She has seen it all.
Jo Lynn Smith leans against a large tree recently snapped by hurricane winds. She smiles and surveys the camp site as a few of her girls, wearing sneakers and cargo shorts, giggle and chat about their morning.
As leaves fall around her, Jo Lynn, director of Eckerd Connects’ Camp E-Nini-Hassee, reflects on the all she has witnessed during her 32 years at the outdoor therapeutic school for girls. The camp was established in 1969 by Jack and Ruth Eckerd to provide a pure and peaceful environment where girls could receive the education, nurturing, and attention they need devoid of distraction.
Jo Lynn began working at the camp in 1985 and has seen “thousands of girls” who have had their lives transformed by their experiences on the 840-acre site.
“This experience really humbles you,” said Jo Lynn. “This is mind, body and spirit. Nothing is off limits—it’s the whole girl. And you strip off a couple layers, and you find it’s the same girl.”
Like many Eckerd Connect’ employees, Jo Lynn has served for so long because she believes in the mission and is proud to be a part of the founders’ legacy.
“There are so many programs at Eckerd Connects, but you will feel Mr. and Mrs. Eckerd here,” added Jo Lynn. “In the truest sense, you will feel who they were. This is not a job—it’s a calling. What can we do in the time that we have them to build their core so that they can withstand the world? I’m hoping to change a generation.”