He’s been fondly nicknamed both “North Star” and “Saint John.”
John McRae has served as a superhero and saint to the Circle Program for over fifteen years. He has been a pro-active volunteer donating 1000 hours of his time annually to help build and maintain Circle Camp, our facility for disadvantaged girls located on Spectacle Pond in Groton, N.H. John is a champion of the Circle Program and its mission to provide socially and economically disadvantaged New Hampshire girls with new opportunities to develop the skills, courage and confidence they need to handle the challenges in their lives. Circle Camp has been the foundation for our program which uses a community-action framework for positive youth development. Our camp was made possible by extraordinary community efforts led by John McRae.
In our early days, the Circle Program borrowed space at other camps to offer low income girls the chance for a summer camp experience. As Circle grew and retained more girls, our volunteers realized that we needed a “home of our own” and the board (through the leadership of Mary Ann and John McRae) raised almost two million dollars to build Circle Camp.
John McRae’s input was critical to the successful development of Circle Camp. He led the committee that planned the construction efforts beginning in 2000, and later volunteered to be “Clerk of the Works” – by overseeing the ordering of materials, working with local contractors, and organizing volunteers for much of the actual construction. After the initial phase of building a road, hooking up utilities and building a dining hall complete with restaurant equipment, the second phase included building an office (dedicated as the McRae Office), an infirmary, and cook’s cabin.
Later, John served as the construction foreman supervising crews of volunteers who built seven camper cabins using Timberpeg kits. Phase Three saw the completion of the Arcadia Lodge, a 3,200 square foot centerpiece for all camp activities including a stage, auditorium, a library with fireplace, an arts and crafts room, a loft for the counselors and more bathroom facilities. John rallied together the community of local builders and developers who lent their construction expertise while providing discounted materials and talent. The lodge was built in record time (62 days) and was ready for campers when they arrived in July of 2008.
Since that time, John has continued to put the finishing touches on each building and to maintain the new facility. John has single-handedly built benches for the auditorium; shelving, cabinets and a work table for the art room, storage window benches and shelving for the library, and six bunk beds in all seven cabins.
John is now stepping back and transitioning into a more supervisory role and we are forever grateful to this incredible man for all he has done for the Circle Program and our girls. John McRae’s caring and craftsmanship has made our camp a beautiful, safe space that is a healthy environment where girls can learn how to be their best possible selves.