In 2022, we placed Esther DeVito as Regional Director of Development at Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC). We caught up with her as she wraps up her first year at AMC. She reflected on her passion for the mission of AMC and spoke on what she hopes to accomplish in the future.
What initially attracted you to the Regional Director of Development at the Appalachian Mountain Club?
I have been working in nonprofit development for twenty years, mostly with environmental NGOs; having a career that allows me to share my love of protecting and enjoying the outdoors is very important to me. So, when the Regional Director of Development, Greater New York position at Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) came my way I was immediately drawn in–not just by the mission, but also by the very tangible feel of the organization. One of the most rewarding experiences of fundraising is being able to show donors the impact of their support. It’s one thing to read a report or see a photo, but being able to take a donor to see the community or region their gift is supporting has a different impact. It’s firsthand and affects all the senses. I had this opportunity while at the Rainforest Alliance and I missed that aspect of fundraising. I knew AMC would provide that opportunity to me once again. Couple that with the three pillared approach of the AMC–protection, enjoyment and understanding of the outdoors – especially in NY, this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass on.
What do you enjoy most about the AMC now?
The passion of my coworkers. It is contagious and admirable. The people I work with are so committed to the organization and fulfilling its mission. I am constantly in awe of the excitement and eagerness to try something new. As we grow our footprint in the NY region, there are so many opportunities and ideas to pursue.
How has your role changed since you began?
While I knew my primary focus would be on raising $12M for our new overnight facility in Harriman State Park, the Baker Outdoor Center, there are additional, exciting conservation and educational efforts underway in the New York region. Exploring the ways we currently bring all these efforts together and ways to grow them has been something I have truly enjoyed. For me, cross-departmental collaboration is a vital piece to being a successful organization and, as previously mentioned, the passion my coworkers bring has been so energizing as we look to expand our initiatives across the NY region. In addition, there is also so much potential to grow AMC’s member, volunteer and donor community in the NY region. I have met with so many dedicated supporters of the organization and their support of me and AMC’s work in NY make my job rewarding.
What have been your and the AMC greatest achievements over the past year?
Spreading the word of Appalachian Mountain Club’s longstanding work in the New York region. Many people associate AMC with our work in Maine and New Hampshire. They know us for the huts, or perhaps our conservation work in Maine. Many people also don’t know that AMC has been in NY for over 100 years. AMC has 11 chapters with hundreds of volunteers from Maine to the Potomac region that support AMC in getting people outside, protecting outdoor spaces, and creating opportunities for skills and leadership training. The New York-North Jersey chapter was the first chapter of AMC, founded in 1912. Today, AMC manages three locations in Harriman State Park in NY – a full service overnight camp (Corman Harriman Outdoor Center) and two visitor centers. The Baker Outdoor Center will be our second camp in Harriman and will be the biggest camp across the entire organization. We also have an overnight camp (Mohican Outdoor Center) in NJ. In addition, AMC works closely with NY area educators to help introduce young people to the outdoors.
Spreading the word of this impressive work and showcasing why AMC is expanding our footprint in the NY region has been a lot of fun this past year, and I look forward to what’s to come.
What do you hope to achieve at the AMC in the future? What is on the horizon?
In 2027, AMC will open our second overnight camp in Harriman State Park, the Baker Outdoor Center. This will be the organization’s biggest camp: 30 family-sized cabins with front porches and lakeside views, six larger group cabins, two waterfront areas including a swimming area, access to 200+ miles of hiking trails, outdoor equipment to borrow, and a recreation hall for meetings, weddings and AMC programming. This spring we will have a ground-breaking event to celebrate this new adventure. I look forward to working with my amazing AMC colleagues as we continue to design and develop the Baker property, secure the funding needed, and ultimately provide a close-to-home destination for the NYC community to get outside and enjoy the nature around them.