The need is apparent. At the end of 2011, numbers released showed that 2,337 children ages 5-17 live below the poverty level in LaGrange County. That easily tops other counties in Northeast Indiana.
The Brethren Retreat at Shipshewana Lake is looking to make a positive impact on those who face poverty at home by inviting them to attend one of their camps on the south shore of Shipshewana Lake this summer.
Rick Miller, director for the retreat, announced Thursday that a new program, “Treasures in the Field,” invites children who live in homes below the poverty level to the camps. The offer is good for any of the camps offered throughout the summer, beginning in June. Camps cover a variety of activities and age groups, with camps offered through the end of July.
Miller noted that campers who take part in the program will be included in the camps the same as every other camper, and participants’ names would be kept confidential. Campers get three hearty meals a day plus snacks, Miller noted.
“We believe that as a valuable and distinctive outdoor ministry, we can help many LaGrange County families escape a world of distractions,” Miller said. He added that financially stressed homes face “numerous obstacles for developing healthy relationships.”
Miller described how kids who come in “masked” are more relaxed within hours of the start of camp. “There’s something in camps that allows people to be people in a safe environment,” Miller stated. “Our campers will engage in new adventures. They will share with peers from diverse backgrounds in a safe environment. College-age staff will lead activities, emulate healthy relationships, share Bible stories, and celebrate each day at campfires. There are numerous activities for campers to make spiritual discoveries as well as develop friendships which will last a lifetime.”
“As a long standing outdoor ministry of 92 years in LaGrange County, the Brethren Retreat at Shipshewana Lake desires to provide a positive summer experience, utilizing the power of camp, to numerous LaGrange County families,” Miller said in the announcement. He added that the camp usually sees 300 campers during the season and that by serving even 10 percent of those children living in poverty in LaGrange County, that would double their numbers for the summer.
He noted that participants would have to provide proof of eligibility, including referrals from other agencies that already have determined if a family lives below the poverty level. A family of four with an income level below $22,314 would qualify for the program. A family of six would be below the poverty level at $30,841.
“We felt that ‘Treasures in the Field’ will meet a need in LaGrange County as we pursue our mission to foster healthy relationships,” Miller concluded.
Registration forms can be obtained by contacting the retreat at 768-4519 or from their website at www.campshipshewana.com. The staff is also available to give tours and answer questions.