Staff Feature: Jenny “Whistle Toe” Sowers
Jenny “Whistle Toe” Sowers graduated from the University of Oklahoma (OU) in 2008 with a degree in language arts education. She served as a summer staffer at the Ranch, and then transitioned into working in registration, and finally came to the Woods in 2012 as the Women’s Director. Whistle Toe guides the girls staff at the Woods and enjoys commentating the game Turkish Delight every Friday night during the summer.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Once upon a time, I thought I would be a teacher. That quickly changed when I did student teaching, and I absolutely hated it. I remember when I was on summer staff at the Ranch, I thought, “I would never want to be on full-time staff at camp. It just seems like too much.” We know how those famous last words go. Now, I see that working full time at camp is one of those examples of Ephesians 3:20. The Lord’s best is way better than anything we can imagine or guess for ourselves.
How did you get to Pine Cove?
I had never heard of Pine Cove before college. They came and recruited at OU and showed a highlight video. I saw it and thought, “Hmmmm. That seems fun!” I interviewed and through the interview process, I was so taken back by how I felt like [the people interviewing me] really cared about me. I just thought, “I want to be a part of what they’re doing.” I didn’t know anyone here. I didn’t even know where Tyler, Texas was much less anything about the camp. Here I am, though!
What is your job description and what sort of things do you do?
That’s a great question. I wear a lot of hats. During the summer, my top priority is leading our girls staff. I shepherd them, lead them, guide them, and walk through life with them. I make sure girls staff is doing what they’re supposed to do. Beyond that, I just get to be with the people. During the non-summer months, the Woods has eight conferences which Rocktober (Woods Men’s Director) and I plan and lead.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Besides how fun camp is in general… When staff get here on their first day, I love knowing that this is the last time they’re going to be this version of themselves because camp just makes everyone grow so much. You learn and develop and change and mature while you’re here. So just seeing how we all come in as one version of ourselves and leave totally different. It legitimately makes me tear up.
What are some of your favorites?
Anything? Okay, so, some of my favorites… waterslides, skiing, Sooner football, sports, adventures, traveling, and nachos.
How did you get your camp name?
Well, I love Christmas more than anything ever, so it sounds like mistletoe, and I used to whistle a lot, but the only song I know is “Jingle Bells,” so it was stuck in my head for several years. Then, I trip a lot, or stub my toe a lot. People call me Whistle Toe or Jenny. Eye roll.
Do you wish people called you by your camp name?
Yes! Of course! We’re at camp.
Has that always been a thing?
At the Woods it’s always been a thing. People just can’t seem to make the switch from Jenny to Whistle Toe.
If you were stranded on an island and had to pick three Pine Cove staff members to organize your rescue, who would it be and why?
Well, Broflex because he would make the whole rescue situation really fun and keep me laughing when I’ve been in a dramatic situation. I would also choose Patilla Piñata because she would come up with a plan and she would execute it. Then I’d probably choose Bama Jama because we were partners in crime for so long. He’s now the director of the Outback.
What’s your most embarrassing camp moment?
Far and away, my most embarrassing moment was my first week working at the Woods. Craig “Dutch” asked me to do an Anniversary Rap, to which I said, “What’s an Anniversary Rap?” because I’d never been at family camp. So I went up on stage, and called up the mom and dad. But, to my great shock, the mom was in the back of the dining hall breastfeeding. She was obviously unable to come up to the stage and her husband wasn’t going to come up without her, so it was just that moment of horror when everyone in the crowd is laughing about something and you’re not sure why, but you’re the one on stage. So, eventually I figured out she was breastfeeding and we did the whole Anniversary Rap, made up answers and everything, with no one on stage. So that was the most embarrassing moment.
What is your favorite place at Pine Cove?
One of my favorite spots was the back porch of the old Caribou. There were a lot of life decisions that I made on the back porch swing and just major conversations that took place. So that definitely holds a special place in my heart. Really, anywhere at the Woods will forever have my heart. So much life has happened at the Woods. So just, the whole Woods is my favorite place.
How have you changed since coming to the Woods?
Ooooh, my gosh. Where to even begin. Truly. Okay, well, I have been developed and grown more than I ever could have imagined or guessed, or hoped for. I will say the way I see it, the most is in leading people. I have done things I never would have guessed that I could have or would have done. I think just learning to be confident and authoritative and just knowing that I have what it takes to be in charge, because for this Otter-Retriever, it’s just not natural. And also learning to be really good at details. Learning to plan and pull off events. I feel so prepared and so confident for whatever life holds because I’ve been trained and developed so well here.
What’s your favorite part of camp?
Oh, gosh. Well, besides Powder Puff, commentating Turkish, and Parent Pool Party, I love that life change happens at camp. We create an environment that allows that because we remove distractions and everything is gospel-centered and run with excellence, so it creates an environment for life change for staff and campers.
Favorite life transformation story?
This has happened several times where we’ve had to have really hard conversations with staffers and sometimes years later they’ll message me and say, “Thanks for loving me when I was unlovable.” It reminds me that what we’re doing is serving the Lord. Even at this past mother/daughter conference, I was reading evaluations after it ended. This little girl filled out an eval, which normally only parents do, but she wrote in her eval, “accepted Christ as my Savior.” Her eternal destination is changed forever. That was awesome.
What has God been teaching you lately?
Lately, He’s been teaching me that whatever happens, that’s still His best. It may not be what we choose or what we want, or what we like, but it’s what’s best for us. His heart for His people never changes. His heart is always that people will know Him more. Even in hard stuff, that’s still His heart. He wants to use us for His purpose.
Favorite Bible verse?
This is one of my favorites and just a life verse: Psalm 100:5. No matter what happens here, we are always loved, and He is always good.
“For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.”
Whistle Toe has impacted lives at the Woods through her bright smile and caring spirit. Come to the Woods to visit her, and ask her more questions about life at the Woods. If you liked learning more about Whistle Toe, there are more staff features to come!