Unlucky weather cancels dinner at Camp Joy El

December 31, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

GREENCASTLE, Pa. -- Old Man Winter prevented about 230 area residents from "eating in your luck" Thursday at Camp Joy El, which has been carrying on the Pennsylvania tradition of eating pork and sauerkraut to ring in the new year for more than 30 years.

The tradition, popular among the Keystone State's German population, involves the belief that eating pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day brings good luck throughout the new year.

Thursday's dinner in the camp's large dining room was canceled because of the wintry weather, said Michelle Lackey, development coordinator for Camp Joy El Ministries.

The event was called off before cooking began Thursday morning, so there was no wasted food, Lackey said.

The ministries' name comes from El, the Hebrew name for God, Lackey said.

"They just put Joy in front of it," she said.

The camp off Pa. 995 about eight miles north of Greencastle opened in 1974. The idea for it stemmed from the need for a summer camp to reward children participating in Joy El's Released Time Bible Program, Lackey said.


Joy El Ministries, a nondenominational Christian organization, has been sponsoring Released Time in south central Pennsylvania for more than 40 years. Lackey said the law, passed in the 1940s, left it up the states to decide how to enforce it. In Pennsylvania it allows public school students to be "released" from class for designated times each week for Bible study. Students leave the school grounds and usually take their Bible classes in nearby churches.

Lackey said the program is active in 20 Pennsylvania counties. More than 2,680 students in elementary, middle and high school are registered in Joy El's program in Franklin and nine other area counties.

More than 1,000 volunteers work in the program.

Joy El Ministries runs Released Time programs in Hancock and Maugansville elementary schools in Washington County.

Students who memorize 300 Bible versus are eligible to attend Camp Joy El for a week of summer camp.

A leadership training program for students in grades 8 to 12 helps to prepare them to become church leaders.

Joy El Ministries and camp is spread over about 30 acres of what once was farmland off Valley Camp Road. It occupies 10 buildings, including cabins, a chapel and dining, meeting and office space.

The land was donated by the owners of three contiguous farms, Lackey said.

Joy El operates with 17 full-time employees, including administration and maintenance staff. An administrator and coordinators run the Released Time program.

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