"South Mountain Christian Camp (SMCC) began in 1974 with a few tents up on a hillside. The camp has been in continual operation since that time and has grown into a 180-bed facility on 250 acres of property that includes a gym, ball fields, cafeteria, swimming pool, ropes course, fishing pond and a lake for boating activities." said Steve Collins, Executive Director. "There are few childhood experiences that carry the same impact as a week away at camp. We realize that parents are entrusting their most valued treasures to us when they send their kids to camp, and we make every effort to provide a safe, loving environment for every child that will give them loads of fun, new friends, and a growing faith."
South Mountain Christian Camp was founded by Captain O.A. Fish (retired pilot with Eastern Airlines) and his wife, Charlotte. Mr. and Mrs. Fish originally purchased the property in late 1960's with the intention to retire there. Soon afterwards, however, God began to impress on theirs hearts that they should use that land to build a youth camp. Inspired by Jesus' words, 'Let the little children come to me', Luke 18:16, they began the journey that has lasted 44 years and touched countless lives.
"We take 100 campers each week, and we operate six separate weeks of camp, for a total of 600 campers each summer." reported Collins. "It is our mission to help campers respond in faith to the call of God on their lives and to nurture their faith so that they can grow into responsible citizens of God's kingdom."
On what they would like their campers to take away from a week at SMCC, Collins tells us, "I tell our staff every year that all of this work is designed to organize logistics for one reason: so that kids can be at the right place at the right time to hear from God. Beyond the spiritual impact of camp, we want kids to grow as individuals. Camp is a fantastic way for kids to learn independence, responsibility, cooperation, and other social skills that will benefit them in life. We also want campers to experience the joy of being outdoors, away from electronics. Finally, we make a real effort to teach kids to be active and to make healthy choices with food."
All of this doesn't happen without the support of concerned individuals in the community. "The thing that makes SMCC unique is that we target the economically disadvantaged population. Our camp fee is less than half of what most similar camps charge. Additionally, our policy is that we never turn a child away for financial reasons. We provide financial assistance for any child that needs help. Seventy percent of our campers request financial assistance. As such, we have to raise over $75,000 every year in funds for these campers' fees. The vast majority of those funds are contributed by ordinary individuals who choose to sponsor a child to attend camp." said Collins. "Among other things, this year we hope to provide a safe, meaningful summer camp experience for 600 children and youth, and to begin construction on a new multi-purpose building. In the years to come, our goal is to complete this new building, increasing our weekly capacity, which will enable us to reach 144 more children and youth each summer and make SMCC more beneficial and sustainable to the community for the future. SMCC has about 35 employees, and dozens of volunteers. We are open all year long hosting weekend retreats, day events, and school field trips. We have six year-round employees. All staff and volunteers are required to pass a thorough background check ensuring the safety of the campers."
When asked what his greatest joys at SMCC, Collins replied, "My greatest joys are the opportunity to pour the love of God into the lives of hurting children and to witness them having a personal encounter with God at camp. Now that I have been doing this for twenty years, I love to meet adults in the community who tell me how their time at SMCC impacted their lives."
For information about SMCC and ways you can sponsor a child, visit www.southmountainchristiancamp.org or call 828-245-3322. On their website, you'll find (under the tab 'supporters') a blueprint and description of the new multi-purpose building that they hope to build. The completion of this building will enable them to reach more kids and enhance the camper's experience.