Camp Siloam celebrates long-awaited milestone
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
Executive Director Jason Wilkie speaks to members of the audience during the grand-opening ceremony on Friday night.
Camp Siloam Executive Chef Marty Hayes (right) gives advice to one of his cooks, Garrett Martin, (left) while in the kitchen on Saturday morning.