PelotonPosts: Emily Chaleff and Camp Alsing
PelotonPosts is a monthly interview with a member of PelotonLabs, a co-working community in Portland’s West End. This month, Peloton’s founder Liz Trice caught up with Emily Chaleff, a non-profit consultant and co-founder of Camp Alsing, a new summer camp for kids with social communication disorders.
It’s so exciting that you’re starting a camp! How did that happen?
Emily: While flying to a conference I ended up sitting next to an acquaintance of mine. He owns another camp in Maine. He told me about his desire to start a new camp with his colleague, a pediatrician working with kids with social communication disorders. Knowing my history and passion for summer camp, along with my organizational and operations experience, they asked me if I wanted to co-found and be the on-site director.
As a kid, I spent twelve years as a camper, counselor and trip leader at Camp Thunderbird in Minnesota. Also, in a previous position as executive director of the Jewish Community Alliance in Maine, we ran a preschool and Center Day Camp.
Camp Alsing is for kids with “social communication disorders.” What does that mean?
Emily: Social communication disorders (SCD) includes the autism spectrum and problems with social interaction, social understanding and using language in proper context. Summer camps provide fantastic opportunities for fun, trying new skills, enjoying the outdoors and making friends. But not all kids easily fit in to that social environment.
Our camp will provide a typical camp experience. But also, we will have counselors trained to work with SCD, occupational therapists and speech pathologists.
Where and when is the camp? What does “Alsing” mean?
Emily: Alsing is the Micmac word for “to soar.” Camp will take place from July 9th through 23rd in Rome, Maine. We expect to have about fifty kids ages nine to fifteen.
What kind of consulting were you doing before?
Emily: I consult on development strategy, executive search and strategic planning for non-profits. I have worked with the Telling Room, Catharine Moore Day School, and Freeport Community Services. Before I moved to Maine I launched two non-profits in Chicago. Next Book brought authors into public libraries to highlight Jewish literature, and Avodah is a Jewish version of Americorps or the Jesuit Service Corp.
What has your experience at Peloton been like?
Emily: Originally I joined because my kids were at home. There was a day when I was at home on a conference call and my two-year-old walked in discussing his bathroom habits (laughs)… Most helpful is having a space outside of my home, where I can focus. As an independent consultant it’s nice to have a professional space to do interviews or meetings. I’ve met a bunch of other women that work with non-profits and it made me feel like being part of a community.
PelotonLabs is open to new members and has an open house every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website pelotonlabsportland.com.