While most of Camp Arnes will be closed to the public this summer, the director is sharing some amazing things she's witnessed over the past year.
Audrey Hicks is the current acting Executive Director of Camp Arnes, located one hour north of Winnipeg.
"The decision got made that realistically, we're probably better to go into somewhat of a shutdown mode and lay off some staff," says Hicks.
Instead of running day camps out of their facility, Camp Arnes will be offering campers day camps out of Elm Wood Mennonite Brethren Church in Winnipeg this summer. They will offer a five-day day camp.
"We're bringing in the activities that they are familiar with that we're able to transport. We're also introducing new activities and we'll really focus on sharing the gospel with the kids."
Last year the camp didn't bring in speakers but in 2021 they'll bring specific people to speak to the kids as they do during a normal year.
As for the Camp Arnes location, Hicks says, "We are still going to keep our campground open. Because we weren't able to run FORGE, the year-long leadership program, we've been renting this cabin out all year and we'll continue to do so."
Hicks says the support from donors has blown her and the board away, allowing the camp to stay open.
"We have had amazing support, beyond our wildest dreams that have kept us going throughout this year."
Initially, the government of Manitoba made the announcement that they would give summer camps an outline of what they could offer campers by April 1. Then, the government said they simply couldn't given the new variant.
"Our fixed costs for this facility are really high because of the fact that we're a year-round facility. We have 50 buildings on the land."
Unlike other camps, Arnes has to keep the water on and have it tested throughout the year as they are on a public drinking water system, which adds to those costs. But all the funds needed were raised through generous donations.
"God's hand has just been... I don't know how to explain it. It's not just financial support as people who used to be a part of camp but not had much to do, all of sudden they're coming back. It's brought people back. Cottagers who live on-site, volunteered their time and services last year, the one guy mowed the lawn, I don't know how many hours he put in."
The board and staff also used this time to fix things around the property.
"We haven't had the finances to do major things but we've been able to paint. Even the paint store we buy paint from gave us a huge discount."
The downtime has also allowed Hicks to slow down enough to review practices and ask herself what the next few years will look like.
"This has given us time for conversations to start happening again. Like, have we strayed away from our initial purposes? How do we make sure that we are a camp that is focused on the gospel and sharing that gospel with the people who come through our doors."
Hicks says that all-in-all, many good things are happening for Camp Arnes, despite all the restrictions from COVID.