Camp Istrouma rebuilds after devastating flood

Ten miles northeast of Baton Rouge, Sandy Creek swelled to capacity when the rain came down in August and spilled onto the grounds of Camp Istrouma, a retreat center and summer camp owned and operated by the United Methodist Church for nearly 60 years. After the floodwaters receded, Program Director Cody Hanken found that every building on the 162-acre property had been touched by water.

Program Director Cody Hanken (L) and Executive Director Eric Hindmon (R) finish preparing for summer season.

Program Director Cody Hanken (L) and Executive Director Eric Hindmon (R) finish preparing for summer season.

Many volunteers pitched in those first few weeks after the flood to quickly return the cabins and dining facility to an operational level so that Camp Istrouma could house rotating groups of flood-recovery volunteers from all over the country. While those workers helped in surrounding communities, the camp continued overhauling its hardest hit buildings and the grounds.
The chapel was completely renovated, inside and out, and lots of work went into both houses that serve the camp’s directors. In fact, when newly appointed Executive Director Eric Hindmon arrived with his wife Andrea and their two young children in January, the family lived in one of the small cabins while the house designated for them was restored.

“Our focus is on having fun outside with swimming and other activities. We don’t have to go on field trips because we have everything here.”

“It was like a really tiny home, especially with an infant,” joked Hindmon, “but it was a good experience.”
Originally from Georgia, Hindmon has previously served at camps in Virginia, Georgia, Indiana, and most recently Blue Lake United Methodist Camp in south Alabama. He’s no stranger to hot, humid summers and looks forward to continuing Camp Istrouma’s mission: “Developing Disciples, Forming Friendships, and Impacting Lives Forever.”

 Camp Istrouma’s chapel was completely renovated--inside and out--after flooding.


Camp Istrouma’s chapel was completely renovated–inside and out–after flooding.

Camp staff is completing the final recovery efforts and gearing up for a busy summer season filled with hundreds of campers. Over the last several years, Camp Istrouma has introduced “progressive programming” and expanded its offerings to help campers step their way up to a week-long overnight camp. Day Camp, now in its fourth year, is available Monday through Thursday for campers entering 1st through 6th grades in the fall. Lunch and snacks are provided at no additional costs, saving parents the hassle of putting together lunchboxes each morning. The campers can participate in many of the same activities enjoyed by overnight campers. Early drop-off and late pickup are available.
“We’re a lot different than most daycares and camps,” said Hanken, “because our focus is on having fun outside with swimming and other activities. We don’t have to go on field trips because we have everything here.”

The lake at Camp Istrouma is the site of many fun summer activities for campers.

The lake at Camp Istrouma is the site of many fun summer activities for campers.

This year Camp Istrouma is offering Camp Getaway, a shorter overnight camp for those who might not be ready for a full week away from home. A cost-effective option for families, the shortened version runs two days and two nights for upcoming 2nd – 5th graders. Camp Getaway prepares children for Camp Istrouma’s full overnight camps that run 5 days and 4 nights.
“We want the kids to be comfortable enough to progress from day camp to that overnight program. They can come for a couple of nights to get used to it, and then progress to a full week of summer camp,” said Hindmon.
The week-long overnight camps for those entering 2nd – 12th grades include small group discussion, worship, Bible study, and lessons led by the speaker of the week. Supervised by well-trained staff, all campers can participate in activities like archery, swimming, The Blob (brand new tower structure this year), 100 ft water slide, zip line, gaga ball, hiking, human foosball, climbing wall, paintball, crafts, skits, low ropes, talent shows, canoeing, and field games.
Camp Istrouma has also added the Leadership In Training Experience (LITE) program designed for 14- to 18-year-olds to spend time serving at camp while learning leadership skills by shadowing senior staff. These campers work hard, minister to campers, and learn how to be a servant through a variety of camp duties.

Details:

Camp Istrouma Christian Retreat Center and Summer Camp, 25975 Greenwell Springs Rd., Greenwell Springs, LA 70739; 225-261-2089; www.campistrouma.com; Facebook: Camp Istrouma.

Hindmon noted that the number of registered campers so far this year is about average. “I think what that is really telling us is that the folks around here are resilient and wanting to press forward.”
In addition to summer camps, Camp Istrouma hosts retreats and events all year long in a serene setting with trained staff. Previous groups have rented the space for business meetings, school field trips, anniversary/birthday parties, weekend retreats, and church picnics. Interested organizations can request a quote on the website or by phone.