Holston Presbytery Invites Kids To Come To Summer Camp, Opens in June

Published Wednesday, May 11, 2016 at 2:01 pm

This year the Holston Presbytery Camp and Retreat Center will celebrate its 61st Birthday. “Any business that can remain relevant for 61 years deserves a celebration, and that’s what we plan to do,” said Jim Austin, the Interim Director at Holston Camp.

Holston was conceived in 1955 when members of the Holston Presbytery, which at that time was comprised of 73 churches in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina, sought a location for conference grounds. The Edgar Tufts Memorial Association, a Presbyterian Ministry in Banner Elk, responded by leasing 36 acres of wooded land on Wildcat Lake to the Holston Presbytery for 99 years at a cost of $5. Many members of the Holston Presbytery Churches worked with saws and axes to open the land. In 1957, a road was finally graded and topped with gravel allowing vehicle access and the opportunity to establish a work camp on site.



“The enthusiasm for creating the camp must have been incredible. Men, women and children all pulled together from various churches in Tennessee and North Carolina to make it happen. Clearing the land for building was done without the help of big equipment. Eventually, money was raised for a well, electricity, and furnished cabins. By the summer of 1959, the camp had a sewer system in place, 5 cabins, a bathhouse, a winterized lodge and was ready for occupancy,” Austin said.

The philosophy and mission of the camp remains the same today as it was written in the Minutes of the Sub-Committee on Camp and Conferences, 1957: “…camping should be done in small groups, informally, out-of-doors and in simple housing facilities, with activities, that are different from what can be done at home or in our local church programs. Care should always be taken to instill in each camper a healthy respect for nature, a loving response to the God who has given us this beautiful world, and a personal commitment to the One whom this same God has sent, providing for our spiritual needs as well as our material needs, even Jesus Christ, in whom all life is abundant.”

“We offer the camper an environment for a transforming experience,” Austin explains, “we provide the opportunity for young people to embark on their spiritual path with others in a faith community. We don’t proselytize, we simply try to lead by example and reflect the grace and love of God.”

Austin was hired in June of last year just as summer camp began. He is an employee of the Holston Presbytery and an elder at First Presbyterian Church Elizabethton. He replaced Craig Bell who had been the previous Director for over 20 years.

Austin comes from a diverse background. Most recently he was a Vice President and Director of Marketing at Andrew Johnson Bank headquartered in Greeneville, Tennessee. He also owned and operated his own marketing and advertising agency in Jonesborough, TN. He holds a bachelorette degree from the School of Design at NC State University and an MFA in Studio Arts from UNC-Greensboro. He has two children who attend school in Tennessee.

This year’s summer camp will take older campers on adventures such as hiking the Appalachian Trail, canoeing the New River, caving, and biking on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Younger campers will receive instruction on how to prepare for future adventures by learning skills at the camp. Canoeing, swimming, rock climbing, hiking, nature identification, archery, orienteering, cycling, arts and crafts, team-building, zip-lines, field games, music and worship are all incorporated into daily activities. Day Camp will also feature many of these activities.

Day Camp operates Monday through Friday beginning June 13 through August 12. Resident Camp is offered in weekly sessions from Sunday to Friday beginning June 12 through August 5. Resident camp will not operate the week of July 4. See more details at www.HolstonCenter.org.

Besides offering a summer camp, Holston Retreat Center offers lodging, meeting, and dining facilities for church groups, business retreats, ski groups, family reunions, weddings, and other planned group events.

“Our comfortable lodge can sleep 46, and each of our 6 heated cabins with shared bath facilities and bunk beds sleep 16. We can easily feed 150 in our dining facility and we have AV equipment to accommodate business meetings,” Austin said.

“We would like to reach out to the Banner Elk and Avery County communities to share our resources with them. It is not just for Presbyterians or even religious events. Anyone can enjoy the outdoors, accommodations, and activities we offer.”

The 61-year anniversary celebration started out as a reunion of past campers, counselors, volunteers, staff, and friends of the camp but quickly blossomed into a fund-raiser and music fest.

“I love live music and this seems like the perfect venue to stage a music festival. Imagine the stage there by the lake and people sitting in chairs in the big lawn,” Austin said. “We already have several local bands committed.”

The event is planned for August 12 and 13. A fundraising dinner will be held Friday night in the dining hall. A 5K walk/run through the camp is planned for Saturday morning with music beginning at 11:00 and going until dark. Food and drinks will be available on the grounds. The event is family friendly and there will be a charge at the gate.

Holston Camp and Retreat Center is located at 6993 Hickory Nut Gap Road on Wildcat Lake in Banner Elk, NC. Holston Center is incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization wholly owned by the Holston Presbytery of east Tennessee.

“I am thankful for this opportunity to be a part of this community and to continue the Holston ministry and outreach to everyone,” said Austin.


Holston Camp and Retreat Center on Wildcat Lake in Banner Elk, has published the 2016 schedule for Resident Camp and Day Camp at www.HolstonCenter.org.

Since 1955, Holston Camp and Retreat Center has been inviting kids to enjoy the outdoors during the summer.

Resident Camp is offered in weekly sessions from Sunday to Friday beginning June 12 through August 5 for rising 1st through 12th graders. Resident Camp will not operate the week of July 4. Holston specializes in traditional small group camping with an emphasis on learning outdoor skills and Christian values. Older campers can sign up to hike the Appalachian Trail, canoe the New River, go caving, and bike the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Day Camp operates Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm (early drop-off and late pickup is available) beginning June 13 through August 12 for rising 1st through 5th graders. Day Camp will be open the week of July 4. Day campers enjoy most of the activities on campus including swimming, canoeing, field games, and a trip to the Wildlife exhibit at Lees McRae College.

Besides offering a summer camp, Holston Retreat Center offers lodging, meeting, and dining facilities for church groups, business retreats, ski groups, family reunions, weddings, and other planned group events.

More information at www.HolstonCenter.org. or call (844) 465-7866.

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