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"This is a dream come true," exclaimed Dawn Morton, as she unfolded the story of how she and husband, Eugene, ended up at Camp. They arrived here last September with their motor home to become year-round volunteers.
"I grew up in the city," Dawn continued, "but always felt like a displaced country girl. After volunteering at a few Working Weekends, I always wanted to live at Camp. Now I walk the grounds and feel like I have come HOME!"
Over the last few years the Mortons have been swept off their feet in a flurry of activity. They met and fell in love while attending the Shoreline FM Church, and in 2004 their pastor, Jeff Horton, helped them tie the knot, with their church family actively involved in the wedding celebration.
After Dawn retired from working 17 years in various positions in the corporate office of Gene Juarez Beauty Salons, they sold their home, and went "camping."
Preparation for volunteering began many years ago for the Mortons. Dawn graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in teaching. After teaching for several years at the elementary level, raising her children, and working in an office environment, Dawn now does many different things at Camp - painting, computer input, stuffing envelopes, sewing, raking leaves, and Lights of Christmas projects, all the while radiating the love and grace of Jesus.
Eugene, clad in bib overalls with pockets weighted down by tools, declared with a captivating twinkle in his eyes, "I'm just a farm-boy at heart."
Born in Kansas, he grew up helping his dad farm. After a stint as an "electrician's mate" in the Navy during WW II, he became an industrial commercial electrician, beginning in Oregon. His trade took him all over the Northwest, and even to the Azores, the group of islands off the coast of Portugal.
Gene retired in 2003 after 60 years in the electrical field. But, he's not through doing electrical work. His latest project was wiring the Camp Horsemanship Director's new office near the stables. While willing to do whatever is needed at Camp, Eugene makes it clear: "Electrical is what I love to do, and I'm still licensed in the state of Washington!"
There's no doubt the Mortons have transitioned into the staff and life at Warm Beach. After being at Camp for five months, Dawn sums it up, "The environment is so peaceful. It helps me unwind; it touches my heart. I've always loved to go to the ocean and the woods to experience rest. We have made incredible friendships with everyone at Camp and the trust we feel is hard to put into words."
Between the two of them, they have six children and a host of grandchildren spread out across the U.S. The closest ones reside in Stanwood, though - another plus for living at Warm Beach Camp.
In between stints of volunteering at Camp they are planning a few road trips in their RV to Arizona, Alaska, and the East Coast.
We are thrilled that this couple has chosen to keep actively working during their "golden years" of retirement and have lined up with their talents, expertise, and experience to embrace Kingdom work here at Camp. The Mortons are like GOLD in the hands of the Master and worth it to Warm Beach Camp!Add a comment
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Never in a million years did John and Carolyn Overton realize how immersed their entire family would become in the life of Camp when they brought their children to Home School riding lessons at WBC eight years ago. That set off a chain of events that eventually led to a move in 2004 from their residence near Snohomish, Washington, to a home overlooking Bayview Ranch House and the stables at WBC. This move was made so their five children, ranging in ages from 7 to 21, could just walk down the hill to be involved with Camp.
John, a computer programmer who runs a software company, Vital Soft, Inc., stated with a gleam in his eyes, "We've never owned a horse, but we don't have to ... we now have 80 of them to look at!"
After moving to Washington State from the Silicone Valley in California in 1998, the Overtons looked for opportunities to meet people and get their kids involved in meaningful activities. They attended a WBC Outdoor Education camp with their children, and later, they purchased the Camp's cinnamon rolls in the August Extravaganza auction. These were delivered to their door each month for one year, a dozen at a time.
While those yummy baked goods were capturing the family's taste buds, their hearts were connecting with the ministry of the Camp and with the Camp staff. John declares, "What makes the Camp a special place for me is that the staff cares about kids and people. It has been nice to get to know them personally instead of just through my children."
The family soon became involved with the volunteer effort needed to prepare and staff The Lights of Christmas. After attending a Thanksgiving Working Weekend, the older children signed up to volunteer with the pony rides during the event. That soon led to mom and dad getting involved, including helping to take down the event at the end of December. Within a couple of years, even the youngest, Luke, was helping along with his mom in the petting farm, as a train conductor, and as one of Santa's Elves.
Carolyn has Christian camping in her blood. She grew up attending summer camp and worked as a counselor at several of the Pioneer Camps in Canada. While she was growing up, her parents ran youth camps for several summers. "After our oldest daughter, Lydia, had such a positive experience growing and learning about God in WBC's Counselor In Leadership Training (CILT) and Wrangler In Training (WIT) programs, we wanted our other children to benefit, too. WBC is such a special place that we wanted our family to be closer," Carolyn says. "As a mom, it's wonderful to know that WBC is a safe place to send my kids - you feel it!"
After donning a security vest for a couple of years during The Lights, John began to pray that the Lord would let him use his computer skills to assist the Camp in some way. Little did he realize that some of the staff were praying for a volunteer with his capabilities to write a program that would help coordinate the volunteer program for The Lights. It was literally a "match made in heaven!" In 2003, after spending many hours, John produced a complex program that tracks the nearly 120 volunteer positions that need to be filled each night of the event, and who is assigned to fill them. "It does everything except greet the volunteers when they arrive," says Maggie Allen, volunteer coordinator for The Lights. "And each year, John has continued to refine and improve the program to make it even more amazing."
WBC has definitely become a family affair for the Overtons. Lydia, age 21, is presently on Recreation staff and has been one of the light hangers for The Lights this year. Hannah, age 18, has served as a WIT, and is a member of the Camp's new Vaulting Team. Ruth, age 15, volunteers at the stables, helping with trail rides and cleaning horse stalls. She is also on the Vaulting Team. Julia, age 11, has assumed many roles at The Lights, including acting in Stage II, and is a Vaulting Team member. Luke, age 7, who helps the rest of the family care for the petting farm animals, is taking vaulting lesson. But, he has determined that his favorite role is being the "Train Conductor" at The Lights because he gets to say, "ALL ABOARD!" and tell the guests the rules.
There seems to be no end to the ways that the Overtons find to participate at Camp. After Luke and his dad attended their first Father/Son Weekend last May, John exclaimed, "I've never played so hard in all my life!" With four of the Overton children involved with the Camp's Vaulting Team, it was Carolyn who made classy uniforms for the entire team, giving them a professional look for their competitions. For the last two years, John has served as the coordinator of the auctions at the Camp's August Extravaganza. Their involvement just keeps growing!
They even ended up with a new "daughter" in the family when Emily Anglesey, a young staff member at the Camp, came to live with them to be closer to the Camp.
John summed it up for the entire Overton clan, "It's nice for our family to be part of the Warm Beach Camp family!Add a comment
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By Laurie Fertello, Youth Program Director
Prison Fellowship's Angel Tree Program started in 1982 as a Christmastime ministry to the children of prisoners, one of the most at-risk segments of today's youth. In 1995, the program expanded to involve these children in summer camping experiences.
When Warm Beach Camp was invited to participate, we responded with a resounding "Yes!" not knowing it would become one of the most profound youth ministry endeavors we had ever undertaken. Angel Tree and Warm Beach Camp agreed to partner together in funding the costs of providing camp for these at-risk youth.
I will never forget the first bus full of Angel Tree campers pulling in to W-Bar-B Ranch. The excitement was high as I greeted and walked through the registration line with them. I recall the awesome week of camp and the joy in our hearts as we waved goodbye, knowing every Angel Tree camper on that bus had made decisions to follow Christ.
The powerful events of the first summer would be followed by many more memories. I was once asked to share a highlight from our second summer with Angel Tree Camping. To say it best, let me read from a journal entry:
JULY 2002 - I got a call from the dean at W-Bar-B Ranch this evening, asking me to come down and talk with three girls who have been struggling since they arrived. I introduced myself and told them why I was there. Laquisha was closed off, literally. Frustrated and angry, she had her hooded sweatshirt pulled tight across her face. Marika sat sideways, her gaze fixed forward. At every comment and question, she shook her head. Tierra was sitting quietly, a steady stream of tears rolling down her cheeks.
Once we covered the issues that brought us together, the Holy Spirit began to move. Laquisha poured out her heart and in one revealing moment, she blurted out, "Words are powerful!"
"Yes Laquisha, they are."
"You don't understand. The word ‘love' has the most power of all. You people say you love us and you don't even know us. How can you love us when you don't know anything about us?"
"Laquisha, Marika, and Tierra, you are absolutely right. Love is the most powerful word of all." I explained to them how it is that we can use the word ‘love' honestly, and where that love comes from. For the next half an hour we had a powerful conversation about the Lord. The Holy Spirit moved in their hearts, He revealed Himself to them and they began to understand. It is a joy to say all three girls made earnest decisions to walk with the Lord.
Tierra Howard's story continued as she attended Warm Beach Camp two additional summers. In 2006, Tierra was accepted into the Counselors In Leadership Training (CILT) program. As a junior counselor, Tierra was able to relate to the girls in her cabin and they poured out their life stories to her. According to her lead counselor, Maggie Parks, "God gave Tierra this opportunity to open up and grow spiritually - to understand that she, too, can make a difference, not in spite of her background, but because of it." God used Tierra's story, and three young girls came to know Him as their Lord and Savior.
We've had high hopes God would establish leaders through the Angel Tree Camping Program. We've prayed for and believed that one young person would step out and step up to the challenge of leadership, knowing others would follow. Tierra Howard was the first. Because of her efforts, three additional Angel Tree Campers have plans to attend the CILT Program next year.
I may not have been there during that first meeting, but I have no doubt: Truly, this has been a "God thing"!
Please pray for this vital ministry that is breaking the chains of sin that would lead these youth down the pathways followed by their parents, and instead, is setting them free to follow Christ. Your gifts to fund the Angel Tree camping program are always needed. To help, send your gift to the Camp marked for Angel Tree Kids, or go to Kids 2 Camp.
[Ed. Note: Some names in this article have been changed.]Add a comment
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Fifty years ago, Warm Beach Camp was birthed in prayer. The camp founders passionately cried out to God to direct them to the right piece of property for this ministry, and to unfold His plans for this place we love.Add a comment
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I wasn't there that day in 2001 to attend the meeting, but I've heard a hundred times over that it was a "God thing"-the way He drew the people with passion and vision together to establish the Angel Tree Camping Program at Warm Beach Camp.Add a comment
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By Sylvia Miles, Day Creek Chapel, Sedro Woolley, Washington
Who would have guessed that a video presentation made by Warm Beach Camp at Day Creek Chapel's Mission Conference in March would bring tears to the eyes of adults as they heard the "ooh's" and "aah's" of about 30 children seeing, for the first time, the opportunities offered through summer camping programs? At the end of the presentation, the announcement was made that every child would be able to go to camp this summer. When questioned, "Who wants to go?" thirty little hands shot up, plus those of a dozen teens. How was a rural congregation of about 125 going to keep such a promise to these eager children? This story is all about a link of love.