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Pennsylvanians Discuss Future of Their Camp

By Celeste Ryan Blyden

Two things became very clear to everyone who attended Sunday’s Special Constituency Session of the Pennsylvania Conference: members want to keep their camp and they’re going to have to raise the money to do so.

This reality, however, did not deter them. “Rise up, don’t be fearful; it’s not a time for fear, it’s time for work! Support your camp and support your school!” announced Mike Bernard, pastor at the Hillcrest church in Wellsboro, Pa., to much applause.

Bernard was among the 375 delegates who gathered at Blue Mountain Academy church in Hamburg, Pa., to discuss the future of the conference’s Laurel Lake Camp and Retreat Center. Located in Rossiter, Pa, near the midwestern part of the state, the 205-acre property isn’t bringing in enough revenue and operations are being heavily subsidized from the conference budget.

Prior to the session, delegates received a 180-page booklet detailing the camp’s financial picture, options for funding it in the future and a proposal by the executive committee to liquidate the asset and use the proceeds to expand youth ministry initiatives statewide.

After much deliberation and discussion, delegates instead voted to initiate a fundraising effort dubbed the “29er Fund.” It calls for 1,000 or more members to donate $29 a month indefinitely. Commitments need to be made by March 31, 2011, and funds raised would be split equally between Laurel Lake Camp and Blue Mountain Academy. The plan also calls for each church in the conference to sponsor two non-Adventist youth to attend summer camp each year. They also voted to hire a marketing/business manager and ask the camp advisory board to seek additional funds from donors, camp alumni and staff.

After the meeting, conference leaders were upbeat. “I was heartened to see that, even in this economy, there was enthusiasm to raise an unprecedented amount of money to keep our camp open,” said conference treasurer Ron Christman.

President Ray Hartwell, who presided over the meeting, especially appreciated the spirit of unity that was evident in the outcome. “There’s a great spirit of trying to foster togetherness as we work on this going forward,” he noted. “My hope is that the passion for preserving the Laurel Lake Camp property will carry through into reaching non-churched young people, and that our facility will truly become a mission outpost to reach more people with Jesus’ last-day message.”