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November 5, 2012
Northern-Sun Print
It’s a camp – and so much more! Every Tama County resident who has driven route 30, east of Montour has surely seen the directional sign pointing to Pilgrim Heights Camp and Retreat Center. But, have you ever taken time to visit? If not, there are big surprises waiting for you! One surprise is the natural beauty of the area. A recent visitor to Pilgrim Heights on a nice fall day was left breathless by the full-color beauty of the Iowa hardwoods timber that covers much of the 120 acres. Beyond a grassy central campus, steep hills fall away to a lovely lakeshore, where picturesque cottages invite children, youth, and adults to have fun in a beautiful, natural setting. Another surprise is that there are lots of opportunities for traditional church camping experiences – and so much more! While a full range of traditional camping opportunities continue to be offered, programming at Pilgrim Heights is expanding in new and innovative ways each year. This means, for instance, that Environmental Education Day Camps were held for Kindergarten – 6th Graders, two weeks in 2012. These will be offered again in the summer of 2013, and are open to every child in Tama County and beyond. All volunteers and staff undergo a thorough screening process and are fully trained according to American Camping Association (ACA) guidelines, so that parents who are looking for summer options for their children can be assured the experiences at Pilgrim Heights will be safe and positive in every way. Further, while still remembering and honoring its historic roots, Pilgrim Heights is certainly not limited or bound by those ties. Programs are inclusive and non-sectarian. While there may still be snipe hunts, ghost stories, and songs around the campfire, the days of camping on hard cots and leaky tents are long gone! Beautiful, new facilities are fully accessible, and every effort is made to make sure that every camp or retreat experience is available to all. Some of these surprising changes at Pilgrim Heights began in 2007, with the formation of a new non-profit corporation called “Our Sacred Space, Inc.” Over the next year, ownership and management of the grounds transitioned from the United Church of Christ to the new corporation. Ann Graham, Executive Director, has provided consistent, effective leadership through this process, and continues to lead the new entity in innovative ways. As a good example, it used to be that only on rare occasions would a wedding be held at Pilgrim Heights. In 2012 there will have been 27 weddings / receptions at Pilgrim Heights. These are conducted in the beautiful, new Conference Center facility, in an all-seasons room with huge picture windows overlooking that tree-lined valley. Wedding receptions are held in the same facility, in another large room that can seat up to 250 people. It is an amazing, picture-perfect setting for the bride and groom’s special day! The creation of Our Sacred Space, Inc. opened new opportunities for partnerships with other entities. One such partnership is with the Tama County Community Foundation (TCCF), an affiliate of the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa. A grant awarded by the TCCF in 2011 allowed Our Sacred Spaces, Inc. to finish construction of a 33 x 50 foot conference room in the Conference Center. The room is carpeted, well-lit, and beautiful, with a breathtaking vista through tree-top level picture windows. It is used as a mid-sized conference space where community groups, youth groups, and even corporate groups can hold meetings and retreats. Any organization needing convenient, accessible meeting space should check it out. TCCF is pleased to support the work of Our Sacred Space, Inc. and to encourage the full use of Pilgrim Heights by Tama County residents. People looking for a quiet day away, families seeking a place for reunions or special celebrations, parents needing quality, supervised experiences for their children, and organizations looking for great meeting space should consider a place so close to home, but so full of wonderful surprises! The TCCF is able to assist 501(c)(3) charitable organizations, schools, and governmental entities with grant funding to support important projects and needed programs in Tama County. The Foundation’s main goals are to support charitable projects and programs, to attract additional funds, and to assist donors in creating lasting legacies through a variety of giving options within Tama County. For more information about the TCCF, contact the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa at (319) 287-9106 or Rick Krug, Chair of the Tama County Community Foundation at (319) 478-2148.



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