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.
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!