LEC's new meeting spot to be dedicated Oct. 13

Linda and Lee Pearson
Linda and Lee Pearson opened the Florida Conference Life Enrichment Center in 1979 and managed it for 16 years.

FRUITLAND PARK – The Florida Conference Board of Camps and Retreat Ministries will honor the founding director of the Life Enrichment Center (LEC), Rev. Lee Pearson, by dedicating the retreat’s new meeting place to him and his late wife, Linda.

A dedication service is planned for Saturday, Oct. 13, at the center, 4991 Piccola Road. Fellowship will begin at 11 a.m., followed by lunch at noon and then the dedication.

The new $200,000 building has meeting space for 180 people. It is fully equipped with a digital projector and wireless Internet.

Rev. Jess Schload, the LEC’s current director, said the facility is really just one big room that offers the versatility required by big groups meeting at the center.

“This building was desperately needed,” he said.

Before the new addition, he said, there was sufficient lodging for large groups but no meeting space large enough  to use for some types of retreats and conferences.

The Camps and Retreat Ministries board approved construction about a year ago, and the facility opened June 1. 

It already has hosted retreats, worship services, summer camps and a wedding reception, according to Schload.

He projects that up to 15,000 people will use the facility yearly, mostly for retreats and conferences of religious organizations, typically United Methodists. This past summer brought camps for families and grandparents as well, he said.

The Pearsons were chosen for the dedication honor because of their 16 years of service, beginning with the LEC’s opening in 1979. 

Inside Pearson meeting space LEC
The new Pearson meeting facility can accommodate the needs of large groups seeking retreat at the Life Enrichment Center.

Pearson said he was pleased to see Linda included in the honor.

“I would never have been able to do what I did there without her,” he said. “She loved the place as much as I did.”

He said their partnership included her management of the LEC grounds.

“We were in our ministry together,” he said.

Pearson’s love for the camp remains strong.

“Most folks who come there are coming for a good experience, and I hope they can use it any way they can,” he said.

“When I was there, any kind of dancing except folk dancing was not allowed, but I’m hoping they’ll have some dancing at wedding receptions now.”

Mike Standifer, interim executive director of camps and retreats for the Florida Conference, said the building will expand the types of uses different groups can find at the center.

“A lot more people will be able to have a unique experience there,” he said.

Rev. David McEntire, current chairman of Camps and Retreat Ministries, was chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Florida Conference when the decision was made to add the LEC meeting facility. He said construction came together in less than a year because it was needed so badly.  

New Pearson meeting facility at LEC
The LEC's new meeting hall was built in less than a year because the conference was turning groups away due to lack of accommodations.

“We were turning people away, and it didn’t take long to approve the plan because it was a good one, the building could be funded out of user fees and we had good leadership,” he said.

“This will be a real boon to the Life Enrichment Center and help us with the bottom line and grow that (camping and retreat) ministry,” he added.

“And it is very appropriate to dedicate this building in honor of Lee Pearson, as he was the first leader at LEC and his imprint is all over the place.”

McEntire’s church, First UMC, Lakeland, is a major user of the camp. About 100 children enjoyed activities there this past summer, and the church booked family camps as well.

“It is a beautiful setting, and it’s hard not to relax there,” McEntire said.

Everyone is invited to the dedication service. Those planning to attend should call (352) 787-0313 or email Schload at jschload@flumc.org. For LEC information, visit the center website at www.lecretreats.org.


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