Goodbye camp, hello open road




Dave and Donna Bruns have mixed emotions about their retirement as they leave Centenary Camp in Quincy after more than 12 years. They have definitely left their mark on the facility, from the bathrooms, bunks, prayer garden and more that Dave built to the expansive programming and community outreach that Donna instigated.

Dave Bruns tests out the newly installed monkey bars.

But on June 1, they are headed across the U.S.A. in a camper, hoping to see sites including the California redwood trees and Waco, Texas, home of HGTV cable network’s “Fixer Upper” show. The Bruns also plan to visit their two adult children in Oregon and Kansas. And, oh yes, the world’s largest ball of twine. That site in Kansas, Donna said with a laugh, is something she has wanted to see since she was a kid, but her father would never take her.

“They will be missed,” Mike Standifer, director of Camps and Retreat Ministries for the conference, said. “But they will have left a legacy. They’ve been a joy to work with.”

When Dave and Donna take their leave, they will head first to their home in Moultrie, Ga., where they have not lived in many years. After extensive travel, they will ultimately return to that house, which Donna describes as a fixer-upper. Dave doesn’t have a problem with that as he said, “My relaxation is working.”

Proof of the couple’s different gifts is evident everywhere at the camp they leave behind.

“They literally transformed the camp and its ministry,” Standifer said. “They upgraded the physical plant with everything from new roofs, new paint jobs and new classroom spaces, thanks to Dave, but they also hired a food-service staff so guests wouldn’t have to make their own meals, as before.”

Donna also envisioned, then made reality, day camps for elementary and younger children from all over, including the local community near Quincy.

Scholarship funds from the Board of Camp and Retreat Ministries were secured to provide tuition for day campers, which enhanced both camp and community. The day camps span three weeks in summer, and the overnight camps draw youth from all over the state.

The camp has air-conditioned dorms and cabins, a ropes course, pool, archery range, four-square and other game courts. An outdoor pavilion and the scenic prayer garden with a fountain, as well as local wildlife make for a welcome spiritual retreat.

Those who enjoyed the camp through the Bruns years were not limited to children and youth groups.

Kay Roach, president of United Methodist Women for the conference, has a soft spot in her heart for Centenary Camp, partly because it once belonged to her home church, Centenary UMC. Her children attended as campers, and she volunteered there.

Roach said the camp has been the site of numerous Walk to Emmaus events, with comfortable accommodations for the adult-oriented ministry of the Upper Room.

“The camp has just blossomed since Dave and Donna have done so much to improve it,” she said.

The camp has also played host to Rotary Clubs, family reunions and other groups—not necessarily just United Methodists, said Roach.

“It’s a gem of a place and it’s so special to us,” she said, adding that the day camps Donna started have been especially welcome in the local community, which is in the heart of a tomato-growing area. Many migrant children have attended the camp.

Donna took a special interest in helping the camp grow.

“Leaving the kids behind will be hard,” she said. “But we’ve been more blessed than anybody.”

—Anne Dukes is a freelance writer based in Atlanta.


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