Greetings Brothers & Sisters in Christ,
Just about a year and a half ago, I shared with you the news that the Ohio Conference Board of Directors was struggling with the future of our two camps. I thought it would be useful to share some good news about what has transpired since then.
In my April 2015 letter, I reported that the Board had agreed to take the following approach: 1) renew our commitment to outdoor ministries in a sustainable way, 2) put both camps on the market with the intent of selling one, and 3) consider a capital campaign for the camps. I asked for your prayers and feedback and received plenty of both!
Subsequently, the Board appointed Bob Kutschbach, John Kropf, Sam Buehrer and Conference Minister Phil Hart to serve as a “Camp Real Estate” discernment team. They took a deep look at the property and the market and considered our options moving forward. They had the properties assessed and worked with other real estate specialists to virtually subdivide the land that wasn’t critical to the operations of each camp into logical parcels that could be sold off to different types of buyers. The thinking was that there might be more buyers for smaller parcels than for the entire camp.
In the meantime several other things have occurred.
United Camps Conferences and Retreats (UCCR), our new facilities management partner, has been very successful managing the Pilgrim Hills camp. Last year they ran Pilgrim Hills so efficiently and booked enough non-OCUCC activity to turn a bit of a profit, which was then reinvested by the Conference into camp infrastructure.
We were able to re-open Templed Hills twice — removing it from the sabbatical the board imposed on it in 2014 — to a special week-long running camp in 2015 and 2016, making a very good profit for a very minimal effort.
The success of the running camp triggered a big idea. The team came to the realization that perhaps there might be room for two camps as long as they don’t compete directly with each other and each is positioned for a particular purpose:
• Pilgrim Hills would continue to offer our traditional full-service Ohio Conference summer camping programs and deliver outstanding camping opportunities throughout the year to organizations that fit its footprint in housing a lot of young people together.
• Templed Hills would become the home of self-sufficient “pop-up” camps in which a group could arrive with their campers, leaders, cooks and food, requiring minimal involvement by UCCR and the Conference. We would provide the space, and the group would provide pretty much everything else, unless they wanted to contract with UCCR for additional resources. Templed Hills might also be offered to Ohio Conference churches, events and some summer camping that required a footprint better for housing adults.
The Board of Directors at its August meeting agreed to explore this concept with UCCR and see if it is indeed viable. We think it has a chance of success – the running camp has already offered to sign a multi-year contract with us.
We will continue to keep the other options on the table but are very hopeful we might be able to do something new and exciting with our resources. Your input and prayers are requested once again. Comments sent to Moderator Rev. Mindy Quellhorst at firstname.lastname@example.org or to the Conference Minister at email@example.com will be shared with the rest of the Board.
My thanks to the Camp Real Estate discernment team for all of their hard work and effort to bring us this far in the process. I would also like to thank Mike Carr and the other leadership of UCCR for making Pilgrim Hills a success story so quickly.
Yours in Christ,
Tim L. Smith
Past Ohio Conference Moderator