ASHEBORO – Generations of young people recall encountering God for the first time at Mount Shepherd, a summer camp nestled in the pines of Randolph County.
Just a few years ago, financial troubles left the camp on the brink of closing. But God’s grace, committed leadership and a timely land conservation agreement have led to a remarkable turnaround.
This summer, Mount Shepherd welcomed 530 campers – its highest number in the past 10 years.
“We have turned a corner,” says Executive Director Josh Britton.
On a recent tour of the 543-acre property, Josh took a visitor past Mount Shepherd’s climbing tower, high ropes course and pond that features a 100-foot slide and zip line.
The camp gets its name from nearby Shepherd Mountain, the second highest peak of the Uwharrie Mountain chain from which hikers can see the cityscapes of Greensboro, Winston Salem and High Point.
Campers spend their days exploring the natural gifts of the Uwharrie National Forest.
Once on the verge of closing
All of it almost came to an end. Founded in 1961, the camp experienced a decline in the mid-2010s due to changing relationships with churches and competition from more modern summer camps.
“There was some real concern for how we were going to pay the bills,” Josh said.
A lifeline came in 2017 in the form of a conservation easement, an agreement to place part of the property under the care of a land trust. Mount Shepherd used the proceeds to open a managed investment fund with the Foundation. Favorable earnings have enabled camp leadership to renovate facilities, add new programs and hire a full-time staff person to oversee activities.
The land agreement coincided with the arrival of Josh, an Ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church with a passion for camp and retreat ministry. During his tenure, Mount Shepherd has taken a more intentional approach to fulfill its mission as a Christ-centered place of discovery.
Scholarships welcome youth from economically challenged backgrounds. A partnership with the nonprofit Prison Fellowship makes it possible for children of incarcerated parents to attend a special session of camp. A more ethnically, culturally diverse staff of counselors serves as the heartbeat of the program.
”Places like Mount Shepherd exist to be holy, set apart places where people encounter God in ways they just can’t at home,” Josh says.
“God’s been faithful all along…especially in these last couple of years.”
"We have turned a corner."- Camp Director Josh Britton