Six months after the Caldor Fire ripped through its property, Leoni Meadows Camp and Retreat Center in Grizzly Flats, California, United States, is getting back on its feet with the help of 141 friends.
From April 7 to 21, 2022, Maranatha Volunteers International held a mission project at the camp to help with recovery and reconstruction efforts.
“It’s nuts. I mean, I made a list of like 4,000 things for them to do,” Craig Heinrich, executive director of Leoni Meadows, said, “and Maranatha got here and about one day into it, they wanted to know if there were more jobs to do because they had already pretty much gotten the ones I had given them.”
Heinrich may have been exaggerating about the 4,000 items, but the 141 volunteers who came through camp did accomplish a long list of tasks, such as clearing debris, splitting felled trees, repairing the railroad track, rebuilding the amphitheater, and constructing decks, pump houses, and sheds. At the main lodge, which suffered smoke damage, volunteers installed new vanities, painted all the rooms, scrubbed walls and windows, cleaned furniture, and washed linens — an estimated 130 loads of laundry.
While most of the volunteers came from California, several were from out of state and from as far away as Tennessee. The project welcomed groups from the Redding Seventh-day Adventist Church and Capitol City Seventh-day Adventist Church, both in California. Monterey Bay Academy, also in California, brought 54 students and staff to help over a weekend.
For volunteer Ron Gaudrealt, from Grass Valley, California, the work was personal. “My grandkids went to camp here. One of my daughters went to camp here.… I’ve come to men’s retreats, so it holds just a very special place in our hearts,” he said. “So, when we heard that this project was happening, we had to sign up.”
Now, thanks to the work of Maranatha volunteers, Heinrich said, he’s expecting the camp to open for the summer 2022 season.
“This project came together because Maranatha has the skill set to bring volunteers in and do really profitable, very appropriate projects at camp. We can’t have camp without certain things running, and so much of that needed to be rebuilt for us to have camp,” Heinrich said. “I knew that Maranatha, A, had the expertise, but B, they had the people power to put us back in the running for ministry at camp.”
Each year, Maranatha works with organizations in the United States and Canada to provide volunteer labor for various construction or renovation projects at summer camps and retreat centers, schools, and churches. Work ranges from renovations of existing buildings to new construction and saves thousands of dollars in labor costs.