Camp UniStar, part of a proud tradition of summer UU camping in the Midwest, is a Unitarian Universalist camp located on Star Island in Cass Lake, northern Minnesota (www.campunistar.org).
During the Regional Assembly, I invite you to join us at our exhibit booth to learn more about Camp UniStar, its programs, and the newly-established Nancy Heege Family Scholarship Fund. Sponsored by the Camp UniStar Foundation (CUF) and the MidAmerica Region to recognize Nancy’s many years of service to UU’s in the Midwest, the fund will fulfill Nancy’s desire to enable more families in need to experience UniStar’s unique combination of UU fellowship, natural island environment, and personal and spiritual growth. I hope that you or your congregation will consider a donation to honor Nancy’s legacy (see the camp website for more information).
UniStar has a long and deep connection to the MidAmerica congregations. The camp property was a gift to the Prairie Star District (PSD) in 1960, and the first camping season was held in 1961. The summer programs draw over 750 campers annually from every state in the MidAmerica Region and beyond. With the merger of PSD into MidAmerica, the ownership of Camp UniStar was transferred to CUF, a 501c(3) Minnesota membership non-profit corporation with a single corporate Member: the MidAmerica Region. As the Member, the MidAmerica Region has specific rights, but CUF operates independently of the MidAmerica Region.
The successful 13-week 2015 season ran from June 6 to September 5, with a work week, two youth weeks, and 10 family weeks serving 793 campers.
Work Week (June 6-13): During the first week of the season, 40 campers worked on facilities rejuvenation projects and prepared the camp for youth and family weeks.
Youth Weeks (June 13 – 27): We offered two one-week programs that engaged 7th-12th graders as they explored individuality, community, and spirituality, and participated in service activities to support the camp. 110 youth and 24 adults participated.
Family Program Weeks (June 27 – September 5): Each week offered a specific program for the 619 campers who attended one of the family weeks. Program topics included Stories & Art, Natural Wonders of Star Island, Games, Songs & Stories of Justice, Sailing, Yoga, Future Earth, Living with Purpose, Ojibwe History, Spirits of Nature, Fiber Arts, and Photography.
Throughout the summer, the camp offered many additional activities to support personal development and to help campers explore the lake and the island in order to strengthen their connection to nature.
It is people – campers, volunteers, and staff – that create the UniStar experience each year. I want to thank our 2015 Directors Ben Joselyn and Cammie & Steve Opre, who supervised the 12 Staff and 40 on-site volunteers during the summer. Our awesome staff members were Alice Altbaum, Claire Jennings, Connor Metcalf, Elias Radtke, Emily Engelbracht-Wiggins, Grace Alexander, Gwen Eastaugh, Jenna Courtney, Justine Jones, Kelly Kist, Louis Schulz-Welo, and Rick Clements.
I also want to thank Steven Mosborg and Morgan L’Argent (Chairs) and the rest of the CUF Management Committee for their consistently excellent work in overseeing the operation of the camp: Abigail Olson, Ann McCully, Bernadine Joselyn, Bob Friedman, Chris Bremer, Glenn Corliss, Joni Strozyk, Lois Hamilton, Lynda Borjesson, Marla Siegler, Omega Guzman, Randall Sanderson, Sharyn Barney, Sonja Blackstone, Steve Schreurs, Susan Stryk, and Trudy Ohnsorg.
Finally, I want to acknowledge the great work of our CUF Board Members who served during this past year: Beth Toso, Fred Hulting, Grant Wacker, Greg Schieber, Kristin Boehm, Meredith Smith, Oliver Gross, Pat Diamond, Morgan L’Argent, and Steven Mosborg.
In 2014 CUF received the camp property and assets from PSD. To complete the complex tax filings resulting from that significant asset transfer, we hired KBA Peterson & Associates in Bemidji to conduct a financial audit and to file our first full IRS 990 form in 2015. This required a huge amount of work on the part of our finance team, led by Beth Toso and Joni Strozyk. The clean audit and strong financial health of the organization reflects the many years of good fiscal stewardship of the camp.
At the end of 2015, our Balance Sheet showed $1,609,723 in assets, with no liabilities. That total includes $916,470 in property, plant, and equipment, and $604,587 in reserves and other Board-restricted funds.
Our 2015 finances are summarized in the following figures. Overall, we had a small loss of $5,430 due primarily to one-time insurance adjustments and administrative costs that included the hiring of outside appraisal, financial, and stewardship consultants related to the 2014 audit and future development activities. We also offered over $10,000 in scholarships and financial aid to campers.
After working with stewardship consultant Mark Ewert, CUF is currently investing in building our development capacity, with a goal of strengthening our stewardship and scholarship fundraising, and preparing for a capital campaign in the next one or two years. Capital fundraising will accelerate our campus rejuvenation plan, which includes required safety upgrades and improvements to the cabins and staff housing.
For more information on the Camp UniStar Foundation organization, see www.campunistarfoundation.org.