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Conference retreat center breaks the mold

Conference retreat center breaks the mold

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Conference retreat center breaks the mold

By Erik J. Alsgaard / Nov. 22, 2008 {0945}

LAKELAND — For years, a persistent rumor has circulated among United Methodists in Florida and beyond: the Life Enrichment Center (LEC) in Fruitland Park is an undesirable place to stay or have a meeting because it has mold in its rooms.

NOMADS move new mattresses into a lodge at the Life Enrichment Center as part of renovations completed there in January (2007), thanks, in part, to an $85,000 grant from the Florida Conference board of trustees. Photo by the Rev. David Berkey. File photo #07-0545. Originally accompanied e-Review Florida UMNS #0640/March 16, 2007. Web photo only.

The Revs. Jess Schload, the LEC’s new director, and David Berkey, director of Florida Conference Camps and Retreat Ministries, had heard those comments, but with changes at the retreat center and the help of state of the art technology, they and the camps and retreat board of directors and staff took steps to put those rumors to rest.

Beginning in 2005 the staff at the LEC began refurbishing the lodging rooms. All the box springs and mattresses were replaced, rooms received a fresh coat of paint, and carpet was replaced in a number of rooms and the dining room. The LEC’s 200 rooms will also be receiving new furniture, a project that should be completed by March 2009. 

The camp board and staff didn’t stop there, however. They brought in an air-quality expert to determine if the mold rumors were true.

The result was a certificate of clean health: there is no mold at the LEC that will make anyone sick.
“It is really good news that we have confirmation that mold in the rooms isn’t really there,” Berkey said. “Since I arrived in 2005 and Jess in 2008, we have heard these comments about mold, but we weren’t sure if they were based on perception or reality. With all of the changes that have been made, it seems that we have eliminated whatever health problem might have been there due to mold.”
AirSpec, an indoor air quality control firm from Oxford, Fla., spent hours at the LEC in early October, going over it with a fine-toothed comb.
“The cleaning and maintenance of the buildings and rooms was found to be exceptional,” the report states.
The report also offers several recommendations already being implemented at the LEC:

•  Using a special cleaner that is the same product hospitals use to assure mold and mildew is kept out of the buildings;
•  Eliminating items in the rooms that can harbor mold, such as particleboard, used in the sink counters, and older carpets;
•  Having tile instead of carpet because it can be cleaned to prevent the development of mold and does not hold water.

Both the prayer chapel (background, left) and labyrinth at the Life Enrichment Center offer opportunities for spiritual reflection. File photo #08-0810. Web photo only.

With all this hard work, Berkey and Schload say, guests will notice a difference, and those who have not been to the LEC for some time are encouraged to try it again.

“One of the beautiful things about coming to a natural setting like the Life Enrichment Center for a retreat or meeting is that God’s creation is alive all around,” Berkey said. “We are on Lake Griffin, have hundreds of birds and other wildlife, beautiful trees and gardens. It is nice to know for sure that mold isn’t one of nature’s wonders that guests have to deal with.”

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011,, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Alsgaard is director of communications for the Florida Conference.