Camping in the 21st Century
The Warren W. Willis Camp in Fruitland Park is more than just a summer camping facility. According to Camp Director Mike Standifer and Assistant Director Heather Pancoast, it is a facility that is in use 12 months of the year.
"Certainly we are in demand for our summer programs," said Standifer, "but many people don't realize that we have as many as 10,000 guests a year. Our summer camp attendance accounts for approximately one-third of our annual attendance."
According to Pancoast who oversees special events, Warren Willis Camp is a popular retreat destination for churches, schools, colleges, scouting programs and other groups. "There is something going on here almost every weekend," she said.
"The Barnett Lodge renovations will give us meeting space designed for the way we do ministry now," she said. "It will be such a gift for all of our guests."
Pancoast, who grew up going to the camp and now lives with her family on the campus, is thrilled by the prospect of first class meeting space. "We will be able to offer beautiful, well-equipped meeting rooms plus a private dining room for our small group meetings. We will have much more flexibility in how we use our space, and we can take pride in the fact that the space will be state of the art in terms of amenities and technology."
Pancoast also believes that the kitchen expansion will be a significant plus. "Currently we can produce 1,900 meals over the course of a (three-meal) day," she said, "but having a larger prep and cooking space will definitely improve the efficiency of our food service program."
Standifer and Pancoast, like many other staffers, have shared office space and moved offices several times a year to be closer to activities and guests. Having their administrative offices in Barnett Lodge will be much more convenient, they say.
According to Standifer the camping and retreat ministries offered at Warren Willis Camp have grown year after year. This year, the camp supported the local community by providing space and expertise for a summer day camp run by the City of Leesburg after funding cuts threatened to eliminate the program.