When you pass by the entrance to the FFA-FCCLA Center, have you ever thought what in the world happens there?
Located about ten miles south of Covington is the Georgia FFA-FFCCLA Center. It draws over 30,000 visitors to our area every year. Over 130,000 meals are served. Each summer 3000 attend camps. Some come for the FFA and FFCCLA Camps and others for those with special interest. They might be interested in the Horse Camps, or the Wildlife Camps.
The Center was started in 1937. The idea was born in 1929 when the first Future Farmers in America formed a state association and saw the need for a camp. The name is now simply the FFA to represent the almost 300 careers available in agriculture.
The work on the camp began in the fall of 1937. It started on a track of 150 acres located on a mile and half of shore line on Lake Jackson. It has now grown to almost 500 acres, most of which is undeveloped. The first buildings were done by the National Youth Administration. The NYA was a part of the Civilian Conservation Corps. The goal was to provide employment and training for future work during the dark days of the Great Depression.
Granite from the site was used in some of the early buildings. Rocks gathered from Lake Jackson went into the fire place in the Dining Hall. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited the project in 1938 and saw the need for an infirmary. She obtained funds to build one for the camp. By 1943 the camp was opened with ten cabins, a dining hall, and an infirmary.
In 1945, the Future Homemakers of America came to Georgia. In 1947 the FFA invited the FHA to join them in a “test” camp. It proved so successful that in in 1953, the state convention of the FFA voted to make the arrangement permanent. In 1956 the name of the Camp was changed to the FFA-FHA Camp. If you go by today you will see the name is the FFA-FCCLA Center. The FHA has changed its name to Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America.
Though this is a state facility, it is not a part of the state budget. Thus the programs, rentals, and gifts have to support the budget. Groups using the camp include church youth groups, school organization, men and women’s retreats, training workshops, and college groups.
The Center has 20 bunk cabins with a capacity for about 700 campers and chaperones. The cabins will accommodate from 18 to 64 campers. This type of cabin has bathrooms located in the cabin. There are separate rooms and bathrooms for chaperones. There is also available semi-private lodging. Each room has a private bath and can accommodate one to four guests. Most of the cabins have a small meeting room. All are air conditioned and heated.
The current Camp Manager is Russell Towns, a native of Newton County. HE came to work at the Center part time in 1996, becoming full time in 1998. He became the Manager in 2011. At that time when the Manager, Todd Teasley, became the Director for both the Covington Center as well as the one Perry, His office is still at the Covington Center.
When asked about future improvements planned for the camp, Towns told of the soon to be build new dining hall and a new assembly building. Again such major capital expenses do come from the state, while the operating budget comes from funds generated by the camp.
This summer there will be five Leadership Camps for members of the FFA-FCCLA. These are followed by several special camps that are opened to all youth, not just members of FFA-FCCLA. These include the two weeks of Basic Wildlife Camps and a week of Advanced Wildlife Camp. These weeks are packed with exciting activities focused on safety, awareness, and appreciation of wildlife and outdoor sports. More information is available at wilikecamp.com
Another program for girls is four different weeks of Horse Camp. A week filled with learning basic riding skills as well as learning to walk, trot and face obstacles with the horse.. There will also be training in grooming and handling, saddling, barn management, and first aid. You can go to FFAHorseCAmp.com for more about these fun filled weeks.
You can register today online for one of the Center’s annual events, the Udder Mud Run. The event this year is set for August 8 and information is available at uddermudrun.com. . It is the only mud run held in Newton County and it designed to be fun for the entire family. There is a 7K course (4.5 miles) for climbing and crawling, jumping and jogging in the mud. There is also a one mile course for family and friends.
When asked what the keys were to the success of the Center, Towns said he felt it was the Center’s commitment to good customer service and food that the campers and consumers really enjoyed eating. He pointed out when you are happy with your meals, the bunk you are sleeping in may just be more acceptable.
The next time you pass by the entrance to the camp, you can know that it is another reason to have pride in what our area offers visitors.
B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author who now resides in Covington