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Butter rolls and bonfires

Butter rolls and bonfires

Centenary Camp celebrates 50th anniversary

QUINCY - Ah, memories of summer camp. The swimming, the singing, the camaraderie, the food and the lessons learned about how God is present in our lives.

For 50 years, Centenary Camp near Quincy has given young people those memories and lessons. On Feb. 26, about 200 people came to celebrate Centenary Camp’s golden anniversary. It was a festive event in the style of an old-fashioned camp meeting, with the singing of camp songs, a luncheon that featured “Methodist goulash” – a kind of hamburger stew that’s a Centenary specialty – and a message from a former camper who grew up to be a District Superintendent.

East Central District Superintendent Wayne Wiatt, seated on the front row, waits to speak at a service celebrating the 50th anniversary of Centenary Camp near Quincy on Feb. 26. Photo credit: Donna Bruns
“I was in the third grade and attended First United Methodist Church in Madison. I remember the butter rolls. I remember I learned how to make a four-corner bed that you could bounce a quarter off of. I remember the bonfire at night. I have fond memories of that,” said the Rev. Wayne Wiatt, Superintendent of the East Central District. “It was a nurturing environment. I got a sense of community. It was a good formative experience.”

For most of its 50 years, the camp was owned and run by Centenary United Methodist Church in Quincy, a small town in the Panhandle about 25 miles west of Tallahassee. It was largely the project of Grace Brinks, who directed the Christian education program at Centenary and whose nephew, David McEntire, is now senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Lakeland.

In addition to the usual summer camps, Centenary Camp was used by Walk to Emmaus and the local Rotary Club, which held a camp for mentally challenged kids. But the buildings had gotten run down until the arrival of Dave and Donna Bruns, who became co-directors of the camp about five years ago.
The Brunses get credit for turning the camp around and expanding its outreach, said the Rev. David L. Berkey, Executive Director of Camps and Retreats for the Florida Conference.

“They reached out to the community and did a tremendous amount of fundraising. They’ve done a great job of upgrading the facilities,” he said.

Donna Bruns said most of the visitors at the recent anniversary celebration had connections to the camp stretching over the years, and they talked about the buildings.

“They were amazed the camp is still going strong. They were pleased to see how nice it looked,” she said.

Although Centenary doesn’t currently have traditional summer camps for kids, it has found other ways to serve its neighbors. It is used as a retreat center by various groups and still hosts the Rotary Club camp.

The Panhandle is home to many migrant farmworkers, and the Forest Hills United Methodist Church in Quincy, which hosts the Forest Hills Hispanic United Methodist Church, organized a summer day camp at Centenary for children of the farmworkers. Last year, 100 children attended two one-week camps at which they received free swimsuits and swimming lessons. This summer, a third week will be added.

The camp also houses volunteers that come to participate in the Love at Work program of Killearn United Methodist Church in Tallahassee, which sends the volunteers out to repair homes in the area around the small town of Gretna.

In October 2009, Centenary United Methodist Church turned over the camp to the Conference, which now administers it along with the Warren Willis Camp in Leesburg and the Riverside Retreat in LaBelle. But David Berkey says the churches of the North West District continue to feel as if it is their own.

“The small churches really bought into it, and it’s a source of pride for them. They have a sense of ownership and involvement in it,” he said.

News media contact: Gretchen Hastings, 800-282-8011,, Lakeland
*Hastings is executive editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.