Camp serves and is served by many

Posted: Wednesday, August 29, 2001

With 65 different Juneau organizations availing themselves of the Eagle River United Methodist Camp it may be one of the most-often used facilities of its kind in the state.

Schools use it for day training courses and for overnights, said camp board chairman Joe Poor. Churches use it; even rescue-dog-training groups make use of the facility.

Support for the camp is also widespread.

Fundamentally, the camp is sponsored by five Methodist churches in Southeast - three in Juneau, one in Ketchikan and one in Sitka, Poor said, and much of the support comes from rentals.

And then there are the volunteers, who come from just about everywhere.


"For most churches, Alaska is considered a missionary state," Poor said. And the VIM - Volunteers in Missions - come from Methodist congregations elsewhere in the country to do work for what they call the "outdoor ministry," which is next year's focus at several Methodist camps throughout Alaska.

"We had two groups here earlier this month, one from Michigan, the other from Illinois - 14 in one group and 12 in the other," Poor said. And the camp was the target earlier this year of a group of about 15 teen-age volunteers from Salem, Ore.

The visitors wowed local volunteers with their ability to pour concrete, use a level and skin logs, Poor said.

Camp board member Don Gotschall said of the teens that he had never seen a more enthusiastic group, or one that was more willing to learn.

But wait, there's more: Beyond the time and effort they put into building, the volunteers frequently give money to the cause as well, Poor said.

The camp sits on 48 acres and comprises a lodge with a kitchen facility and a nurse's station; nine summer cabins, with a tenth on the way; three winter cabins - a couple of which are large, sleeping up to 18, and which have kitchen facilities. There are also separate facilities for showering and laundry.

The camp has its roots in the early 1950s, when there was a lease arrangement from the Territory of Alaska, arranged by one of the founding stalwarts Bea Shepard. (Another was Claudia Kelsey.)

The era was pre-road, a time when you had to take a raft to get to the other side of Eagle River, Poor said.

The camp finally got title to itself in 1990.

Efforts of the VIM team this year - with help from local volunteer architects - focused on building a covered fire circle, the primary focus of the Ladd Macaulay Memorial. Macaulay was a very strong supporter of the camp, Poor said. Plans are eventually to build a chapel.

"Some folks just want a place to meditate," he said.

Even the Lemon Creek correctional facility is getting in on the action. "Inmates, under the supervision of staff, are building bunks for us. So far we have close to 18." Until now, the camp had had to make do with old military bunks.

"Gastineau Human Services clients also came out and split an amazing amount of wood," Poor said. "They also cleared brush and generally cleaned up the camp."

Poor doesn't seem able to mention one helping group without plunging headlong into a list of several more, and adds, "The Coast Guard women's groups have donated money for the bunk-bed project, as well."

And members of local Methodist churches have also contributed.

As much help as it does get, the camp can always use volunteers willing to put forth effort or ideas, Poor said. Anybody interested can leave a message on the camp phone at 789-3734.

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