A nonprofit organization located on Lake James in Angola, Lake James Christian Camp & Retreat Center is celebrating 90 years of youth camps, retreats, and community events this summer. Through offering bible classes and outdoor activities, their mission is spiritual transformation. The outdoor focus has been increasingly important as kids spend more time indoors, immersed in technology. About 300 volunteers support the camp throughout the year, and volunteers of all ages are often invited to join campers in June and July to act as a mentor or a “camp parent” for the week. “Our success is only possible with the help of volunteers. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to function the way that we do,” shared Matt Love, Executive Director.
For Love, one of his favorite parts about working with LJCC is the outdoor focused wilderness camps. They have both on-site and off-site wilderness camps. Another perk is that Love involves his family in the camp activities with opportunities to volunteer and serve campers and guests.
In the last five years, their organization has focused on sustainability. As camper numbers have gone down for a number of reasons, the camp has added more year-round retreats and events as a way to better utilize their facilities. The motivation for this year-round work is seeing the campers in the summer have a good time and experience life transformation. Love shared that they offer a scholarship program and he often reads from applicants that this camp is an opportunity for them to feel safe, accepted, and loved. “They get to be themselves here, and we value hearing that from campers,” said Love.
About half of the campers who attend each summer are local to the area, and many are 2nd or 3rd generation campers here. In addition to camps, LJCC collaborates with Christian Campus house at Trine University and some students are counselors, volunteers, or staff. They also work with the Lake Associations to host meetings, and would love to see the community utilize the facilities even more. Not many camps make it to 90 years, but in a community where other residents on Lake James remark that they enjoy the singing of kids are their evening campfire, it make sense that this organization has remained a key part of Steuben County’s nonprofit landscape.