by Sam Sentelle
Posted on May 15, 2018
Opportunity to fix a broken community – Camp Appalachia
May 15, 2018
“I have been working for the YMCA for the past ten years,” Jared Davis told Putnam Rotarians today. Davis also wears other hats as a youth pastor for Church at the Depot, and as a volunteer firefighter.
“I deal with kids,” he said. “I deal with adults. I had a summer camp kid on Tuesday. Hung out with him all day doing summer camp stuff. I work the night shift at the fire department. That evening his father overdosed. We couldn’t get him back. I had that same kid at summer camp the next day.
“We run as many overdoses in $500,000 houses as we do for [subsidized apartments],” he added.
“We have a significant problem with opioid abuse. We have a broken community.
“There are societal issues that I cannot fix. I don’t have all the answers to fight the opioid crisis,” he said. “But what I do have is the ability to impact the lives and change the lives of the kids affected by it.
“Everyone, both adults, and children, needs a sense of community to thrive,” he continued, quoting early education philosopher Erik Erickson.
“A kid born into a house that abuses drugs has a short supply of choices,” Davis said. “Sexual abuse, physical abuse — that’s what they know as normal.
“A child who is six years old and assaulted every night since they’ve been alive, they don’t know that everybody is not that way.”
With his determination and experience, Davis has now taken on additional duties to make a difference. The Church at the Depot has purchased the former Camp Happy Valley off South Poplar Fork, and Jared Davis has moved into a permanent residence on its 156 acres as the Camp Director.
“The camp is not religiously affiliated,” Davis insisted. “We’re not going to be pushing a lot of religious things until we show you who Jesus is.
“The Bible says, ‘They will know you”re my disciples by your love.’ We are meeting basic needs and showing them they are loved and cared for and worth spending time with.”
The former Salvation Army camp, under new management and operation as Camp Appalachia, includes a lake for fishing, swimming, and boating. There are ten resident cabins on site and a dining hall.
The new Camp Appalachia has been licensed to serve 144 campers in residence and 150-day campers.
“We have a unique opportunity in Teays Valley,” said Director Davis, “because this is one of the more affluent areas in our state. . . . Our target for Camp Appalachia is Putnam County and five surrounding counties,” he added.
“We have 78 Title I schools (receiving special funding based on family income) that surround us. That’s 20 percent of the state’s Title I schools, and that’s 11 percent of the counties in the state.
“Our mission is to be involved with the community to identify a need and to partner with people who can help to fix the needs. I have seen many houses where there is a parent making horrible, destructive choices. And there’s a kid standing in the corner watching it happen.
“People come in. People leave. There’s no follow up. There’s no way to go in and make a lasting impact. You them a lesson. They pass a test, and they’re done.
“But, you give them experience and they remember it for a lifetime. . . . We’re giving recreational experiences that will help shape these kids and break generational cycles of destructive choices.
“We’ll have a consistent culture building these kids up. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of behavior, we focus on the positive attributes of good decisions.
“Instead of focusing on what that child has done poorly, we want to encourage good things.
“We have not only the opportunity, but the mandate, to come in and help reteach them what a normal community looks like, and what a normal functional adult acts like. And perhaps we can move toward a society that is not as crazy as we are now.
“But this camp is not just to serve at-risk kids,” Davis added. “We’re partnering with the [Department of Natural Resources] to do outdoor education for every Putnam County school. Every kid in our schools gets a chance to come to our camp and learn about ecosystems, wildlife, archery, safe outdoor skills and survival skills.
“For this summer, we have only day camp. We need recreational things. Tables, cups, napkins. We need an ice machine.”
Building materials are needed to repair the cabins. “We need plywood and singles to fix roofs. Concrete. A tractor would change my life.
“I want your support. I want your services,” said Director Davis. “And I’ll settle for anything you’ll give me.”