Camp Siloam cel­e­brates long-awaited mile­stone

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Hunter McFer­rin Staff Writer Hm­c­fer­ ■

An event was held on Fri­day night in celebration of the grandopen­ing of Cedar Hall, a newly con­structed dining hall for Camp Siloam, a Chris­tian-based, kids sum­mer camp that has been part of the com­mu­nity for the last 95 years.

The cre­ation of the dining hall was fa­cil­i­tated by C.R. Craw­ford Con­struc­tion Company, and while its in­te­rior size is 24,650 square feet, it also fea­tures an ad­di­tional sur­face area of 7,700 square feet for an out­door, cov­ered porch, said Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Ja­son Wilkie. The fa­cil­ity will have the ca­pac­ity to serve roughly 3,000 meals per day, will

em­ploy 12 cooks for the sum­mer and a year-round food services man­ager. There will also be about 20 campers who will serve as dish­wash­ers as part of their par­tic­i­pa­tion in a spe­cial lead­er­ship pro­gram of­fered by the camp.

The no­tion of devel­op­ing a new dining hall has been on the minds of Camp Siloam of­fi­cials for nearly two decades, Wilkie said. In 2008, de­spite the camp’s ef­forts to launch a fundrais­ing cam­paign for the dining hall, due to the re­ces­sion that took place dur­ing that time, it proved un­suc­cess­ful. It was not un­til 2015 that the dining hall’s devel­op­ment was made pos­si­ble by a group of 946 donors, most of whom were pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als, who ul­ti­mately raised $3,919,594.

“We are so grate­ful to ev­ery­body who was a part of it, we could not have done this with­out the par­tic­i­pa­tion of those 946 peo­ple,” Wilkie said.

The camp’s pre­vi­ous dining hall was orig­i­nally the Ma­sonic Lodge of Siloam Springs prior to Camp Siloam be­ing founded in 1923 by the Ar­kan­sas State Bap­tist Con­ven­tion, Wilkie said. Although it served its pur­pose for a long time, there came a time that it be­came un­us­able for the camp, adding that the new fa­cil­ity has done more for Camp Siloam than just be­ing a dining hall.

“We loved it, but the kitchen was re­ally small, there were two trees that were grow­ing up di­rectly through the mid­dle of it, and the struc­ture itself just had aged to the point where it needed to be replaced,” Wilkie said. “The health de­part­ment said it was the old­est fa­cil­ity and the worst fa­cil­ity they looked at ev­ery

I think this build­ing is go­ing to be huge. We have al­ready seen peo­ple’s jaws drop as they come in and see this new build­ing when the old build­ing was not im­pres­sive at all. It is def­i­nitely a God thing for this place to be here.

year. There was a chil­dren’s pas­tor from Ben­tonville that came two weeks ago, he and I were walk­ing late one night and he said ‘Ja­son, I would not have be­lieved that one build­ing could change the en­tire at­mos­phere of the camp, but the new dining hall does just that.’ What I think he was say­ing is that it is just a com­fort­able en­vi­ron­ment on a hot day to just re­lax in. That was one of our goals for the build­ing, for it to be a place that peo­ple would linger, talk and build friend­ships, and so it re­ally has be­come that.”

One ben­e­fit to hav­ing the new fa­cil­ity is that it will make it eas­ier to re­cruit kitchen staff for the camp be­cause they will be able to work in a more com­fort­able en­vi­ron­ment where they can learn how to do their jobs bet­ter, said Robert Coppedge, as­so­ciate di­rec­tor for pro­grams and op­er­a­tions. Coppedge has been work­ing at Camp Siloam since Novem­ber 2011, and said that hav­ing this fa­cil­ity is a cru­cial as­pect in be­ing able to ef­fi­ciently feed campers.

Coppedge also said that be­cause the new dining hall has modern, more so­phis­ti­cated equipment and in­fra­struc­ture, it will also al­low for Camp Siloam to host events not only in the sum­mer, but year-round as well. This will al­low for growth and mo­men­tum in re­gards to the camp as a whole, and give him work to do year-round now, in­stead of only dur­ing the sum­mer.

“I think this build­ing is go­ing to be huge,” Coppedge said. “We have al­ready seen peo­ple’s jaws drop as they come in and see this new build­ing when the old build­ing was not im­pres­sive at all. It is def­i­nitely a God thing for this place to be here.”

Among the kitchen staff that are charged with feed­ing campers for the sum­mer is Ex­ec­u­tive Chef Marty Hayes, who is work­ing at the camp for the sec­ond sum­mer in a row this year. Hayes has a back­ground work­ing as an ex­ec­u­tive chef at Chris­tian-based sum­mer camps all over the coun­try, from Mas­sachusetts, to south­ern Cal­i­for­nia to Hawaii. Hayes said that the new fa­cil­ity is a drastic change from last sum­mer, and al­lows for him to teach his skill set to oth­ers in the kitchen.

“Well, there is not a tree in the kitchen, so that is kind of nice,” Hayes said. “But re­ally, it is state of the art, we have re­ally good equipment. Right now we are do­ing between 800 and 1,000 campers, but this kitchen could do 3,000 campers and that could be done very eas­ily. We are do­ing a lot more cook­ing from scratch here, be­fore, it was all frozen and pre­made stuff, so we ac­tu­ally get to teach kids how to cook things from scratch. We have about 12 kids that are ages 16 to 18 and they are learn­ing a pretty good skill. Be­cause once they get to col­lege, even if they may not want to work in a kitchen, it is still al­ways go­ing to be a good skill for them to have.”

Camp Siloam was run by the Ar­kan­sas State Bap­tist Con­ven­tion un­til 2006 when it re­ceived sta­tus as a non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion, ac­cord­ing to its web­site. The camp hosts weekly sum­mer camps through­out the sum­mer, in which campers ar­rive on Mon­day and leave on Fri­day.

Sum­mer staff mem­bers con­sist largely of vol­un­teers and about 75 col­lege stu­dents hired by the or­ga­ni­za­tion, Wilkie said. The en­roll­ment for the sum­mer of 2017 was 5,454, and for the sum­mer of 2018 this num­ber is pro­jected to in­crease to 5,700.

Robert Coppedge Camp Siloam as­so­ciate di­rec­tor for pro­grams and op­er­a­tions

Sub­mit­ted photo

Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Ja­son Wilkie speaks to mem­bers of the au­di­ence dur­ing the grand-open­ing cer­e­mony on Fri­day night.

Hunter McFer­rin/Herald-Leader

Camp Siloam Ex­ec­u­tive Chef Marty Hayes (right) gives ad­vice to one of his cooks, Gar­rett Martin, (left) while in the kitchen on Satur­day morn­ing.

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