UCC.org takes notice of our efforts and search for a new Executive Director

DuBois horses running to Deer Run pasture

Want to know what happens when you tell the national UCC organization about how awesome you are?  They pick up your story and write about how awesome you are!

Our efforts with DuBois 6.0 and beyond are getting attention: Southern Illinois camp thriving, growing with capital campaign

DuBois Center is currently searching for a new Executive Director. Learn more about this position, on the UCC ministry opportunities page under the Illinois South Conference of the UCC.

Greetings from the Camp Interns – Mary Cailin Wagner

Hi ya’ll! My name is Mary Cailin Wagner, and I am one of the DuBois Center Camp Interns! I grew up in Red Bud, Illinois, and my home church is the St. Paul United Church of Christ in Lebanon, Illinois. I am currently attending McKendree University to study Organizational Communications and Political Science. I started attending DuBois Center during Just You and Me camp in 2009 with my grandma, Nancy. I went to camp every summer until I finished high school. My favorite memory as a camper is tree climbing during High School Week in 2017!

I had the opportunity to become a camp counselor for the Summer 2022 session, and my favorite memory from this summer has to be starting my first campfire alone for my Splash kiddos! My favorite camp activity is, of course, the water mat and anything pertaining to the lake!

In my free time, I enjoy hiking, swimming, photography, and hanging out with friends. As a camp intern, I am most excited about continuing my professional relationship with the Illinois South Conference and working towards making DuBois Center a more welcoming and sustainable organization.

Greetings from the Camp Interns – Meredith Malone

Howdy! My name is Meredith Malone, or better known as Buckle by my DuBois family. I grew up in Lebanon, Illinois, with my childhood cat, Hershey. Outside of camp, I am finishing my degree in early childhood education. In my spare time, I like to go bother the horses, asking for hugs and selfies!

As a summer camp counselor, I got to spend every week on Rustic Camp with the horse campers, so I immediately fell in love with the barn. Riding horses on the Turtle Cove trail is my absolute favorite activity! One of my favorite memories from this summer was during a creek walk; I did not plan on getting my feet wet in the creek, but my campers were so encouraging! I got in and we explored the creek, looking for shale and small fish. Out of nowhere, I heard a small group of campers say, “ON THREE!” Without knowing the plan, the whole group counted, “one… two… three!” Everyone plopped in the creek at the exact same time; it was so funny! The laughter and joy was astounding! We could not believe that we all managed to read each other’s minds. The small moments, like these, make camp so, so special.

As a Camp Intern, one of the things I’m most excited about, is getting to join all DuBois Center committees! I love participating and learning about all of the hard work that gets put into camp, while also happy to see it bring others together.

I am ecstatic to have the opportunity to share my love of camp with people. I have always called DuBois Center my Home. Every year, I am always welcomed with open arms and accepted for who I am. I can’t wait to share the love this place has to offer.

Join the Fun – Camp Fare Dinner & Groundbreaking Celebration

On September 17, 2022, you can be a part of celebrating the groundbreaking for Hillside Cottage and taste some of DuBois Center’s favorite camp foods. Food will begin to be offered at 11 am using a fun menu of camper favorites. Then at 2 pm, everyone will have the opportunity to turn a shovel of dirt for DuBois’ new Hillside Cottage (Photo is its future home location).

Come and eat, walk the grounds, and/or groom the horses. The event is free but donations will be accepted on the day of the event for the meal. Please RSVP by September 12 to jriechmann@iscucc.org, so we can plan for food. See more.

Hay is for Horses

On Friday afternoon, DuBois Center staff and volunteers worked along with a local farmer to bale some of the hay from our fields into square bales for our horses. In about three hours, the group baled, loaded, unloaded and stored 369 square bales. About a third of the bales were sent up our new (to us) hay elevator into the barn. The rest has been stored in the hay shed. Using our own square bales to feed the horses in the barn is healthier and saves us money.

Great thanks to Tom Karhoff for coordinating the cutting and baling of the hay. Thanks to Josh Meredith for working with the baler to load all those bales onto wagons. And thanks to the rest of the staff and volunteers who helped to unload and store the hay.

Photo above (l to r) Rylee Hodges-Stone, Sharon Murphy, Sandy Kuether, Scott Kuether

Group photo below (l to r): Meredith Malone, Mary Wagner, Tom Krueger, Tom Kahrhoff, Rylee Hodges-Stone, Josh Meredith, Jonathan Copple.

Larry Reeble also helped out, but didn’t end up in any of the photos. Thanks to all.

Camp Fare Dinner & Groundbreaking Celebration

On September 17, 2022, you can be a part of celebrating the groundbreaking for Hillside Cottage and taste some of DuBois Center’s favorite camp foods. Food will begin to be offered at 11 am using a fun menu of camper favorites. Then at 2 pm, everyone will have the opportunity to turn a shovel of dirt for DuBois’ new Hillside Cottage. Come and eat, walk the grounds, and/or groom the horses. The event is free but donations will be accepted on the day of the event for the meal.

Please RSVP by September 12 to jriechmann@iscucc.org, so we can plan for food.

New (to us) Hay Elevator for the Barn

The hay elevator at the barn isn’t used weekly or even monthly. But when we need to load hundreds of bales of hay into the hay loft it is invaluable. Our old hay elevator had been on its last leg for a while – rotting tires, rusting supports, broken gears, etc. Our wonderful maintenance staff nursed it along for close to a decade. By the Fall of 2020, we decided it was time to look for a replacement before it fell apart completely.

Steve McClay from our Outdoor Ministries Team offered to help us with the search. He monitored auctions and in February of 2021 found a used elevator that might work. Unfortunately, we were outbid this time around. Another possibility was found in July 2021, but it would have needed too many repairs. This February, Steve won the bidding on a used hay elevator for camp!

There is even more good news. Steve spoke with his church council, and they agreed to cover the cost (over $800) of the hay elevator and donate it to camp. Many thanks to Steve for his dedication and perseverance and to the members of Addieville Zion UCC for their support for DuBois Center!

Reflecting on Outdoor Ministry

As a member of the Outdoor Ministry Association of the UCC’s board of directors, I had an opportunity to travel to Tower Hill Camp and Retreat Center last week for our annual board meeting. As a person responsible for creating inclusive camp communities, sometimes, I forget how transformational it is to be a part of such a community. Often, those of us who have gone into this work in a year-round or full time capacity don’t get to experience the magical moments that camp creates. As we reflected together on what makes camping ministry transformational and relevant, I got to experience many moments that reminded me of the sacredness of this work and the importance of belonging. And, I was reminded once more how the people of Illinois South Conference have taken part in many big ways in preserving and extending this vital ministry. To name a few:

  1. After COVID-19 shut down camp for more than a year, the people of Illinois South and our Outdoor Ministry Team worked tirelessly with me last year to get to a place where we could reopen for our summer camping season.
  2. We have raised more than $165,000 toward our $225,000 goal for DuBois 6.0. At a time when many churches are choosing not to invest in their camps, we are fixing deferred maintenance, adding capacity, and increasing programming offerings.
  3. Our teams have worked tirelessly to write new health center policies to ensure full compliance with camp standards and best practices.
  4. Each day, we work collectively to build more inclusive practices. We are actively living into our commitments of hospitality, welcome, and inclusion as UCCers.

It is a gift to be a part of a team that sees the value in camping ministry. Thank you for all of the ways you stay involved with DuBois Center and the work of the wider church.

Hayley Elliott, Acting Director of Outdoor Ministry

An Invitation to Volunteer

Many of you have known me my whole life, but allow me to introduce myself. I’m Rylee Hodges-Stone and I grew up at DuBois Center. I’m now serving as Program Director and I’ve spent the off-season months reevaluating, revamping and creating programs. We’re now offering updated versions of popular middle-school specialty camps for high school age campers, we’re bringing some beloved camp themes back out of retirement, and we’re finding every way we can to better utilize our magnificent site with every activity.

Here is a picture of me at DuBois Center as a brand-new half-week camper. I was granted special exception to attend camp a year earlier than my grade level would allow. I begged my pastor, the late Gretchen Sterrett of New Baden Zion UCC, to write a letter explaining that I was the oldest kid in my class, and that I was certainly “mature enough to go.” She cut a deal with me: if I would work the chili and fish dinners to earn my camp scholarship, she’d get me in. I kept up my end of the deal, serving lemonade and helping with dishes at what must have been ten thousand dinners, and she kept up her end and got me into my home, The DuBois Center, just in the nick of time.

From deal-cutting half-weeker to dedicated horse camper to barn assistant to coordinator and now to Program Director, I’ve never lost my drive to serve all the lemonade it takes to get the job done. In this new position of management, I’ve created a goal for my staff: to better utilize staff training time, with a clear focus on establishing relationships, creating a strong love for DuBois Center and learning how to work as a team. This time needs to be spent fully devoted to certifying our staff on the key skills that are required every day of summer session. It’s crucial that we spend this limited time facilitating our staff’s familiarization with the site, the equipment, the job and the team – and maintain the flexibility to adapt to our diverse staff’s needs.

Even after this densely packed training ends, for seven weeks straight our staff members spend an average of 130 of the 168 hours in a week at DuBois Center. This leaves less than 48 hours for all personal needs to be met between sessions – this is a huge ask of every summer staff member and we owe it to them to do all we can to set them up for success. Our staff deserves excellent support because they work hard to create excellent experiences for our campers: summer camp is often the best week of a camper’s entire year.

2020 was not only our first year out of operation in decades, it also marked the departure of Shirley Asmussen, the long-serving director I had known as a camper. With all the chaos, it’s no wonder that many tasks have piled up – and they have piled up higher than our staff can handle without your help. Our summer staff arrive ready to fully commit to facilitating a safe and fun experience for each and every DuBois Center camper – your assistance with these tasks in the coming months means directly supporting our staff’s ability to keep their attention focused on the campers. I am asking for your help. Volunteer assistance with site preparation is needed before we can open for the 2022 Summer Session. 

I’ve scheduled a volunteer day and a volunteer retreat for the spring of 2022:

  • April 23rd – Volunteer Day
  • May 21st – 22nd – overnight Volunteer Retreat

All of the work can be done at an entry-level skill set, no special expertise or tools necessary – if you can push a broom, pull a weed, or dust a cobweb, we need your help! Ready to pitch in?

I love DuBois Center. I loved being a camper, and it means the world to me to be able to welcome new generations of campers, and even second and third generation campers back to our camp for fun, adventure, worship, and growth. We all need each other, and right now we need you. DuBois Center is so unique among area camp facilities for its strong legacy of families, communities and congregations working together to “pay it forward” and keep our doors and arms open.

I invite you to remind yourself why DuBois Center is a part of your life, to be in God’s place and help set up another generation of great camper experiences. Anyone that wants to help DuBois Center is welcome.

Best, DuBois Center Program Director, Rylee Hodges-Stone

Our prayer for 2022

God of Creation,

In this new year we pray that optimism and hope springs forth from winter’s quiet evenings.

We look forward to the laughter of children that is to come on our grounds this year. We look forward to fellowship, discipleship, simplicity, and community.

We pray for Your guidance as we endeavor on new efforts and navigate change.

We also understand the truth written by Meister Eckhart long ago: “God is not found in the soul by adding anything but by subtracting.” May we all find You in a distractible world by taking the time to subtract – distractions, egos, and all that stands in the way of knowing and loving You, and knowing and loving our neighbors on Your earth.

We seek to serve You and to serve others well.

And we pray for all those who come into contact with our ministry this year. May they see You in our work and in our hearts. Amen.