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    The Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church


    news article

    UNY Extended Cabinet work to clean up Casowasco as long road to flood recovery continues

    September 16, 2021 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    On July 12, 2021, Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center was hit hard by heavy rain and flooding. Within four hours, the site had six inches of rain and the resulting damage was severe: the waterfront was washed away, water and mud crept into the Lakeview Chapel, Galilee Lodge, Bethany Lodge, The Emmaus Commons, and the office building. Twenty-two culverts were broken, missing, or completely compromised. Roadways were washed away. Tree limbs fell onto roofs. The entire sub-roads were under water.

    Campers were there when the flood happened, but most woke up not even knowing about the disaster. The staff did a tremendous job of enthusiastically continuing to share the love of God through Jesus Christ and lead fun activities throughout the week.

    Following the disaster, phone calls came in to Casowasco Camp & Retreat Director, David Weber, by the hundreds. One of the calls was from Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Mark J. Webb.

    David said, “One phone call that really encouraged me was the phone call from Bishop Webb. He asked to have a tour of the whole facility to see what actually happened during the flood.”

    Bishop Webb immediately drove to Casowasco. David said, “We had our sneakers on and walked around for a few hours. It was the very first time I met him. And after that conversation, he made a commitment to bring his leadership here to support us with two workdays. And that gave us strength.”

    Unfortunately, a second flood stuck at the end of August, durning the last week of camp, and this time the site had 10 inches of rain in six hours. Even foundations were damaged, as a result. However, camp continued successfully.

    Even with the struggles, over the summer at Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center, 300 campers were served; over 50 children gave their faith to Christ for the first time; and 170 children rededicated their lives to Christ.

    After the second flood, the waterfront was further devastated, and docks were severely damaged. The main dock with its dampened pine wood is partially sunk and slanted heavily to one side.

    A request for donations to help with flood relief damage was announced and so far, the Casowasco has raised $96, 357 to help with the repairs. The generous donations are deeply appreciated but still much more is needed. David estimates that it will cost at least $400,000 or more to cover the repairs including: replacing drywall, repairing three trails, resurfacing the asphalt roads, rebuilding or replacing the docks, roof repair, mud mitigation, and much work to be done. David also believes it will take a least a year and a half to complete due to the cost and the unavailability of contractors (partly because of the winter coming and partly due to the backlog that has happened through the COVID pandemic).

    David said, “The process of addressing these repairs is not going to be a sprint; it’s going to be a marathon.” He continued, “We are on a waiting list for several businesses to come down and repair the foundations of our chapel and dining hall, to help with the repairs of our roadways, trails, and all the other things that lead to the success of this ministry.”

    You can still donate by clicking here and choosing Casowasco 2021 Storm Relief from the dropdown menu.

    David said, “The amount of connectionalism gave me a light of hope. The tremendous outpouring of support, love, and financial gifts is what has gotten us through both storms.”

    Bishop Webb’s promise to send the Extended Cabinet to Casowasco for two workdays came to fruition on Monday Sept. 13 and Tuesday Sept. 14.

    The team worked tirelessly at shoveling rocks, digging out mud, drainage clean out, moving sticks and branches, and more.

    For example, on Tuesday morning Bishop Webb, the Rev. Dr. Jeff McDowell, the Rev. Carlos Rosa Laguer, the Rev. Mike Weeden, and the Rev. Abel Roy, all in t-shirts or polos, shorts or jeans, and work boots or sneakers took turns shoveling large rocks and then wheelbarrowing them to a pile. The Rev. Nancy Adams and the Rev. Suzanne Block swiftly swept debris out of the office building driveway. The Rev. Bill Gottschalk-Fielding used the handle end of a shovel and to push through a heap of stones and mud on the main road near the office building to clear a drainage hole while the Rev. Aaron Bouwens was across the road, kneeling on a muddy hill, sticking his hands in the culvert to guide out the water and mud.

    Rev. Dr. McDowell said, “I fully enjoyed shoveling gravel to the glory of God to help Casowasco in a small way. The ministry of this place over the decades has brought me to salvation and others to faith through me.”

    You too can volunteer this fall. David said, “There will be three projects directly related to the flood and each will offer several volunteer opportunities.” Be sure to follow Upper New York Conference Communication platforms for details about these opportunities as they become available.

    Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center has been in ministry for 75 years. David, who started at Casowasco in November of 2020, said that working at Casowasco is his dream job. Recently a friend asked him, “How can you be so happy all the time even after going through two very damaging storms?” David responded, “I get to meet so many wonderful people all the time. Nobody was hurt in these storms and both storms provided so many opportunities for connection.”

    You can help celebrate Casowasco’s 75 Anniversary by clicking here and selecting “Casowasco 75Th Anniversary” from the dropdown menu. So far, Casowasco has raised close to $40,000 through this campaign.

    To watch a video of Bishop Webb and the Cabinet’s workdays, click here.


    With more than 134,000 members, the Upper New York Annual (Regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church comprises 865 local churches and 85 new faith communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our mission is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."