Riverside Retreat Director Martha Pierce is already enjoying the benefits of the Together! For Kids and Camps campaign and looks forward to added impact. “We received the first major campaign gift from Mrs. Alice Lockmiller,” said Pierce. “That gift enabled us to build the Lockmiller Program Center truly transforming our ministry. It has taken us into the small conference center realm and also makes our summer programming ever more successful.
“Its auditorium seats from 150 – 200 and with the five new classrooms, we can have large group gatherings and then break out sessions. This has enabled us to host community organizations such as Leadership Hendry County, the Hendry County Economic Development Council and others. Also, each Easter, two Episcopalian churches meet here for their morning worship.
“Although the campaign is now focused primarily on renovations at Warren W. Willis Camp in central Florida, it’s important not to forget how the campaign will benefit the full Camps and Retreats Ministry,” she added.
“New gifts to the campaign will be tithed with 10 per cent of each going to an endowed camping scholarship fund to ensure that the camping program is available to every Florida United Methodist, regardless of ability to pay,” she said. “That is of particular importance to us since we outreach to low income camper prospects and those scholarships are vital,” Pierce added. “Some of those campers will never have a chance to experience nature as it is celebrated here at Riverside without those scholarship funds.”
Set to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2013, the 150-acre retreat is located alongside the high banks of the beautiful Caloosahatchee River at LaBelle in southwest Florida. Up until six years ago, the retreat was called South Florida United Methodist Camp.
An ideal setting for groups of all sizes, the natural beauty of the area is within an easy drive from most locations on the east and west coasts of south Florida. Guests have the option of modern lodges, each housing 48 with kitchen facilities, a dorm able to accommodate 28, an adult lodge for five and five rustic cabins with heat and air conditioning for housing 44. Camping is also available with hookups for 30-units, various sites for tents and restrooms/showers within an easy walk.
“We find the retreat busier during non-summer times as our size permits multiple groups to gather without interfering with one another’s activities,” said Pierce. “Summers are devoted to camping groups.”
Conference areas include the Program Worship Center with an auditorium and five classrooms, a screened chapel, a large screened pavilion with a restaurant-style kitchen and small screed pavilion. Conference rooms and kitchens also are available in all lodges, the dorm and pavilions.
Available activities include a swimming pool, volleyball and basketball, kayaking, low ropes course, nature trails hayrides, night hikes and campfires.
Even beyond the Together! Campaign, the 49-year-old camp located 15 miles east of Ft. Myers, is slated for growth according to a long-range master plan approved by the Board of Camps and Retreat Ministries. Future expansion calls for the construction of two new lodges, capable of housing 24 campers, and designed to appeal to adults, either couples or families.
“I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to all who support the Together! Campaign,” said Pierce. “Camping scholarships and expanded facilities certainly enhance our ministry and enable us to serve so many more.”