The Rev. Bill Barnes has something important in common with Barnett Lodge, the central building at the Life Enrichment Center and Warren W. Willis Camp. The date on the dedication plaque – April 16, 1951 – is the day he was born.
Although he was not among the tens of thousands of children and youth and adults who have come through the doors of the lodge in those 60 years, from the time he became an ordained elder Barnes has been involved in the camp as a worship leader.
“It’s a tremendous gift to be with kids when they’re making important decisions about a lot of things. You get to help shape decisions they’re making about their lives,” said Barnes, senior pastor of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Orlando.
|The Rev. Bill Barnes
Barnes is the co-chairman of the Bishop’s Capital Campaign Commission, which is nearing the final phase of a fundraising effort that he and Conference leaders hope will result in the expansion and renovation of Barnett Lodge. In addition, the campaign aims to create a scholarship fund for campers at all the Conference’s camps.
The Conference has architectural plans that would renovate the lodge’s existing 2,373 square feet and add more than 7,000 square feet. Its two dining areas would be expanded; the kitchen expanded and modernized; and meeting rooms added that could double as small dining rooms.
In addition, an administration building would be added, allowing the staff to move from cramped quarters in a small cottage. A new terrace overlooking Lake Griffin would be built, preserving the Lodge’s beloved “rocking porch.”
About 3,600 campers attend the Warren W. Willis Camp each summer, and an equal or greater number of adults come to the LEC and the camp each year for conferences and retreats. The Rev. Alex Shanks, chairman of the board of the Conference’s Camps and Retreats Ministries, said Barnett Lodge is “the hub” of the site and that the expansion is needed.
“It expands the amount of space to more effectively welcome and minister to those at camp. It’s where they eat, worship and relax. It’s a 60-year-old building that has provided great service, but it is in need of critical renovations,” he said.
The cost of the project is estimated at $4 million, and thanks to a lot of work already done in a quiet phase of the Capital Campaign, with major assistance from the Florida United Methodist Foundation, about half that amount has been raised. At the Annual Conference meeting in Tampa, June 1-4, the commission will announce the public phase of the campaign, with a goal of raising the remaining $2 million by the 2012 Annual Conference.
Publicity materials for the campaign, prepared by the Foundation, will be distributed at Annual Conference and bear the title “Together For Kids and Camps.”
The joint effort between the Foundation and the Conference marks a new partnership that leaders in both organizations say will continue beyond the end of the current Capital Campaign (see accompanying article).
|Bishop Timothy Whitaker
Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker said he believes the $2 million goal will be easily achieved.
“The summer camping ministry is really one of the most extraordinary things we do together. Thousands of young people participate in camps every year, and for many it’s a life-changing experience,” he said. “To be able to bring our facilities up to date and make them attractive to young people is a great investment we can make in the future.”
The Barnett Lodge project is just one of several major capital needs identified by the commission when it was first formed several years ago. It had been 25 years since the Conference had undertaken a capital campaign, and Barnes was convinced a different approach needed to be used.
In the previous campaign, churches were given a goal, which while voluntary came to be regarded as similar to an apportionment – something to be met. This time, the campaign is being conducted as any nonprofit group would do. In the quiet phase, major donors were identified and solicited. In the public phase, the appeal will be carried out through the churches but directed at individuals. Churches will not be given a goal to meet.
Barnes said his job has been to build trust among the clergy that the Capital Campaign will not be a financial drain on local church coffers. He and Tom Wilkinson, vice president for development with the Foundation, have visited district meetings to make the case for promoting the campaign.
“The Foundation has said that if the local church wants, it could combine this appeal with one for the local church, so it would be added to and not taken away from the local church fund,” Barnes said.
Whitaker initiated the Capital Campaign about 10 years ago. Originally, the campaign had a $30 million goal, of which $14 million would address major capital needs with the rest going to various endowments. Wilkinson, the Foundation vice president, said eventually it was realized that the goal was too big, and the endowment portion of the campaign should be dropped.
During the quiet phase of the campaign, about $8.5 million in pledges and gifts have been received, of which $6.5 million will be dedicated to capital needs. An anonymous pledge of $2 million, to be paid over 10 years, was given specifically for the Barnett Lodge project. About $600,000 of that pledge has already been received.
The public appeal was scheduled to begin about two years ago, but the commission postponed it because of the economic recession. Although parts of Florida are still suffering from its effects, Whitaker said the decision was made not to delay any longer.
|Summer camp team members enjoy free time on the dock at Lake Griffin at the Warren W. Willis youth camp in 2008.
“I know it’s still a difficult time, but my conviction is that we should give every United Methodist in Florida an opportunity to give to the vital ministry of camps,” he said. “Fundraising can be viewed as a chore, but I don’t think this campaign will be. The people of this Conference love our camps ministry.”
During the public phase, any gifts received above $2 million will be directed toward other capital needs in the Conference’s Camps and Retreats program. And 10 percent of any gifts given during this phase will be set aside for scholarships, to be given to campers with financial needs at any of the Conference’s camps.
“We want to make sure as many children come to camp as possible,” Shanks said.
One of the additional benefits of expanding Barnett Lodge, Shanks said, will be to help encourage future United Methodist leaders among the high school and college volunteers and counselors.
“I served many summers at Warren W. Willis Camp. I know the power of that site. It’s an exciting place for kids to come,” he said. “When you think about the number of people who come through that space, over the next 60 years this will give us more room to do our ministry.”