“The year of COVID” that was 2020 continues for all of us. Yet, Camps Chestnut Ridge, Don Lee, and Rockfish are ready for another summer of transformational programming while adhering to the numerous guidelines and protocols from the CDC, the American Camp Association (ACA), and our local health departments. There are 400 United Methodist camps across the United States. Of those camps, 12 decided to hold residential camp last summer, two of whom were ours in the NC Annual Conference.
The camps of the NC UM Camp & Retreat Ministries successfully delivered camp in the summer of 2020 with no known cases of COVID. We operated at 50% or less capacity at each of our sites. We were blessed in so many ways, but most significant of the blessings were the staff who committed to this challenging summer. They were confident in their faith. They understood the tasks at hand. They demonstrated flexibility and leadership like no other time. They were creative and cooperative and engaged in professional communication beyond their young college-age years.
Beyond having a healthy summer, we also had a meaningful one. One of our staff members shared, “We were able to facilitate connections in a time when the world was so disconnected.” A camper told us, “I feel like people are feeling really alone now, and camp has allowed me to be with friends.” In addition, another camper opened his heart saying, “Being by myself so much during the pandemic caused me to really get in my head. Being at camp has given me clarity.” The pandemic made the summer camp experience more important than ever before.
In our “shoulder months” of the fall, winter and spring, we turned our focus to our local communities and provided missional support in a number of ways including remote learning for students, small group family gatherings, and community food ministries. We hosted COVID-adaptive Conference youth events. When schools opened up, we provided after-school programming. Our horseback riding lessons and family trail rides have been amazingly popular with its built-in 6-feet apart adventures. And, our preschool re-opened with its outdoor education concept to the local little ones.
Financially, this ministry was reeling from significantly reduced revenues due to state-mandated closures, strict guidelines and significant refund requests from our own program cancellations.
Administratively, we worked diligently behind the scenes to secure PPP funding, an EIDL loan, CARES Act funds and Employee Retention Credits to lessen the financial impact. At such a time as this, our donors also demonstrated generosity in the midst of the challenges brought on by COVID-19. I would also add that the NC Conference of The United Methodist Church shared its support in a variety of ways, and we are deeply grateful for this ongoing connection and faith-filled relationship.
Now, more than ever, children, youth, and adults need camp for respite, community, fellowship, and space to see Jesus more clearly. So many people assisted this camp and retreat ministry in its recovery efforts such that we can now better focus on our very foundation of providing places apart for reconnecting in all the ways that were revoked by this pandemic.