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Church donates $250,000 to conference for land near camp (Feb. 3, 2004)

Church donates $250,000 to conference for land near camp (Feb. 3, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Church donates $250,000 to conference for land near camp

Feb. 3, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0017}

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

LAKELAND - The Rev. Riley Short has always had a place in his heart for the Florida Conference's Warren W. Willis Camp in Leesburg.

Short was among the first campers when the facility opened in 1949, and his father preached at the camp dedication ceremony.

"I know the value of church camp and the spiritual life it helps develop in young people," said Short, who has served as chairman of the Florida Conference Camp Facilities Committee. "It is holy ground."

Short, who was pastor at First United Methodist Church here for 12 years before he retired last June, said it was a logical step for the church to raise $250,000 through its capital funds campaign to help the conference pay the mortgage on 19.1 acres of land adjacent to the Warren W. Willis Camp in Leesburg purchased in 2002. Short and other First Church leaders presented the money to Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker Jan. 23 at the church.

"We were well aware Camps needed to buy this property," Riley said. "It was gratifying to try and pay back for all the experiences our youth had had at the camp. It was easy money to raise."
The purchase allows the Camps ministry to explore the possibility of adding new facilities-cabins, a chapel, recreational facilities-or providing new ministries, such as a child-development and -care facility or retirement center for clergy or laity.
The conference has a $440,000 mortgage to pay for the land. It will be repaid through conference connectional giving , according to Dr. Randy Casey-Rutland, conference's treasurer.
He said the pledge First Church, Lakeland, made was announced on the floor of the 2002 Florida Annual Conference Event after a question about how the conference planned to pay for the purchase was asked. The commitment to contribute $250,000 had been made by Riley and the church prior to the conference event.

John Langford, lay leader at the church, said it was a blessing for the church to raise the money. He said the donation will benefit not only the youth at the church, but youth and adults from throughout the conference in the future.

The Rev. Robert Gibbs, who was appointed to the church in June 2003, agreed with Langford.

"The church made a commitment to conference youth for years to come," he said. "This is something for others, for the larger church."

John Peterson, current chairman of the Camp Facilities Committee, said the money is greatly appreciated.

"This is a great opportunity for the camps," he said. "This will help us to be able to provide other services for either additional cabin space or recreational facilities. It's dream space for us."

Last year 3,806 children from 296 conference churches attended camp during the summer.

For more information about the summer camp ministry visit


This article relates to Summer Camp Ministry.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.