complete without tons of cookie icing!

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In the craft room we made the Poinsettia pinwheel garland and a ribbon and ricrac Christmas tree canvas to add to each camp family’s holiday decor. Did you know that some historians believe that Germany started the tradition of Christmas trees as we know them? Our Christmas tree canvases were a little less traditional, with different lengths of ribbon being glued to a canvas board to form a tree shape. We left the outside edges of the canvas blank so that campers could customize the craft at home. Some suggestions were to use ricrac as a border, or have a parent with need handwriting write a holiday message. You can hang this craft on a mirror, a door, or even use it on a mantel with a plate stand.

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The decor for this camp was all DIY--simple gingerbread cottage-inspired garland and a larger-than-life arch made of gifts. For the garland, I just wrapped toilet tissue rolls in wrapping paper and cellophane to make them look like hard candies. Those were then threaded on a length of twine and strung on the bannister. The gift arch started out with a collection of empty cardboard boxes that we wrapped to look like Christmas gifts. We then stacked the gifts and supported them with wooden dowels to create an entryway that WOWS! I love the look of over-the-top decor, but I don’t always like the price tag, so I try to come up with DIY ways to have great decorations without breaking the bank. For this decor, I bought a few inexpensive rolls of wrapping paper, and that’s it!

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Thank you to all our campers for joining us this year! Keep an eye out for announcements about Saturday Camps in 2018. Merry Christmas!

Life's Little Blessings

I enjoy motivational speaking. Generally, the topics I approach would revolve around female entrepreneurship, “Recipes for Success,” or professional etiquette. I’ve found myself recently managing to incorporate my passion for VeryVera Cooking Camp into any talk that I am asked to deliver. Why is that?

Fifteen years ago, my accountant suggested a need to find a constant income flow for the company during the summer months. With the seasonal nature of my catering and mail order businesses, the summer “drought” was affecting the bottom line of my company. The answer was simple for me. As a former high school home economics teacher, my idea was to bring the classroom back into my life, thus creating the very first VeryVera Cooking Camp experience in Augusta in 2004.

The marketing aspect was easy, as I had also opened up a Café that year that had customers in our location every day to sit for a spell. I dedicated the old-school bulletin board to highlights for the Summer Camp program and put tent cards on each table to advertise the first year of camp.

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With the launch, my idea was to take it slow and keep registration to a reasonable number. We were as excited as our campers for our very first week! 

A few things have changed along the way, but one thing has certainly not changed: our enthusiasm for our work. Parents can count on smiling faces entering and leaving our cottage, some great treats coming home, and a love for cooking meals for the family and setting the table. We have developed the reputation for bringing out the best in a shy student, making nutrition interesting and fun, and convincing campers that a vegetable can be delicious!

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Students work through three rotations every week: kitchen, crafts and education. We have found that each room has its fair share of excitement and fun. As years progressed, so has our curriculum with classes added to allow campers to remain with us until the age of fourteen. Advanced Campers have even orchestrated a mock wedding reception complete with a bride and groom. We have had a blast with themes throughout the years.

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We have developed a junior counselor program that allows us to incorporate graduates of the program into the workforce and let them get a true sense of being part of a business. We have also fostered a college intern program that allows college students to come on as leaders, administrators, curriculum writers, and managers. Our Camper of the Week and Culinary Camper of the Week Awards are recognized in our community as “The Best of the Best” due to the reputation of our Camp. Our waiting list last year had over 72 names on it, so we put a tent on the property to manage the overflow and accepted 36 campers each week in Augusta.

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2017 welcomed our first Franchised Camps. Columbus, GA and Aiken, SC joined the ranks of camp locations and both had tremendous success. We enjoyed the training programs with both locations and are excited to watch as the “VeryVera Camp bug” takes over in their communities.

In 2018, we will be welcoming Porter-Gaud School in Charleston, SC, Stratford Academy in Macon, GA, and Park Tudor School in Indianapolis, IN. The passion continues to grow as our Augusta, GA camp director, Haleigh Newman, will enter her second year with us, showcasing how an eight-year-old girl can grow in her six years attending camp, graduate from college, then come back to take over our program. She is certainly a great role model for our young people.

I want to thank my accountant for encouraging me towards diversification all those years ago. I certainly give a tremendous amount of thanks and gratitude to the staff of VeryVera along the way that jumped in and made our camp program a huge success. Thank you to all the parents that have invested in our program and their children that have made us love it that much more. I also want to give thanks to the counselors that have given 100% each week and have joined me in my love for mentoring young people. I have truly been the beneficiary of a program that has blessed me with great joy for many years.

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Returning to Camp

Hello! My name is Tyra Matthews. I am a Junior at Augusta University. Summer of 2017 was my first year working for Mrs. Vera as a counselor, and it was an amazing experience! VeryVera Cooking camp has been a part of my life since I was about 8 or 9 years old. My family has always encouraged me to be independent and learn skills that are beneficial for my future. I got interested in cooking after helping my grandma cook so many delicious Sunday dinners. So when my aunt came to me with the opportunity to go to a cooking camp, I jumped all over it. This is where my journey of great cooking skills, etiquette, and opportunities begin.

As a child, I loved to bake and enjoyed helping my grandma cook meals for the family. This made me fall in love with cooking. Over the years, I have cooked Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas dinners, and everyday meals, and most of the recipes I made are from my cookbooks that I received as a camper at VeryVera. I honestly can say that I feel that going to cooking camp gave me so much confidence in cooking.

 
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I went to cooking camp as long as I could until I got too old and had to stop at 14. You better believe if I could have stayed longer I would have. Those were some of the most memorable years of my childhood. I learned so much and I had fun doing so.

Mrs. Vera and her contagious smile has always been good to me. At 14, she allowed me to work for her at her old location. There I got some experience in filing, packaging, and teamwork. Who would have thought that at 14 I would have experienced so much?

I graduated from Lakeside High School in the year 2015. I began my college journey that following fall and am currently majoring in Cell and Molecular Biology. Last semester, I decided to put my certification as a nursing assistant to good use. I got a job at a senior living facility. I was working almost full-time there, but when my aunt told me that Mrs. Vera wanted me to work as a camp counselor, I arranged my schedule to make it work. I felt so comfortable and enjoyed my time at VeryVera Cooking Camp. Everyone was amazing and we all worked well together.

 
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Mrs. Vera has taught me so many skills, and I believe that she has really helped me with my confidence, because in my younger days I was shy and stayed in the background. Now I am more open and outgoing. I hope to continue to make more memories with VeryVera Cooking Camp.

 
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A Passion for Giving Back

Growing up, I attended a lot of summer camps. I did everything from volleyball camps to comic book camps and made friends and memories I’ll never forget. My time at VeryVera Cooking Camp, however, was really special. Cooking Camp was the only camp I went back to again and again; as I grew older and changed, camp was my summer constant. I learned how to set a table, tried quiche for the first time, learned how to properly measure ingredients, practiced being a proper host, and began an impressive collection of cookbooks to explore over and over. It was comforting coming back every summer to Miss Vera’s smiling, familiar face, and getting to come with my older sister every year made it even more special. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realize just how rare it is to find a place where everyone genuinely wants to get to know you and remembers you year-to-year. VeryVera is one of those places. You are never just a camper – you are a friend.

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Coming back to camp as a counselor was something I never expected to do, but when I was offered the opportunity there was no way I could turn it down. Getting to relive my time in the kitchen was priceless. I love getting to work with campers that are so passionate about cooking for so many different reasons. For some, they love the idea of preparing a meal for their family and sharing that special experience with those closest to them. Others are fascinated with the science of cooking and how simple changes can make a huge difference in the finished product. Then, there are the campers that just love the opportunity to make a mess and have fun! I am so thankful for all the different personalities and talents I get to witness as a counselor, and I love knowing I can play a part in encouraging them to do their best and follow their passion.

 
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I am currently a sophomore at the University of Georgia studying advertising and social work. My passions are wholeheartedly involve children, and getting to work with kids at VeryVera Cooking Camp over the summer is such a blessing. It reminds me why I am pursuing what I’m pursuing and shows me what it means to create an environment where kids are completely loved and encouraged to be themselves while teaching them what they will need to know to be successful.

 
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