‘WELCOMED HERE’: $101K grant boosts Camp Susque dining hall renovations, ADA access

$101K grant boosts Camp Susque dining hall renovations, ADA access

PHOTO PROVIDED Campers stand for prayer during a week of summer camp at Camp Susque in Trout Run.

Camp Susque, a nonprofit Christian youth camp, received a grant of $101,000 from the Williamsport Lycoming Community Fund through the First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania, funding phase two of renovations for Hemlock Hall.

Hemlock Hall, the camp’s dining facility and meeting room, was built 50 years ago, and was anticipated to be used 10 weeks out of the year. It is now used 52 weeks of the year. Campers have sit-down, family-style dinners at the round tables in the hall. As Susque continued to grow in numbers, Hemlock Hall needed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

In addition to making Hemlock Hall fully ADA accessible, in 2001 Susque Lodge was the first ADA-accessible building. Susque’s office, two cabins, shower buildings, mountain-side chapel and rifle range are also accessible.

“Hospitality and being welcomed is a value of Camp Susque and we want everyone to be welcomed here,” said Davis Swift, program director. “We haven’t really been able to welcome people from the handicap community because we don’t have the facilities in our main meeting room, and now, we will.”

ADA ACCESSIBLE BATHROOMS

Camp Susque made its first-floor bathrooms ADA accessible and expanded its basement during phase one. Renovations cost $200,000, same as phase two’s expenses, and are anticipated to be done in mid-March.

The renovations enhance the space in Hemlock Hall, fix sound issues and expand its capacity. These changes will help Camp Susque maintain the numbers they currently are bringing in.

“Our bathrooms were down a flight of steps, a narrow flight of steps, and that … is a major accessibility prob

lem,” said Peter Swift, camp director. “Our current bathrooms, not only were they too small for the amount of campers and for the events that we have here, they were just very inaccessible.”

By widening the halls, and removing the stairs to the bathroom, campers and guests can easily access the bathroom.

Accessibility is the camp’s main priority when updating facilities, Peter Swift said. Susque is partnering with Cornerstone Counseling, to train staff about mental health in the area and to be properly educated.

FCFP HELPS WITH EXPANSION

Camp Susque received the $101,000 grant from the foundation for phase two and will continue to make Hemlock Hall ADA accessible with T. Ross Brothers. The camp has not reached its goal to cover the costs yet, and it is accepting donations. This grant speeds up the process and construction will begin this year.

The foundation serves the local region through other nonprofits, and the grant Camp Susque received is a part of the foundation’s non-restricted round of grant-making, Peter Swift said. He added the camp is very thankful for this grant, which showcases the impact they have in Lycoming County.

In phase two, Susque will be properly insulating its roof by replacing it, updating its heating systems, which eliminates ventilation and insulation problems in Hemlock Hall, and will be updating the hallway, creating a hall that runs the length of the building, providing extra space for campers, staff or guests, Peter Swift said.

Phase-two renovations may last for two to three months, being completed in either late May or early June, Peter Swift said.

FUTURE RENOVATIONS

Renovations were originally a four-phase project, projected to take seven to ten years, Davis Swift said. Camp Susque broke it into manageable phases for renovations. In the future, they will be combining phases three and four, making it solely phase three. They will be adding a deck to the north side of the Hall, overlooking the creek and facing the mountains. This will provide another meeting space and more dining options.

In addition to the deck, they will add a room to the kitchen in for washing dishes, doubling the kitchen space, Davis Swift said. This will reduce noise throughout the hall, allowing for campers to speak and be heard when eating meals.

CAMP SUSQUE

In 1946, Bob Dittmar took a hiking trip with a few other men and boys. While backpacking, Dittmar noticed that many of the boys were not learning about hiking, fishing and other activities that fathers typically taught their sons.

They talked about things “they’ve never shared with their family, … the church, … at school. But being in the midst of God’s creation, in the midst of nature, they were more comfortable to share these things,” Peter Swift said.

Campers who attend Susque are removed from cellphones, video games and their daily lives, and are instead interacting with one another, learning about God and engaging with nature. Campers have the opportunity to hike, sit around campfires, canoe, learn about archery or riflery and make pottery.

“Being a Christian camp does not mean that only Christian campers come here,” said Peter Swift. “Anyone can come here, we are happy to have people of all walks of life come here.

“Our 71st (year) is affirming that our mission and what we are doing is worth while and consistent. It is important work what we are doing, not just continuing but growing. Showing there is a real need for camps for campers,” Peter Swift said.

Campers have had the chance to “experience our creator” since 1947.

Upcoming camps already have seen growth as last year marked a high for record enrollment. Comparing enrollment at this time, now, to enrollment from 2017, Susque is trending and is seeing higher rates this year.

“God’s work that was happening at the time is still happening now,” said Davis Swift. “We … camp out under the stars and the stars are the exact same thing, looking exactly the same in 2018 as they did in 1947, and that’s a really exciting thing.”

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