After last year's shutdown, Warren Willis Camp is back in businessMissions and Outreach
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year, the ministry at the Warren Willis Camp and Conference Center was hit particularly hard. The Board of Camps and Retreat Ministries suspended all programs in the camp's vital summer outreach.
"It was difficult. I think we felt just like everybody else. We felt isolated," Director of Camps and Retreats Ministries Mike Standifer said. "We weren't doing the ministry we typically do with groups gathering, making friendships, and that just couldn't happen because of COVID-19."
However, that was then. The camp will be back in business for the upcoming summer season – albeit with limitations and prudent precautions.
"The American Camp Association put out a field guide for how to open camps safely, from areas like food service, normal cleanliness, and that sort of thing," Standifer said. "We're feeling very good about where that will take us."
The overnight camp capacity will be capped at 208 instead of 484 in 2019, its last full-time season. There will only be one camper per bunk bed in the cabins for overnight stays instead of two.
Ionized air sanitizers were installed in all cabins, and, of course, social distancing and masks are mandatory.
"Wearing masks inside is required everywhere except at the dining hall or when sleeping in their bunk at night," Standifer said.
Day camp is offered at full capacity.
Worship and fellowship are central to the camp experience, but there will be modifications this summer.
Instead of everyone participating in a large group, campers will stay with small groups known as pods. They will do all activities together, including dining. That will make it easier for contact tracing should someone test positive for COVID-19.
"In the past, we used to have what is known as praise time. We'd have everyone in the fellowship hall singing and praising God," Standifer said. "This year, there will be no singing. Dinners used to be served family-style at the table, but this summer, we'll go cafeteria-style."
That's a lot of changes, but it will allow the camp's central mission -- "to prepare a sacred space in a natural setting for all to grow in community and connect with Christ" -- to remain.
The summer camp opens on June 14 and runs for seven weeks. Reservations are being accepted, and the deadline for scholarships is extended to May 1.
After the turmoil of last year, the camp staff is eager to welcome campers back and give them the experience of a lifetime.
"I'm really excited. Our support staff that helps run summer camp, we all lived it in the last year," Standifer said.
"We know what we need to do to keep everyone safe. We'll be doing lots of training before camp starts. We want kids to encounter Christ in their life and take that home and go from there."
Joe Henderson is News Content Editor for FLUMC.org.
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