Conference capital campaign receives $4 million in gifts

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Conference capital campaign receives $4 million in gifts

Oct. 6, 2008 News media contact: Tita Parham*
800-282-8011 Orlando {0923}

An e-Review Feature
By Suzanne McGovern**

LAKELAND — Construction of a new residential cottage for children at the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home in Enterprise and renovation of the 60-year-old Barnett Lodge at the Warren W. Willis United Methodist Camp in Fruitland Park are one step closer to becoming a reality thanks to two gifts of $2 million to the Florida Conference capital and endowment campaign.

Trish and Daniel Bell’s $2 million gift to the Florida Conference capital and endowment campaign will support the ministries of the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home and provide scholarships through the Florida Conference Ministerial Scholarship Fund. Photo courtesy of The Florida United Methodist Foundation. Photo #08-1021. For longer description see photo gallery.

Trish and Daniel Bell, who live in Coral Gables and are members of Kendall United Methodist Church in Miami, and an anonymous donor have pledged major gifts to the Florida Conference Together! campaign, which is working to raise $30 million for the shared ministries of The United Methodist Church in Florida.

Campaign gifts and pledges to date total approximately $8 million.

Renovations for the future

The anonymous gift will fund a 2,373-square-foot renovation and 7,131-square-foot expansion of Barnett Lodge at the Warren Willis camp.

The gift is made in memory of The Rev. Dr. Ira Barnett, a former Methodist pastor who served for 21 years as executive secretary of education for the Florida Conference, and members of the Barnett family, including Ira’s wife, Beulah, brothers Fred and Henry, and Henry’s wife, Bess, all of whom donated funds to build the camp. 

In his role as executive director of education, Barnett oversaw churches in Florida and Cuba at a time when the bishop of the conference was headquartered in Atlanta. He is credited for helping establish the church’s youth camping program.

“ … I would rather have my name associated with this camp than with any other institution in this state of which I have knowledge,” Barnett said at the camp’s dedication, according to archival records.

Planned renovations to Barnett Lodge at the Warren W. Willis United Methodist Camp in Fruitland Park. Courtesy of The Florida United Methodist Foundation. Photo #08-1022.
Built in 1948 and now celebrating its 60th anniversary, Barnett Lodge is a center for dining, fellowship and recreational activities at the camp. The renovation will add a new welcome center, administrative offices, a new front porch, new commons areas, a snack area and two small dining rooms, renovated kitchen, fellowship hall, and meeting and dining rooms.

The Warren Willis camp serves approximately 3,700 summer campers from late May to mid-August and is open year-round for a variety of camping and retreat programs that attract as many as 7,750 participants from across the Florida Conference.

“This gift allows us to really expand the scope of our programming and provide for the year-round comfort and convenience of our guests,” said Mike Standifer, the camp’s director. “Barnett Lodge acts as the living, dining and family room of the Warren W. Willis Camp. It is one of three buildings on campus that is capable of hosting gatherings of 50 or more people.”

The facility was air-conditioned and most recently renovated in 1994, Standifer said.

A boost for children, students

The Bells’ gift will fund one of two new residential cottages and support related ministries at the Children’s Home, as well as provide $250,000 in additional ministerial scholarship funds to help seminary graduates alleviate their educational debt.

Dan Bell is founder and former chief executive officer of Kos Pharmaceuticals and a member of the Bishop’s Capital Campaign Commission, which oversees the Together! campaign. Trish Bell has been an active community leader and volunteer in the Miami area for nearly 30 years.

The couple, who have long been strong supporters of The United Methodist Church and are significant donors to Miami-area charities, became interested in the United Methodist Children’s Home after touring the facilities this summer. Their gift will build a residential cottage and establish a career development program for residents.
“Through their generous act of abundance we will be able to transform our campus and welcome more children in need of care and God’s love,” said Mike Galloway, president and chief executive officer of the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home. “We are grateful for their investment and look forward to experiencing the benefits for generations to come.”

Founded in 1908, the Children’s Home is celebrating its centennial year. Its residential care program serves children ages 5 to 18 who are unable to live with their parents or other family members because of abuse, neglect, abandonment or family trauma. It provides a family-style home, along with education, counseling, recreation and ministry opportunities. The Children’s Home also provides foster care and adoption services, an emergency shelter, an independent living program, and child care to the public.

The majority of the home’s funding is provided through Fifth Sunday and Christmas offerings collected at Florida Conference churches, individual donors, bequests, and planned gifts.

A portion of the Bells’ gift will also go toward the conference Ministerial Scholarship Fund in the form of five $20,000 and 10 $15,000 debt-relief grants to recent seminary graduates who are serving the conference in good standing and have substantial educational debt. Increasing the endowment that supports the scholarship fund is a major funding objective of the campaign. The current principal of the fund is approximately $300,000.

In accepting the two gifts, Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker said they “demonstrate the vision and leadership that inspires all of us to give back to the ministries and institutions that have helped shape our lives.”

“The gift to the Barnett Lodge memorializes the dream of a dedicated Christian family, whose vision of supporting Christian-oriented camping and recreational opportunities for our youth, adults and families has served generations of United Methodists,” he said.  “Thanks to this gift, we can be sure that their legacy and our proud camping tradition continue to serve the diverse needs of our churches and campers.”

Whitaker said the Bells’ gift “honors our commitment to caring for children and families and also helps ensure that we can continue to attract fine young men and women to full-time careers in Christian ministry. Nothing could be more important to the continued growth and development of the church in Florida.”

Campaign well underway

An existing $700,000 gift from the estate of Alice W. Lockmiller of Ft. Myers is funding construction, already begun, of a new program and worship center at the Florida Conference Riverside Retreat in LaBelle, which offers camping and retreat services to United Methodists throughout the South Florida area.

A new program and worship center is currently under construction at Riverside Retreat, thanks to a gift of $700,000 from the estate of Alice W. Lockmiller to the conference capital and endowment campaign. Photo courtesy of The Florida United Methodist Foundation. Photo #08-1023. For longer description see photo gallery.
Whitaker said the Together! campaign offers a variety of giving opportunities in support of ministries enjoyed by members of the more than 700 churches that comprise the Florida Conference. 

“We hope these gifts will inspire every church member to find a ministry or area of service that will touch his or her heart,” he said. “Both of these donors have set a wonderful example of how to put faith into works.”

Whitaker said the campaign objectives focus on enhancing ministries to children, youth and families, such as the camps and retreat centers, Florida United Methodist Children’s Home and Wesley Group Home for the developmentally disabled. They also support higher education and campus ministries throughout the state, new ministry initiatives, student scholarships, new church development and congregational transformation.

“These are programs that impact all of our churches,” he said. “Being together and working side-by-side in a common ministry is integral to our understanding of what it means to be (the) church.”

The Together! campaign is currently in its leadership and major gifts phase. Interested individuals may obtain a leadership prospectus or make a pledge by contacting The Florida United Methodist Foundation at 866-363-9673 or


*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**McGovern is associate vice president of planned giving/communications for the Florida United Methodist Foundation.

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