SLOAN COLUMN: Gates may close, but the memories remain
Some decisions are necessary, but that doesn’t make them any easier. Knowing it’s the right thing to do takes some of the sting away, but feelings of sadness and loss still remain.
Such was the case last week when the Presbytery of New Harmony voted to permanently close Camp Pee Dee Retreat Center.
For decades, the 568-acre camp tucked away in the woods off Highway 9 in Bennettsville served as a haven to those looking to get away from the hustle and hassle of the everyday world. Many a child from Bennettsville, Cheraw, Hartsville, and Florence created lasting memories while attending summer camp at the retreat center. Countless lives, both young and old, have been turned over to God and transformed by his saving grace amidst the camp’s rustling pines. The tranquil setting has stirred many a soul to speak to and reconnect with the creator. The place was and is truly something special.
From a financial standpoint, the decision to close the gates of Camp Pee Dee permanently was a really a no-brainer. The camp had been losing money for several years. Fewer and fewer children were attending camp and support from many of the churches within the presbytery had diminished. The camp probably survived longer than it should have simply because of its sentimental attachment to so many.
As a commissioned ruling elder, I sadly cast my vote to close Camp Pee Dee. I did so with a very heavy heart. I’m sure many others felt the same way.
My time at Camp Pee Dee did not come as a child or teenager. I spent several summers as an unofficial aid to administrators and counselors, as a high ropes course instructor, and as a Bible study teacher. I also spent two summers as Camp Pee Dee’s chief cook and bottle washer. There were certainly long hours and a lot of hard work involved, but I can honestly say every single day spent at Camp Pee Dee was an incredible blessing.
For three months in 2016 our family made its home in an 800-square foot cabin on camp grounds. It was cramped quarters for sure, but it was a most memorable time. We celebrated Christmas there. It snowed that December and I can remember taking early morning walks down to the lake with our dog, the cold air causing our breath to look like dragon’s breath and the sound of frozen snow crunching beneath our every step. Colby and I would sit on the dock and look at the cross across the lake in quiet contemplation, thankful for our many blessings.
So many memories, of campfire sing-a-longs, evening worship at the Vesper Dell, campers overcoming fears on the high ropes course, and afternoons spent frolicking in the lake have poured through my mind the last few days.
I and surely many others will always look upon Camp Pee Dee as hallowed ground blessed by God. The gates may close, but the memories will last a lifetime.