Arapahoe, N.C.—Supported by $300,000 in contributions from three N.C. pork industry organizations, Camp Don Lee will conduct a groundbreaking on Sunday (August 10) for a new, 2,700-square-foot Environmental Education Center.
The camp, formally known as Don Lee Camp & Retreat Center, hosts as many as 7,000 youngsters each summer who come to engage in experiential environmental education.
The new education center is being largely funded by three contributions of $100,000 each from Murphy-Brown LLC, Hog Slat, Inc. and the N.C. Pork Council. Murphy-Brown LLC is the livestock production subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, Inc. and Hog Slat, Inc. is a major producer of hog housing equipment.
The N.C. Pork Council is the statewide organization headquartered in Raleigh that supports producers and allied partners within the state’s pork industry.
Don Butler, a Murphy-Brown vice president who will speak at Sunday’s event, said, “I can’t imagine a better place for N.C. pork production folks to provide help. These people at Don Lee are our neighbors teaching our children to understand and protect the environment.”
Sunday’s 1 p.m. event also celebrates the career of Rev. John A. Farmer, who has served as the camp’s director for 37 years. Farmer is a United Methodist clergyman and an accomplished sailing instructor. The groundbreaking will follow around 5 p.m.
The camp lost its “Nature Hut”, home for many aquatic animals and teaching aids, when Hurricane Irene roared through on August 27, 2011. Dail Ballard, executive director of the N.C. United Methodist Camp & Retreat Ministries, remembers the sad aftermath.
“It was heartbreaking for us,” she said. “I will never forget a little boy named Noah Heath who came to us with a handful of change and said he hoped that would help. That really hit home.”
Ballard continued, “We didn’t have much traction with our fundraising until we talked to Don (Butler) at Murphy-Brown. Then our dreams started to come true.”
Following Murphy-Brown’s commitments, the N.C. Pork Council and the Newton-Grove-based Hog Slat firm heard of Camp Don Lee’s building campaign and quickly followed suit. Other organizations also helped, including Grady-White Boats, Inc.
Ballard said, “The pork industry’s environmental stewardship efforts are an important part of our relationship that has developed over the past few years. Also, it helps us teach our children that their food doesn’t just come directly from supermarket shelves.”
The new facility will far exceed the capabilities of the long-lost “Nature Hut”. The education center will include state-of-the-art housing for education animals, classrooms, a display room, office space, restrooms and storage space.