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Camping ministry gains west Florida site

Camping ministry gains west Florida site

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Camping ministry gains west Florida site

By Erik J. Alsgaard | Oct. 30, 2009 {1097}

NOTE: Headshots of Dave and Donna Bruns are available at

QUINCY — Dave Bruns likes to build things. And as a manager of Centenary Camp near Quincy, he has had ample opportunity to put his handyman skills to good use.

Dave Bruns. Photo by Erik J. Alsgaard.
“I’ve always liked to make something out of nothing,” he said, while walking the grounds of the camp recently. “And this place needed a lot of work when we got here.”

The “we” is Bruns and his wife, Donna, who serve as managers of the camp, located at the western edge of the Florida Conference.

Centenary Camp has been serving the surrounding community for nearly 50 years, beginning as a ministry of Quincy United Methodist Church. Recently, it was given to the Florida Conference.

“The camp has always been United Methodist, one of ‘ours,’ ” said the Rev. David Berkey, executive director of the Florida Conference camps and retreat ministries. “The only change with Centenary coming to the conference is that we will be able to bring the administrative resources of the Florida Conference to help it grow.”

In practical terms, the change means administration and support for the camp will now come from a board of directors that relates to the conference camping program.

Donna Bruns. Photo by Erik J. Alsgaard.

“Centenary Camp has a long history of serving others,” Berkey said. “It started as a local church camp, and then it was given to the district. Now, it becomes another camp in our Florida Conference ministry, and we more than welcome it.”

Berkey said the North West District has been very supportive of the camp over the years, keeping it in its budget and providing an active site committee to oversee the property.  Many churches in the district give annual gifts to the camp’s operations.

One reason Berkey and others are excited the camp is now part of the conference camping ministry is its location.

“With Centenary Camp, we now can begin offering a Christian camping experience that’s much more convenient for people in the northwest areas,” Berkey said. “Instead of having to drive three or four hours to Fruitland Park (home of the Life Enrichment Center and Warren W. Willis Camp), we can now grow year-round ministries here.”

The Brunses arrived in 2006 and immediately got to work improving the camp’s facilities. Donna, who is a self-described “people person,” has invested hours painting meeting rooms and hand-lettering Scripture verses on the walls.

“God has quite a sense of humor,” she said. “I don’t do bugs, and here I am, in the woods.”

Dave says the camp was “very rustic” when they arrived. The 38-acre site has several buildings, some of which hadn’t been updated since the camp began.

Dave made one building his work and tool area and a base for all the projects he’s undertaken — building new bunk beds, installing new sinks in the chapel and bathrooms, renovating the camp manager’s home where he and Donna now live.

One serious need is a new water tank and well system. The current 2,000-gallon tank “may be the original,” Dave said, and is showing signs of corrosion from rust. A group of more than 40 golfers played in a benefit tournament Sept. 18 that raised more than $5,000 for replacements.

All the work is nothing new for the couple, who served at Red Bird Mission in Kentucky as directors of a work camp. The two moved south to help alleviate Donna’s allergies. Their son, the Rev. Stephen Bruns, pastor at First United Methodist Church in Bushnell, suggested they consider the opportunity at Centenary.

The Brunses are natives of Illinois and claim Wheatland Salem United Methodist Church in Naperville, Ill., as their home church. They give credit to that church’s pastor, the Rev. Dr. Scott Field, for helping them enter the mission field of Christian camping.

“We look at this as a mission,” Donna said. “This is a holy place, and this is God’s property. We’ve always given 100 percent, and that’s what we’re doing here.”

Their efforts are starting to pay off. Groups that had quit using the camp are starting to return, Dave said. Before, those groups had to clean the facility when they first arrived. “Not now,” Dave said. And since 2006, Centenary Camp has more than doubled its income.

The Rev. David Berkey (left) joins Donna and Dave Bruns on the porch of a building at the camp. Photo by Erik J. Alsgaard. Photo #09-1334.

Groups using the camp include Emmaus and a summer outreach project from a Tallahassee church that helps improve people’s homes. Several Rotary members and clubs also helped sponsor one building on the grounds and use that space two weeks each year for a camping experience for people who are mentally and physically challenged.

Donna said there are exciting future plans for the camp. Because the surrounding community is very poor economically, there are no community pools or places for underprivileged children to go for the day.

“We could provide a safe place — and old-fashioned church camp experience — for these kids who, for the most part, have nothing to do when school is not in session,” she said.

Donna says the facility is also ideal for church retreats and picnics, family reunions, and weddings.

Congregations interested in using the camp may call 866-UMCAMPS and press “6” when prompted or locally at 850-856-9779.

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.