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May 31, 2016 | George Dehan

Restoration and Innovation Mark Future for Camp Allen

[Diolog Magazine Camp Allen June 2016] In 2001, when I came to Camp Allen as its first president, I said I wanted our guests' experiences to reflect this theme: “Awaken Your Spirit in the Piney Woods.”  That vision has helped shape what is now the Centennial Fund leading to our 100th anniversary of Camp Allen in 2021. In order to “Awaken Your Spirit”—whether one is a camper or an adult guest—one needs to have an experience beyond the normal daily routine. 


The long-term vision for Camp Allen is to create exceptional facilities and programs that enable guests to enjoy in 1,100 acres of pristine forest and have a truly unique experience. That first-time visitor always laughs when they see the beautiful conference center and realize they didn’t need to bring their own sheets.


In 2013, the Camp Allen board identified 21 key projects that require a sustained development campaign. If Camp Allen is to remain one of the leading Christian conference centers in the U.S., it needs to upgrade several facilities and add others. The key projects were divided into three categories: “preservation,” “restoration” and “innovation.” And while the board approved, and enthusiastically endorsed the vision, it has been donors who have helped shape its priority. 


One of the first big projects under “innovation” was a health center because nurses and camper health are an important part of Summer Camp and Discovery Program camp that many school children attend each year. The nursing team now has a permanent place to keep medical records and first-aid provisions and to set up online information. The John S. Dunn Camper Health Center was completed in 2014. 


“Restoration” projects were planned to care for our existing structures and to allow future expansion. They included updating hotel room furnishings and renovating each of the three current campsites, and a new roof and updated facilities in the 47-year old pavilion where campers check in to summer sessions, play basketball and have their dances. The wastewater treatment plant and kitchen remodeling will play major roles in further expansion of the camp. Stewardship of our resources will become much easier when we establish a $2 million maintenance endowment to help sustain the 52 buildings on our campus and when we are able to pay off a $1.5 million debt, allowing Camp Allen to celebrate its centennial debt free. The combination of these final two items will yield $140,000 in annual benefits. 


One of the questions the board considered was: “What would we build today if we had unlimited resources?” The answer was a hike and bike trail to the 70-acre lake with a zip line above it so that people could experience the camp at a different level. Resources are always a limitation, but this dream set in motion two smaller projects: the new Adventure Summit Ropes Course and the hike and bike trail to Lake Coffield. These two projects opened up areas of the camp never seen by guests before and have been very popular. 


Some of the projects under the “innovation” category are green energy items that have allowed replacement of many electrical fixtures with efficient LED lighting. Ultimately, this will save $40,000 a year. When all projects are completed before the 100th anniversary, the camp will receive more than $500,000 in annual benefits from energy savings, guest capacities and reduction of debt to zero. 


The largest of the 21 projects in the Centennial Fund is the construction of Campsite 4 and a new central dining room. This will allow 700 additional campers to experience Camp Allen annually. The campsite project will cost $3.3 million of the total $8.2 million Centennial Fund. To date, Camp Allen has received $2.4 million in  pledges and has completed or started 13 of the 21 projects. The vision has been cast and more than 300 donors have responded. We look forward to Camp Allen being forever changed by the vision of this board, our donors and their support of the Centennial Fund.


Ultimately, Camp Allen will be a place of re-creation, of creation and transformation for untold numbers of guests and campers. 


Dehan is president of Camp Allen.


To learn more about the Centennial Fund or make a donation go to