By Lanell Downs Smith
Correspondent, The Alabama Baptist
This fall Limestone County community members enjoyed a pumpkin patch at Camp Helen, creating new memories and carrying on the Limestone Baptist Association’s tradition of ministry through its 32-acre camp in Harvest.
Looking for a way to connect with area residents and to create revenue for the camp, association leaders envisioned hosting a pumpkin patch on a spot once used for softball fields. A local supplier provided the pumpkins and volunteers helped prepare the site.
The pumpkin patch opened the last Saturday in September and the first two weekends in October, with private bookings throughout October. Local patrons enjoyed hayrides and photo opportunities with the association’s 1978-model fire truck.
Kevin Ward, Limestone Association associational missions director (AMD), said the camp provided a distinctly “gospel-focused pumpkin patch” with Scripture passages posted around the camp.
Camp Helen began in 1961 when Helen Balch donated the land to the association. Today the camp boasts accommodations for 60 campers with a kitchen, fellowship hall, pavilion, basketball and volleyball courts, a 100-foot slip-and-slide, a double-decker hammock station, fire pits and a new pool.
Ward said many area residents have childhood memories of visiting Camp Helen in the 1970s and 1980s.
It was the site of the association’s Royal Ambassadors and Girls in Action camps and it hosted camping weekends, fish fries and church league softball.
But camp usage begun to decline. When Ward became AMD in 2015 he proposed plans to revitalize the camp.
The association’s offices were moved to the camp to streamline expenses.
The sale of the association’s office building near downtown Athens provided funds to renovate the camp.
Since then the association has rebranded the camp and renovated facilities to give them a more modern feel.
The camp has hosted family reunions, birthday parties, church functions, a 5K run and even a band camp.
Ward said the association’s churches considered the camp a valuable asset so they set about making it a central point of ministry.
“We try to figure out what our niche is to connect with churches,” Ward said. “It’s about things we need to do in the community and beyond. The camp has become an important tool for us.”
The pumpkin patch generated interest in Camp Helen and the camp is almost completely booked on weekends from spring through the fall of 2020, Ward said.
“We are trying to create new memories and reconnect with a new generation. It’s an opportunity for a new generation to connect with God and to have some great spiritual experiences on a property where our older folks had those same kinds of experiences.”
To learn more about Camp Helen, visit www.limestonebaptist.org.