In the late 1920s, James Ramsey, owner of a department store in Edmonton, donated $300 to Reverend Pike to purchase a piece of property on Lake Wabamun for Bissell Centre to send inner-city people of all ages for respite – they called it Fresh Air Camp. Since then, the United Church has owned the land and Bissell Centre has been sending people in poverty to the camp to enjoy new experiences, get away from the stress of a life in poverty, and build healthy relationships with adults and families.
Last year and the year before, I closed the camp while Bissell Centre developed its go-forward strategic plan to eliminate poverty and homelessness. Truth is the traditional camp model was too expensive to operate. It cost $250,000 to operate camps over the summer months for 200-300 people. There was little funding for it and the pressures on our fundraising were already great.
Over this time we have been working on the transformation of Moonlight Bay into a retreat centre – a place that individuals, organizations, and communities can go to engage in learning, planning, symposiums, workshops as well as life events like weddings and family reunions. We are in the process of renovating Moonlight Bay and will have all the cabins done shortly. Capital funding has been provided by the Edmonton Community Foundation and by the Government of Alberta’s CFAP fund. These funds will help Bissell Centre turn Moonlight Bay into a year round facility.
What are we doing is finding new ways to fund camps for low income families and kids – through revenues from rentals of our facilities, corporate sponsorships of camps and of Moonlight Bay in general, as well as donations from people who understand the importance and often life-changing experience of camps. In other words, whatever revenues we make will be turned right over to holding camps and recreational activities for our families and kids.
Technically, this is called a social enterprise. But realistically this is about Bissell Centre’s commitment to do what it takes to ensure our families have this resource. As many of you know this year’s Bissellebration event focused on raising money for Moonlight Bay Centre. While the final results are still being tabulated, I already can tell you that one of our auction items raised $20,000 for camps this year!
I encourage you to consider using Moonlight Bay for your next retreat or family gathering. Check out the retreat ideas above and take a moment to visit the Moonlight Bay Centre website.
Corporations and other groups interested in sponsoring camps for low income families, please contact us at 780.423.2285