Family Endowment Blesses North Georgia Camp & Retreat Ministries Campers in Need
The Rev. Dr. D. B. (Dee) Shelnutt Jr. and Mrs. Kandy Jackson Shelnutt recently established the Shelnutt Family Campership Endowment with the Georgia United Methodist Foundation to bless campers in need at North Georgia Camp & Retreat Ministries (NGCRM).
North Georgia Methodists may have first become familiar with NGCRM through their experience at Camp Glisson. The Rev. Fred Glisson, a Methodist minister, was so instrumental in establishing the “Methodist Assembly” near Cane Creek Falls in Dahlonega in the 1920s and 1930s that the youth camp was renamed to honor him.
Today, NGCRM offers a variety of camp and retreat ministry opportunities for members of the North Georgia Conference and beyond. Programs and sites now include the Experiential Leadership Institute, Grow Day Camps, Shoreline Camps, and Glisson Camp & Retreat Center.
While much has changed over the last 90+ years, one thing remains the same: NGCRM plays a transformational role in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ through the camping experience. The Foundation is grateful for NGCRM’s ministry and the ongoing partnership, including loans, institutional investments, and endowments.
The Foundation is also grateful to the Shelnutts for their generosity in establishing this endowment. In this Q&A, Dr. Shelnutt shares the generational impact NGCRM has had on his family and the difference they hope to make in the lives of youth who attend camp.
Q: What inspired your family to establish the Shelnutt Family Campership Endowment with the Foundation?
Dr. Shelnutt: We are United Methodists and always want to use the UMC organizations for our missions. We know the history of the Foundation and trust it completely. Many of the Foundation's leaders are dear friends and people of utmost integrity and highest morals. We have witnessed first-hand the numerous ways the Foundation has helped churches with financial assistance over the years to help expand their ministries. We were especially grateful to have Mathew Pinson (Foundation president and CEO) lead us through the process. He is tops in this field.
Q: Why was it important to your family to provide annual support for camperships in perpetuity for young people through NGCRM?
Dr. Shelnutt: Costs have risen astronomically for just about everything, including camping. Because Camp Glisson is very dear to our hearts, we wanted to help ensure that those who wanted to attend but could not do so because of lack of funds could still be eligible, so they did not miss out on life-changing experiences.
The Rev. Fred Glisson was a friend of my parents, and I grew up knowing him and his passion for camp. My parents invested in Glisson. Along with all of my siblings, I went to camp from Grades 5-12. Our three children went to camp from Grades 4-12, and now our grandchildren attend camp! My brother was the director of Village camp one summer. Our daughter was director of Sparrowwood for a summer, inspiring her to a life of working with special needs children. She and I were also members of NGCRM Board of Directors.
I have performed baptisms, weddings, numerous retreats and been a Theologian-in-Residence. Coming to Camp Glisson just for visits lifts my spirits and refreshes my soul.
Q: What spiritual impact do you anticipate NGCRM will make in the lives of these young people?
Dr. Shelnutt: Camp Glisson offers a holistic approach to spiritual growth: worship, Bible study, singing on the porch, walking the path of silence, creek walks, sleeping under the stars, mountain hikes, time with a living group, and living in a cabin with folks who are encouraged to form a covenant community and being modeled by young adults who are passionate about their walk with Christ. Such a week is packed with affirmation, joy, and love that will enable them to leave the “mountain” and return to the routine of life in a different and new way that allows them to open themselves to the call of God in their lives.
Q: Can you talk about the joy of giving and how it aligns with your roles as disciples of Jesus Christ?
Dr. Shelnutt: As a pastor, I could begin to preach here, so let me be brief. “For God so loved the world that He gave ….” We can never outgive God. God continually creates and makes things new, giving us new life and new ways of loving in a world that often seems to have gone “mad.” One of our parishioners once said, “I am afraid not to give. I might miss something.” Giving without strings allows us to experience “the windows of heaven opening,” as the prophet Malachi said. Giving allows us to be the body of Christ in the world today. True love gives. When we give, we receive much more than the gift given. This has been our experience.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Dr. Shelnutt: This endowment is about helping change the lives of youth today; it’s not about the Shelnutt family. The ONLY reason we allowed the endowment to be known by us was not for our recognition, but to make others aware so that if they choose, they could add to it, enhancing the means so more socioeconomically deprived children can attend camp. We want our children, grandchildren, and generations to come to continue to fund this way of helping the helpless.
When I went to seminary, I went on a full academic scholarship my first year, but at the end of that year, I missed having the scholarship for the second year by .04 of a point! I was devastated. I did not have the financial means to pay for the next two years. I immediately went to work over the summer to save for school, but two weeks before the semester began, I did not have nearly enough to pay when I came home. As I went through my mail, I discovered a letter from Candler School of Theology that told me that a couple had paid for my last two years of seminary. I was overwhelmed!
Interestingly, I did not know this couple but had only heard of them. Needless to say, I was overjoyed, and no words could adequately express my gratitude. Having been given so much in my life, how could I not join in giving back?
NGCRM has given far more to my family and me than words could ever express. It is a joy to begin this endowment so others can experience the joy of a relationship with Christ and serve Him in the world.