Camp Agape’ Report – 2021
Looking Back – Reaching Forward:
Honoring the Past and moving into the Future
I began my time here at Camp Agapé on January 1st, 2020, looking forward to a year that would be full of meeting new friends, developing new ideas, and adding new energy to a wonderful ministry. During the first months I was excited to begin meeting with different groups of pastors and sharing the board and association’s dream for Camp Agapé moving into the future. I met with Ryan Ebner of the ELCA Foundation, David Hummel at Theil College, Pastor Chris Rotella with Abiding Mission in Pittsburgh, and Pastor Christine Hough with Glade Run, along with multiple non-Lutheran ministers. Bishop Kusserow carved out some time to meet with me and listen to my hopes and dreams for Camp Agapé. In our discussions there was considerable interest in finding new ways to use the camp and to work with Lutherlyn to provide a wider variety of opportunities for ministry together. During these first months we broke ground for the new kitchen addition to the Retreat and Learning Center and a duplex cabin. We added additional staff in the areas of programming, food service, and property care. Everything was going according to plan! Then Covid-19 shut down the opportunity to meet with fellow supporters and ministry partners, do camp programming, and host rental groups for nearly 8 months. The staff and I continued to work on creative ways that the site could host groups, attended a multitude of zoom meetings, and dreamed up new ways to market the camp to the community. Another area of growth for Camp Agapé was the rounding out of the year-round staff: Program Director – Karen Reardon; Office Manager Catherine McClelland; Marketing Assistant/Hospitality – Erica D’Amico; Property Manager – Mike Ward; Food Service – Shari Dami; and Mechanic – Gary French.
In July we teamed up with the Salvation Army to host a Super-Hero Drive Through to help them raise donations for their Back-to-School Ministry. Over 100 cars drove through the camp and learned a little bit about Camp Agapé, many said they had never been on our property and were awed by the beauty of the camp. In September we held the Service of Dedication and Installation with Bishop Kusserow providing a sermon of hope and inspiration for this new adventure. In October, several groups used us for day events and a weekend event. In November, we had a United Methodist youth group do an all-day event which rounded out our use for the fall. The addition of the new kitchen made all these new events possible. In just one month we doubled the revenue we made in all of 2019. I am excited about the growth potential as we begin to dream of moving into a more “normal” situation in 2021. We were disappointed that several family events and program events were canceled due to new COVID-19 restriction later in November, December, and January.
Even with all the changes that have been happening at Camp Agapé we continue to lift up the legacy of what makes Camp Agapé so unique. Camp Agapé helped two families with temporary housing while going through some major life transitions, we assisted the Salvation Army to raise resources and awareness for children who cannot afford school supplies, and we are in the planning stages of working with an AME church in Pittsburgh, that host a Summer Learning Academy, with a possible special summer week soon. This event would renew the commitment of providing for children who need additional educational support outside of school. We also supplied a large amount of food from our garden to several local food pantries. Beginning in April of 2021 we will be hosting an annual Appreciation event to honor past supporters of Camp Agapé and current volunteers. The COVID-19 slowdown has given me an opportunity to find treasures from the past. We will be creating artwork using past pictures for the wall art in our cabins and the RLC.
What does the future hold for Camp Agapé? God has a plan! Some of the new areas that I would like to explore include:
- Week for Intellectually Disabled individuals
- Week for at-risk Foster children
- Weekend Confirmation Retreats
- Wounded Warriors Weekends
- Host educational events for Senior adults (day usage)
The addition of the year-round kitchen and duplex cabin to our site, will help us to expand who we serve in the coming years. This year we had 23 volunteers from 8 congregations for over 1,400 hours of volunteer service! In January 2021, we lost our Board President, Jill Shook, to complications from COVID-19. Camp Agapé will miss her support and vision. In 2021 we are encouraging congregation and individuals to prayerfully consider giving a special gift in her memory to Camp Agapé to be used to support our Scholarship Fund.
In closing we all need to give thanks to the foresight of previous boards and leaders to create the Endowment Fund with the gas revenue money. This safety net has made it possible for us to complete construction, pay bills, and keep staff on board through this nationwide crisis. I believe we will emerge from this stronger and ready to do exceptional ministry into the future.
Deacon Rick Frederick
Executive Director, Camp Agapé