Friday, April 16, 2010

Camp Still Needs Saving

"Hey Jim, why is that decal still on your truck, I thought camp was saved already?" That's a question I get quite often and the simple answer is that Anokijig isn't saved just yet. While Anokijig's future looks a lot better than it did five years ago, we still have a long way to go.

One of the problems we face is that it's difficult to keep banging on the drum and sustain an ongoing sense of urgency to retire the debt incurred back in 2005 to "save" Camp Anokijig. Many of the pledges made by our fantastic supporters have now been satisfied, while other well-meaning folks just haven't been able to come through on their commitments for a variety of reasons, including the downturn in the economy.

As time continues to pass, the bullet Anokijig dodged begins to look larger and larger. When camp was originally put up for sale, the economy had not yet hit the skids. Contractors, developers and architects were all still eyeing up every piece of lakefront property they could find, whether it was currently for sale or not. Camps like Singing Hills seemed to be falling like dominoes and I've often wondered what fate would have befallen Anokijig, had the Friends of Anokijig not secured the loans necessary to outbid those developers? The best I can come up with is that the hilly terrain would've made it unsuitable for a traditional development and it probably would've ended up as a golf course.

With the way the economy headed south shortly after our sale was finalized, a developer probably would've had just enough money to tear down all our key buildings and build three holes of a golf course and a model home or condo, before going belly-up. That would've left the property available for a camp again, but no infrastructure to support it. The logs of Western Lodge and our other beautiful cabins would've been sold off. Large tracts of our woodland areas would've been clearcut for fairways. The boathouse would've been dismantled to make room for a putting green overlooking the lake. All the fencing for the horses would've been yanked out and the land re-surveyed for a project that would've never been completed.

Even if Anokijig were put up for sale one or two years later than it was, the financial climate during that span changed so much, it's possible we wouldn't have been able to secure the loans necessary to purchase Camp.

It's scary to even think about those possibilities and while they may seem like they are a million miles away from us today, we're not out of the woods yet. While I'm happy to report that Camp Anokijig's future looks strong and robust, there is no telling what the future will bring. Will the economy rebound or will it take another downturn? Will the financial crisis that hit the home housing market soon hit the commericial real estate market and affect Anokijig's loans? The future can be difficult to predict, but I know as good as we all feel about Anokijig's future, we'll all feel a lot better once our debt is finally retired for good. Only then will Anokijig's destiny truly be in our own hands and not tied to the success or failure of financial institutions or parent organizations.

Our staff is certainly doing their best to eliminate our debt by finding additional revenue streams (new campers) and new donors. In fact, we've hired a fantastic woman named Mary Krahn, who has done a wonderful job of reaching out to folks in the area and helping them learn all about the fantastic benefits Anokijig provides for thousands of children and families each year. Even though Anokijig's history goes all the way back to Ray Vance in 1926, most of that history didn't involve Anokijig asking anyone for help. Doing so now is a relatively-new concept for a camp that has been operationally-profitable for more than two decades in a row, but we are making progress.

In the past few years, Anokijig has for the first time received grants and donations from many fantastic organizations and companies, who had no previous history of giving (many of them are listed on the right-hand side of this blog). Their generosity has helped fill the financial gap created by expiring or unfufilled pledges. We've also witnessed an increase in our group rentals and several of our summer camp weeks still sell out and have waiting lists.

The future looks very bright for Anokijig, but not without your continued support. If you are able to renew a pledge or make a tax-deductible donation, please do so- Even if you cannot share treasure with us, we still value you your time and talent. If you can volunteer at Anokijig or one of our off-site events, let us know-

Lastly, if you haven't been to Anokijig in a while, please come back and visit us. We'd love to catch up with you, show you how much Anokijig has changed and how much has stayed just the way you remembered it, whether you're 30 years old or a camper from the 1930s.

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