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Barnett Lodge celebrates groundbreaking ceremonies

Barnett Lodge celebrates groundbreaking ceremonies

Artist's rendering of the front of the rennovated Barnett Lodge.

“Construction and fund raising are moving forward together during this year,” said the Rev. Bill Barnes, clergy chair of the Bishop’s Capital Campaign Commission (BCCC).  ‘The BCCC and the Board of Camps and Retreat Ministries will unveil the newly refurbished and expanded Barnett Lodge for use during the 2012 camping season.”  Ground was broken during ceremonies at the camp September 27.  Construction is scheduled to conclude in mid-May, and the 2012 camping season will begin the first week of June.

The project will add 7,000-square-feet of new space and update 2,500-square-feet of existing space at the lodge.  Specific project elements include:

  • The addition of a centrally-located entry and welcome center
  • Two new meeting rooms with exterior glass walls overlooking Lake Griffin
  • Relocation of all administrative offices to Barnett Lodge enabling staff to have easy access to incoming groups, campers and programs, plus a conference room for meeting and planning sessions
  • Expansion of existing dining rooms, adding a snack bar and total kitchen and serving area renovations to accommodate larger groups
  • Construction of a lakeside terrace and a repositioning of the famed “rocking chair porch” to a spot overlooking both the terrace and Lake Griffin

“We can confidently move forward with this ambitious and long-needed project because of a $2 million gift from an anonymous donor and subsequent gifts from donor families who want to be certain current and future Conference children, youth and adults will be able to experience the same type of spiritual growth and formation that is the heart of our long-standing camping tradition,” said Barnes.  

L to R: Carol Barnett, Barney Barnett, Bishop Timothy Whitaker, Eileen Wills, Diane Stahl, Riley Standifer, Bellamy Standifer, Avery Standifer, Gene Zimmerman, Shawn Fordham, Rebecca Fordham.

The goal for completion of the “Together! For Kids and Camps” Campaign is approximately $1 million.  “We are taking this appeal to all of the districts and all of the churches of the Conference so that everyone has the opportunity to help us assure our camping program continues,” said Barnes, who also noted that in addition to the approximately 3,600 campers who are served each summer, the camp serves as the gathering point for nearly 7,000 additional guests throughout the year.  Warren W. Willis Camp is a popular retreat destination for churches, schools, colleges, scouting programs and other types of groups, who will all benefit from the enhancement project that is underway.

The campaign has been enhanced through a matching gift program established through a partnership of Trish and Dan Bell of First United Methodist Church of Coral Gables with the Conference Board of Trustees.  Under this program, every campaign gift will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $1 million.  “That is a wonderful opportunity for our donors, and a most gracious offer from the Bell’s and our Trustees,” said Barnes.

Barnes noted the Conference Camps and Retreats Board has agreed to tithe 10 per cent of every new gift to the campaign to an endowed camping scholarship fund to ensure that the camping program is available to every Florida United Methodist, regardless of ability to pay.  “Moving forward, 90 cents of every dollar raised will be allocated to the Barnett Lodge renovation and 10 cents will be allocated to endowed scholarships,” he said.

“We have been most gratified by the response from families of campers and other camping enthusiasts who have made donations to the campaign,” said Barnes.  He encouraged those interested in supporting the campaign to visit: to make an online pledge or donation.  Pledge cards are also available by contacting The Florida United Methodist Foundation toll free at (866)-363-9673.

Ground Breaking Video

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Editor's Note: Carol and Barney Barnett are members of First UMC Lakeland.  Barney is the grandson of the Rev. Dr. Ira Barnett, for whom the lodge is named.  Dr. Barnett was instrumental in building the camp back in the 1940s.  He was the top official of the Florida Conference.  Our bishop was located in Atlanta at the time.  Dr. Barnett found the site, raised the funds and hired Warren W. Willis to be the first director. Eileen Willis Wills (wife of Bishop Dick Wills) and Diane Stahl are daughters of Evelyn and Warren W. Willis, as is Dr. Waite Willis, who also attended and participated in the ceremony.  Mrs. Willis is in her 90s, and she was not able to attend.