Nearly $2.4 million in donations and pledges has been raised for a new retreat center at Camp Fontanelle, with another $900,000 needed in the next year and a half to complete the project, the camp’s site director said.
“There’s a larger number of people we still haven’t talked to. We’re continuing to build on that,” Trent Meyer said. “We definitely haven’t exhausted all the leads that are out there.”
Located northeast of Fremont, Nebraska, Camp Fontanelle celebrated its 60th anniversary earlier this year and broke ground for the new retreat center, a 14,000-square-foot building that not only will serve campers but will create a new market for groups seeking overnight accommodations for meetings outside of camp season.
“I get a couple of calls every single year from groups looking to do a weekend or a week, with places for 120 to 150 people. They go someplace else because we can’t offer that to them,” Meyer said. “It’s the larger groups that help pay the bills. The summer camps don’t cover a lot of our expenses, and these larger groups in the off-season are going to help us become a lot more financially healthy.”
The current lodge was built in 1967, Meyer said, and is not Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant, with much of the facilities outdated. The commercial kitchen in the current lodge, he said, would remain for food preparation.
The new lodge would have 72 beds, enough to house more campers in the summer and retreat groups the rest of the year.
“Our main vision is to serve 1,500 families a summer out here,” Meyer said. “Currently we’re at about half that per summer. If you’re going to reach 1,500, you need more places to put people.”
Sara Shaw, camping ministries coordinator for the Great Plains Conference, said the addition will provide meeting space year-round rather than just in the summer.
“Adding this building is going to add more lodging, more user-friendly meeting spaces and improve their office space, which will definitely reflect on their ability to do amazing ministry and to grow,” she said, adding the current full-time staff of three shares one cramped office.
Forty-five campaign volunteers continue to raise money for the addition, Meyer said.
He said the current drive is on the “generous church” level, meaning a $1 donation a week per church member for three years. Those who contribute through the generous church campaign will be noted in a plaque on the wall of the completed center.
“We’re continuing to get churches involved on that size of scale,” Meyer said.
A construction firm from Doniphan, Nebraska, has been hired, with the new lodge ready to open for campers and others in the summer of 2021.
“Our goal is to be debt-free before we get the building finished,” Meyer said.
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