Ohio Valley Christian Youth Camp will relocate to a new facility — Camp Barbe in Elizabeth, W.Va. — this summer.
The camp, supported by Churches of Christ throughout the Ohio Valley region, operated at Camp Hervida in Watertown, Ohio, from 1952 until the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. It hosted a virtual camp that year.
In 2021, still unable to have its camp weeks at Hervida, Ohio Valley Christian Youth Camp turned to the campus of Ohio Valley University, which permanently closed in December.
This year, the camp’s board of directors — comprising elders, deacons and preachers from the area — opted for a more long-term change, one that will offer more comfortable facilities and hopefully draw in more children from the area, said Jay Smith, Ohio Valley Christian Youth Camp senior week co-director. Smith — a high school teacher and coach in St. Marys, W.Va., and preacher for the Rockport Church of Christ — served with the camp in various roles for nearly 20 years.
“Kids are used to being in air conditioning — kids are used to being in nicer facilities,” he told The Christian Chronicle. “And we can either say, ‘Well, suck it up,’ or we can say, ‘Hey, if we’re going to grow and grow the church for the future, then we’ve got to accommodate.’”
For Ernie Cornell, co-director of Ohio Valley Christian Youth Camp junior week and minister for the Little Hocking Church of Christ in Ohio, a lot of memories were made at Camp Hervida over the past 36 years — as a camper, counselor and director. He met his wife and was baptized there.
“Camp’s always been a huge part of my life,” he told the Chronicle. That’s why changing locations is bittersweet, he said. But he stressed, “We built relationships and memories with people — not with trees.”
Besides air conditioning and flushable toilets — Smith said campers have had to use latrines in the past — Camp Barbe has a river, the Little Kanawha, running through it that will allow campers to fish and have time on the riverbank. In the future, Ohio Valley Christian Youth Camp hopes to allow kayaking.
Cornell added that Barbe is easier to get around and offers more seclusion. It also has fewer but larger cabins that will allow for more interaction among campers and opportunities to build relationships, he said. One thing will be missing, though: a swimming pool.
Smith said Ohio Valley Christian Youth Camp hopes to offer more camp weeks and other events through the year, like fall retreats. In the past, the camp has hosted three weeks — junior, intermediate and senior — with around 130 campers, but this year it’s starting back with just the junior and senior weeks in mid-June.
Cornell is looking forward to it.
“While I have so many great and wonderful fond memories of Camp Hervida, none of those will ever be diminished,” he said. “Sometimes change is necessary, and we embrace that change with thankfulness and gratitude and gratefulness that we’re getting to have camp again this year.”
For more information about the camp, visit the Ohio Valley Christian Youth Camp website.
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