The weather on the day of this year’s banquet was chilly and damp, but the atmosphere inside the EMHS dining hall was warm and full of cheerful fellowship, as friends of Highland Retreat gathered to hear updates on the past year.
Following a tasty dinner for the 249 attendees, Kent Kauffman, Highland’s Executive Director, highlighted several items from his Director’s Report, including attendance and donation figures from the 2015-2016 fiscal year. Board member Lee Martin then led the affirmation process for two new board members, and announced that Highland’s board will also begin serving as the board for Harman Mountain Farms.
Highland Summer Camp Director, Dean Williams, introduced the main feature of the evening program: the partnerships with families, churches, and organizations that allow Highland to be an effective ministry. He gave an invitation to creatively work together to minister to youth in our communities, and introduced two people who have helped to do just that.
Susan Totty, Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters in Harrisonburg-Rockingham County, expressed her great appreciation for Highland Summer Camps. The children in her program could not afford camp on their own, and a camp experience is very different from what they are used to. The seeds of faith Highland plants in these young lives can be crucial amid the stress and hardship that these children often experience at home. Susan shared her own experiences with taking her ‘little sister’ to camp at Highland, giving a firsthand account of a child’s apprehension at something new transforming into effusive joy by the end of the week.
Erika Gascho of Ridgeway Mennonite Church recently helped start an outreach program for children in their neighborhood. When she introduced the idea of sending children to Highland, she received an overwhelming response. Not only were more children interested than she expected, but the congregation’s reaction to the project was very encouraging: all it took was one special offering to raise sufficient funds to send 13 children to camp for the very first time. Erika shared some of the comments she heard while acting as chauffeur to and from Highland, and also showed video clips of several community children sharing their experiences at camp.
As the evening wrapped up, gifts and pledges were collected to bless the ministry of Highland Retreat. More than $33,000 was raised in all! But even greater than the financial blessing was the care and support demonstrated by the larger Highland community. We are deeply grateful to each person who attended, each person who gave generously, and each person who keeps us in your prayers. Thank you for being a partner in our ministry, joining us in the work God is doing at Highland Retreat.