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LEBANON JUNCTION - Founded as a band camp in 1959, Camp Crescendo has since become a retreat for a variety of groups, but more importantly it is a haven where kids can be kids.
Now called Lions Camp Crescendo after the Lions Club, the facility offers three camps for special needs children or children affected by HIV/AIDS.
Formed in 2006, Camp Freedom caters to boys and girls with mild to moderate behavioral, emotional and physical needs who are in foster care or are in the custody of their grandparents.
Kentucky Lions Youth Camp is held in July for youth who are blind or deaf or hearing or visually impaired.
Camp Heart to Heart, which is made possible through the collaborative efforts of Lions Camp Crescendo, AIDS Interfaith Ministries of Kentuckiana, House of Ruth and Kentucky AIDS Life Alliance, was formed in 1999 for children who are infected or affected by HIV/AIDS.
All three of these camps are put on by Lions Camp Crescendo at no charge to campers.
Nestled among the Knobs of southern Bullitt County, the 180-acre camp operates year-round, offering its facilities for retreats, conferences and training sessions, catering to everyone from business and faith based organizations to law enforcement personnel and school students.
As the Lions Camp Crescendo administrator Billie Flannery explained, it’s not easy maintaining the facilities or operating their free children’s camps, but the people who support them believe in the camp.
Everyone who works at the camp, with the exception of a maintenance worker, a resident manger and kitchen help, are volunteers, including Flannery, who has been a fulltime volunteer at the camp since she retirement from her job in 1996,
Flannery said she became a believer in Camp Crescendo in 1984 when she first volunteered as a counselor.
“I saw what it meant to the kids...I don’t know how anyone can volunteer for a week and see what it means to the kids and not believe in what we do,” she said.
“I could just see where it makes an honest to goodness difference.”
Camp Crescendo is a non-profit organization, which operates under a board of directors made up of Lions and Lioness club members from across the state.
It’s the only camp of its kind in Kentucky and it’s home to the Crescendo Lions Club.
While every Lions Club has its own philanthropy, the Crescendo Lions Club focuses its efforts on the success of the camp.
Much of the financial support for the camp comes from Lions and Lioness clubs, but the camp also receives funding from grants, donations and revenue generated from renting out its facilities.
Unfortunately, the camp’s revenue just barely covers its expenses.
“In this economy it has gotten tougher,” Flannery said. “It’s a struggle right now.”
Flannery said they have had to do more with less as funding has decreased every year since the recession began.
Utilities are a big expense. During the summer months Flannery said electric bills run upward of $5,000 a month.
There are also other expenses to consider-maintenance, food, water, insurance-the list goes on.
“We work hard to make sure the kids have a good time and everyone’s taken care of, but it’s gotten harder to do,” Flannery said. “We pay the bills. That’s all you can say.”
Flannery said the camp’s financial situation could be better, but she looked back to 1996 when Lions Camp Crescendo began.
“We started with nothing. We didn’t have two nickels to rub together, but we’ve managed to keep it going and with continued support we’ll be around for a long time,” she said.
In 1996 the camp kicked off a campaign called Burn the Mortgage.
Since then nearly half the camp’s $900,000 mortgage has been paid off.
As donations are crucial to the survival of the camp, Flannery urged anyone with a few dollars to spare to donate to the Burn the Mortgage campaign or any of the free camps they offer.
For those without money to spare, Flannery said the camp collects unwanted cell phones and empty printer cartridges for recycling.
Lions Camp Crescendo also offers Kroger gift cards, which can be purchased for the amount you want to spend at the grocery. The camp receives 4 percent of every dollar spent.
Flannery emphasized that all donations are tax deductible.
To find out more about Lions Camp Crescendo, the services they offer, how to make a donation or to volunteer, call (502) 833-4427 for 24-hour access or call 1-888-879-8884.
You can also visit them on the web at lions-campcrescendo.org.