By Ray Balogh
MILFORD — Despite the brutal fusillade of challenges leveled at Camp Alexander Mack by the COVID-19 epidemic, the assemblage of faithful servants at the Monday, Aug. 17, groundbreaking ceremony on campus emphasized the faithfulness of God and expressed their gratitude for his provision and guidance.
On a postcard perfect morning, five employees of the camp and a district representative of the Church of the Brethren (the denomination with which Camp Mack is affiliated) speared their shovels into the lawn next to the camp’s administration building after a brief ceremony that included Scripture readings, reflections and a prayer of dedication.
The ceremony symbolically represented beginning construction of the 300-acre camp’s first stand-alone health center.
The 1,460-square-foot single story-structure will house a spacious examination room, infirmary, living quarters for a healthcare professional, storage area and nine single-stall private restrooms with outside access.
“This new chapter in Camp Mack’s life has been a long time coming,” said Gene Hollenberg, the camp’s executive director. “We know we can trust God.”
Plans for the new facility began the fall of 2016.
“It was decided we needed to move to replace the retreat center lost in the fire of 2010,” said Hollenberg. “That led us to begin an exploration process and strategic planning process and in March 2019 we launched a capital campaign.
“We didn’t quite know what form it would take,” he said. “So a site planning committee met over the next several months and determined we would modernize one of our current buildings to become a retreat center. We needed to pull the health center out and create a space for it somewhere else.”
The prominent location of the new building, across the lawn from the camp’s centerpiece auditorium, prompted the committee to include in the design public restrooms that are “more hospitable and inviting to our guests.”
“Camp Mack’s mission is to provide a sanctuary where people connect with God, experience creation and build Christian community,” said Hollenberg. “This health center helps create a better place for us to serve our campers who are ill. And in the days of COVID it helps us prepare for campers next summer.” The camp has developed comprehensive protocols “to create a safe place for guests.”
Todd Eastis, member of the committee overseeing the “Planting the Future” capital campaign, noted some advantages over the current location, where the health center shares space with staff housing. “Records and medications will be more secure, and individuals with infectious diseases can be isolated more effectively and safely.”
He also noted, “Guests at Quinter-Miller Auditorium will have paved access to private climate-controlled restrooms when attending a conference or large event.”
Though Camp Mack did not host any onsite summer camps this year, “we still have some retreat groups and other groups planning to come in fall or winter,” said Hollenberg. “We are also open for banquets and public gatherings and retreats as long as the event meets state requirements at the time we hold it.”
The camp currently serves to-go dinners from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. every Tuesday. Patrons need to reserve their meals by 5 p.m. the previous Friday.
Prices vary from $8 to $10 and all meals include an entree, salad, vegetables, starch, bread and dessert. The program started in late July, selling 35 meals the first week. Last week’s number totaled 70. Menus are posted on the camp’s Facebook page.
Camp Mack employs 14 year-round staff members and enlists 250 to 300 volunteers each year who contribute about 15,000 hours of volunteer work.
For more information, to volunteer, make a monetary donation or arrange a reservation, call (574) 658-4831, email [email protected] or visit www.campmack.org or www.facebook.com/campmack.
Groundbreaking ceremony speakers, in order of appearance: