Off to camp: Upward Bound’s new camp at former Gates school opens in March

January, 2015 Posted in Community
Upward Bound will put the former Gates Elementary School to new uses when it opens Gates Camp-US

Upward Bound will put the former Gates Elementary School to new uses when it opens Gates Camp-US

By Mary Owen

Upward Bound Camp’s Camp-US is opening soon!

UBC’s recent purchase and renovation of Gates Elementary School will extend services two-fold for people with developmental disabilities.

Upward Bound Camp is a private, not-for-profit, camp accredited by the American Camp Association. UBC is approved by the Oregon Department of Human Services to serve persons with developmental disabilities of nearly all ages.

“First, we intend to provide day camp programming for our medically fragile and aging population,” said Laura Pierce, who operates Upward Bound on the North Fork in Lyons. “This group would bring their nurse or attendant with them, and we would then provide all the support services necessary for them to experience ‘camp.’”

Much closer to emergency services, the Gates facility, purchased from the Santiam Canyon School District, is being renovated to allow private areas for hygiene and medical care needs while participants enjoy recreation and relaxation outdoors.

“This is a great option for a population that is often stuck at home or limited to taking field trips to the shopping mall for entertainment,” she added. Day camp is slated to open this spring.

“The second demographic UBC is focusing on is the group of people who have or are recently graduated or left high school but have not been gainfully employed, not presently in an academic program, and have not found  independent living situations in the community,” Pierce said.

“These are folks that have minimal academic skills and will not likely ever obtain a driver’s license, but have the abilities and social needs similar to their peers.”

According to Pierce, the Gates Camp-US will offer programs directed at life skills, including health and fitness, stress management, home economics, prevocational explorations, fine arts, horticulture and landscaping, food service, and personal safety awareness such as risk management, first aid, and how to handle bullies.

“All the teaching will occur in a naturally fun hands-on atmosphere within the context of multiple recreational activities,” Pierce said. “The core syllabus is full of options, and ideas are growing as the number of volunteer teachers come forward with their unique skills.

“The general idea of the program is to meet the needs of folks transitioning from a protected home environment to a larger world community,” she added.

“We will be working in partnerships with other agencies as well as Voc Rehab to identify and place people in meaningful employment suited to their talents, and interests.

Each 21-day session will have a central theme focus but reinforce the same basic self-help skills, Pierce said.

“At the end of each session, a showcase of the learning experience will be open to the public,” she said. “These will include a theater production, open house, art show and community dinner in which Camp-US participants show off their talents and skills.”

The first session of 16-20 participants ages 21-40 is slated for March 2015.

“Upward Bound has been successfully fundraising for the new program, but more funds are needed,” Pierce said. “It costs a lot to operate a quality program like this. Many of the buildings have had costly deferred maintenance and funds are needed to pay for a massive roofing project and other repairs that had to be completed before winter.

“We are confident that the necessary support will come,” she added. “God has always been faithful to send the right people at the right time with the right resources.”

Pierce assures UBC’s offerings will not be compromised with the expansion to the Gates Elementary.

“Our present facility on the North Fork will continue to service children and adults, even seniors, with special needs,” Pierce said. “As a recreational camp and a place for respite, it is an essential element to the lives of those who come. It is their vacation resort. There are campers that have attended for 35 years without missing a season. All people need places to belong and to be themselves, to play in and pray in.” Left vacant when SCSD closed the school in 2012 due to budget cuts, buildings fell into disrepair and begged for a new purposing.

“It has been great to work with the Santiam Canyon School District and Superintendent Todd Miller,” Pierce said. It took quite a while to get details worked out for the purchase, but both the district and UBC have kept the focus of creating a new opportunity for the community while conserving valuable resources.

UBC plans to open the new campus for use by outdoor schools, youth groups, corporate and civic organizations, and “even partner with Special Olympics,” Pierce said.

“We are looking for individual volunteers, civic and church groups to help ready the grounds and the site, volunteers with skills to share with campus participants, and volunteers to help fundraise,” she said. “We also need donations of good furniture, household items, and exercise equipment.”

All donations go to the project and are tax-deductible, Pierce added.

“Upward Bound celebrates both organizationally and individually the notion that every life has a purpose and is created uniquely to bring glory to the Creator,” she added. “Everything we do here is rooted in that principal that everyone has potential, has something to give, and is immensely valuable. At whatever level someone is involved at Upward Bound, it doesn’t take long to realize you can do so much more than you ever dreamed, and you can make dreams come true for others. If you have an ounce of passion to serve we will help you discover more talents than you knew you had.”

To donate or volunteer, visit www.upwardboundcamp.org. On the website are newsletters, stories and more information about coming events including Christmas Camp for those without family to celebrate Christmas with.

To raise funds for these activities, Upward Bound will sell Christmas trees Dec. 1-22 at the Stayton office on the corner of Marion and Third. UBC chaplain Jerry Pierce will be on hand to provide Christmas greetings from Santa, cookies and warm cider.

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