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Northeast News

Florida College's camps are a labor of love

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Published:   |   Updated: June 27, 2013 at 12:52 PM

TEMPLE TERRACE - One week every summer volunteers from across the nation come to sweat and toil for Florida College.

They are alumni and supporters of the private liberal arts college overlooking the Hillsborough River in the heart of town.

This is the ninth year the volunteers have come together to complete a host of projects ranging from pressure-washing buildings to mulching to painting to get the campus ready for the upcoming academic year.

They work alongside administrators and maintenance workers, doing projects that otherwise would cost the college money, to save funds for other undertakings.

This year 58 volunteers, some from as far as California, participated in the 2013 Florida College Summer Labor Camp on the Glen Arven Avenue campus. The theme for last week's event: "Who says kids get to have all the fun?"

"The real purpose is to give back to Florida College in tangible ways," said Ralph Walker, the college's public relations director.

Most of the work focused on renovating the campus amphitheater and wooden deck overlooking the river; painting walls; and adding mulch to flower beds sprinkled across the 15-acre main campus.

"This project has a lot of visual pop," said Craig Bean of Racine, Wis.

Bean, the camp leader and founder, has attended all nine labor camps, dating to June 2004.

For newcomers John and Jennifer Barr of East Peoria, Ill., it was a week-long adventure they will cherish.

"We knew it would be a lot of work outdoors," said Jennifer Barr, a Florida College graduate.

The Barrs, who are parents of Florida College Marketing Director Jared Barr, spent much of the week painting. John Barr, an Eastern Illnois University alumnus, helped mulch and pull weeds.

"We were tired every night," Jennifer Barr said, chuckling.

The volunteers made for a diverse group, ranging from retirees to high school graduates slated to enroll at Florida College for the upcoming fall term.

Campers came from nine states, and all paid their own way to attend.

Thirty to 40 percent of them didn't attended Florida College, said Walker, an alumnus and labor camp volunteer. They were spouses, relatives and friends of Florida College graduates, and loyal supporters of the school.

This year the campers contributed an estimated 1,200 service hours, an increase over last year's 1,165 total, Jared Barr said. School officials estimate the total number of volunteer hours during the nine years of labor camps amounts to about $210,000 in savings for the college.

Each year the volunteers donate free labor in exchange for home-cooked meals provided by college staffers. They are housed at campus residence halls and attend evening Bible studies led by Bean, a minister at the Spring Street Church of Christ in Mount Pleasant, Wis.

Bean also runs the Florida College youth camp in Colorado, one of 22 summer youth camps the private college sponsors annually.

A 1980 graduate of the college, Bean was inspired to begin plans for the camp in 2003, when he and his wife, Tami, returned to campus to drop off their daughter, Lauren, for her freshman year.

"We were remembering our own experiences while looking around at the things Lauren would soon experience," Bean said.

"We looked at the river walk, which was nearing completion. When we heard that several people had been pitching in to help, including administrators, we thought, 'Well, we could have helped out.'?"

The following year Bean submitted a proposal to then-president Colly Caldwell, and Florida College Labor Camp was born, Jared Barr said. The idea combines Bean's love for his alma mater with his experience in landscape architecture.

Florida College, founded in 1946, offers accredited two- and four-year academic degree programs through the lens of a biblical world view. H.E. "Buddy" Payne is president.

kknight@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7413

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