Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 17, 2006
Funding dogs Camp Encounter
Fr. Mike Mireau offers logical reasons as to why groups and people should contribute
- photo supplied
Fr. Mike Mireau gets ready for a dunking at parish fundraiser
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Lac la Nonne
Father Michael Mireau would do anything for Camp Encounter, even if it means putting aside his moral preferences.
Reaction to his article published in the June 5 WCR revealing that Camp Encounter is going broke, has been anything but timid. The newspaper has received letters from readers angered to learn the Edmonton Archdiocese's jewel for youth formation is tarnished from a lack of funding.
Despite the fact more young people enjoy it every year, the camp at Lac la Nonne west of Edmonton is only marginally able to stay afloat. The reason why does not make Mireau proud.
"We rely on bingos and casinos to make up the deficit. Without them, we would have to close tomorrow," said Mireau, pastor of St. Michael Parish in Leduc. "We are not terribly happy that we are dependent on them."
Total expenses for 2005 were $305,607.
Typically, about 25 per cent of Camp Encounter's annual revenue comes from bingos and casinos. Another 15 per cent comes from donations, Mireau said.
Obviously, if the amount of revenue from gaming is to be lowered or eliminated, as is the desire of the Alberta bishops, funding from donations and other sources will have to increase substantially.
Mireau said the camp would prefer to be independent of that form of revenue. But at the moment, doing so would bring the operation to a halt.
"We are drastically underfunded," Mireau said. "We do not get support specifically from the parishes. We do have some very generous donors but not enough of them."
A few years ago, the camp received small grants from the archdiocese to assist in its day-to-day operations. The camp has a line of credit with the archdiocese and, on occasion, it has received loans on the understanding they would be repaid within six months. The loans were to cover salaries and bills during the slower winter months.
Mireau says the problem is compounded by the improvements required to maintain the camp in a safe and efficient manner for the long term.
As well, casino licences are granted only every two years. To make up the difference for this year, the camp has to nearly triple the amount of donations to balance the budget.
Wayne Provencal, archdiocesan business administrator, says there is no specific plan to increase funding.
"The archdiocese has provided loans from time to time and repayment is arranged," Provencal said. "I have not been a part of it, but I know there has been a lot of discussion amongst the priests. They are trying to find a way of making it work."
Although the camp is owned and operated by the archdiocese, Mireau believes it should not be the revenue provider. Because it is an asset for parishes, schools and community groups, he would like to see more funding come from them.
"I think more money should come from schools over and above what we charge them, because the school programming is for them."
Mireau has appealed to the archdiocese's Council of Priests to come up with a fixed amount of money per capita to donate to the camp on a regular basis. At St. Michael's, the parish held a picnic the last weekend of June that raised some $3,000 for Camp Encounter. The highlight of the event came when Mireau climbed into the dunk tank.
"The support was tremendous. If even a quarter of that amount was raised by the other parishes in the archdiocese, then I think our problems would be over," Mireau said.
The camp is in need of a new septic field, a mess hall, a renovated recreation hall and improved green space. Mireau estimates the cost of these future projects at more than $500,000.
"And that is over and above our annual operating costs," he said.
Mireau has been involved with Camp Encounter for 14 years. He currently is chairman of the board.
The commitment the archdiocese has made to youth ministry is vital and commendable, but it does not come free. People have to pay for it, Mireau said.
"We offer a service to the youth of the archdiocese that works. A number of initiatives have been attempted recently that have not borne fruit because youth ministry is very difficult," he said. "People are thinking the other guy should pay for it. As a result, no one is paying for it."
Mireau says the Edmonton Archdiocese is the people of the archdiocese and that is ultimately where the support must come from.
"It will be the people who decide whether or not Camp Encounter continues. That's the bottom line."
Donations can be made to Camp Encounter, RR #1, Site 21, Box 4, Gunn, AB, T0E 1A0.
Information about the camp can be found at www.campencounter.com.