AN OPEN house planned at Jensen Woods Camp on Sept. 16, will be a celebration, combined with a reminder to keep working toward the goal.
Gretchen Forsythe, president of the Jensen Camp Foundation, said $500,000 was raised in a capital campaign to preserve the 550-acre Christian camp that has brought people to Timewell since the mid-1960s. Now there's another phase of the fundraising effort to pay off a bank loan and get the camp paid off.
"This has been a faith project all along. Many of us worked four years and four months on this, totally on faith, and people who supported us all this time totally on faith. This camp did miraculous things for people for 53 years and will continue to do them for the next 100 years," Forsythe said.
A love of the camp, and what it means to the community, spurred the foundation to raise $500,000 in a capital campaign in the first phase of a $1.9 million effort to buy, operate and endow the camp near Timewell. The foundation has 20 years to repay a loan through MidAmerica National Bank for the balance of the purchase price but hopes to meet that goal well before the deadline.
"Now that we've purchased the camp, we will have so many avenues of income that we didn't have when we didn't have the property," Forsythe said.
Previously owned by the Illinois Great River Conference of the United Methodist Church, the camp had declining use in recent years, and the church group needed money. After three years of negotiations with the foundation, the Great River Conference was closing and sold the camp to a St. Louis developer on March 20.
Forsythe got a phone call from the buyer that next morning and by Good Friday had been offered a chance for the foundation to buy the camp.
The foundation wrapped up its closing Monday and since then workers have been sprucing up the campsites, a bunkhouse that sleeps 18, an A-frame that sleeps eight, treehouses, hookups for RVs, 15 miles of horse trails, an indoor chapel, two outdoor chapels and Dixon Lodge, which seats more than 100 at tables, and has a commercial kitchen.
In addition to the open house on Sept. 16, the group is preparing to welcome RV campers starting Sept. 17.
Supporters say they need to attract more people and events to the camp. If they can book family reunions and veterans events, 4-H clubs and schools, as well as church-related activities, the fees and donations will help complete the purchase.
Jensen Woods Camp has been a tradition for Timewell and for area churches for more than 50 years. With an expanded outreach, the camp can keep enriching lives for decades to come.