Donor pays off camp's mortgage - Catholic Courier

Donor pays off camp’s mortgage

If money indeed talks, somebody has spoken up loudly for Camp Koinonia by donating approximately $73,000 — the balance of the camp’s mortgage.

Yet the cash will have to do all the talking, because the donor is anonymous.

David Peartree, a Rochester attorney who represents the donor, confirmed that the money transfer took place May 10. Peartree would only say that the donor is Catholic and “the person has seen, and is aware of, the spiritual benefits the camp has provided over the years.”

Camp Koinonia, located at 1455 Italy Valley Road in Middlesex, Yates County, is the site of several church-related programs both Catholic and non-Catholic. Rich Versluys, chairman of the camp’s board of directors, said he first received a phone call from Peartree in December 2003, informing him that somebody was interested in knowing the camp’s financial status and making a large donation.

“It was just such a shock. It took a couple hours to start to sink in,” Versluys said.

Peartree said the donor gave the $73,000 through a trust fund set up with the Rochester Area Community Foundation, a philanthropic organization. “Without the Community Foundation it would have been more difficult to pull it off anonymously,” Peartree said.

Versluys and his wife Sue, the assistant camp director, are at a loss to identify the person.

“We don’t have a clue,” Sue Versluys said. Her husband added that it might well be somebody they know, “but I don’t know who … maybe the person next to you is an angel. When you think about it, it’s kind of a strange feeling.”

To honor this act of generosity, a “gratitude celebration picnic” will take place Sunday, June 5, from 1 to 8 p.m. at Camp Koinonia. Many past and present camp participants are expected to attend for Mass, games, dinner and square dancing.

The donation will further enable Camp Koinonia to offer quality programs in a peaceful surrounding that includes a lodge, cabins, chapel, athletic fields, hiking and swimming. The camp was purchased in 1983 from the United Methodist Church by a group of Catholics connected with Family Camp, one of Koinonia’s major offerings.

Programs run from spring through fall, including three one-week sessions of Family Camp in July. Sue Versluys described Family Camp as a great way for families — including her own — to reconnect with each other.

“We would rather go there than Disney World. We went to our first Family Camp in 1983 and have only missed one summer since,” she said. “The beauty of the place is key — no Internet, TV or phone.”

Other activities at Camp Koinonia are Camp SOAR, a Catholic Charities program for families affected by AIDS; and the St. Benedict Retreat, a service retreat to clean and repair the camp. The facility is also utilized by Protestant groups; all told, approximately 800 people are expected to take part in programs there this year.

The camp is run by volunteers. Although participants have included priests and many campers from the Diocese of Rochester, it has never been diocesan-owned or operated.

Rich Versluys said the camp’s mortgage had been reduced from $220,000 to $73,000 since 1983 through donations and fundraising. Even so, he said financial challenges have been ongoing.

“We’ve been working for 10 years to try to keep things stable, but the last couple of years we’ve lost some major fundraising activities. We were constantly tightening our belt,” he said, noting that the anonymous donation will allow for emergency money as well as upgrades to the chapel roof and recreational facilities.

The June 5 celebration will include the dedication of a special garden to honor the donor — “an angel who’s helped continue the vision that’s really changed a lot of people’s lives over the years,” Rich Versluys said.

“There’s going be a lot of excitement this summer, I think,” he added.

EDITOR’S NOTE: To learn more about Camp Koinonia, go to

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