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New administrator always 'comfortable' at retreat

July 07, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

While Ann Cornell's first contact with Shepherd's Spring Outdoor Ministry Center came during the construction phase in 1989, her focus now is on programs and philosophy as she settles in as the new administrator of the 200-acre retreat.

"My husband and I have a construction company and we helped build the center," Cornell said. Harold "Junior" Cornell's company is Cornell Construction Co. in Frederick County, Md.

From that first year, Cornell was an enthusiastic participant in the programming for the unique ministry located off Taylors Landing Road.

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"I was a volunteer and then a camp counselor and camp director back before there were any buildings here," she said.

Put simply, the purpose of Shepherd's Spring is to help children and adults find God in his creation, Cornell said.

"Our theme this year is 'Under God's Roof' and we are exploring how we build our lives around God with our friends and family," Cornell said. "We are also learning how better to care for the Earth."

Owned and operated by the Mid-Atlantic District of the Church of the Brethren, Shepherd's Spring seeks to provide a variety of settings where people can grow in their relationship to God.

A total of 64 congregations of the Church of the Brethren in Maryland and parts of Pennsylvania and West Virginia lend their support to the retreat and to another similar camp, Camp Mardela, in Denton, Md.

Donations are a major source of income, along with an annual golf tournament and rental income from outside groups. There also is an endowment fund set up to ensure that no camper is turned away for financial reasons, Cornell said.

"We have church-related groups in here, some weddings and family reunions," Cornell said. There have been high school groups from Virginia and Jewish group retreats.

"And then, five or six times a year, Georgetown University brings groups of students here," Cornell said. "They call these events 'Escapes' so young people can learn to live away from home and be on their own."

Each week during the summer, there are events for different age groups centered at the lodge, dining hall, seven cabins, pool, pool house and a wide variety of outdoor venues at the secluded site.

"This week we have 27 girls ranging from third to fifth grade staying in the cabins with volunteers directing the activities," Cornell said. There is also Grand Camp, an opportunity for grandparents to come with their grandchildren for their first taste of camping out.

A young camper was leaving for home with her grandmother and Cornell took time out to hug the youngster - something she tries to do with all the campers.

"I have always felt very comfortable here ... as a volunteer, as a counselor, as the cook, the food service director," Cornell said. "And now as administrator."

Volunteers continue to be the backbone of the operation, including the staff of six to 14 college students who come in each summer and live at the site.

The cabins each have restrooms with toilets, bunk beds, electricity and ceiling fans.

While summer is the key time for activities, there are several spring and fall events, and more are being planned each year.

"We are going to try a leaf walk in September and October which will combine Bible study with nature," Cornell said.

A women's rubber-stamp camp has been scheduled for Sept. 26 and 27, and other events are in the works.

Cornell, 47, and her husband have three grown children and are anticipating the birth of their first grandchild in November.

For more information on Shepherd's Spring, call 301-223-8193.

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