For decades, Charles County’s St. Inigoes Youth Center, a part of the Loyola Retreat Center in Faulkner, sat largely unused. Now, renovations are underway and retreat center staff members hope to get area children back to the site for camping.
Since the site fell into disuse “20 or 30 years ago,” spokeswoman Lisa White said, the camp has been occupied sporadically by youth groups and other organizations. Most of the camp’s facilities need repairs before the camp can reopen to students.
White said that through the years, the grounds have been used cyclically. Much of it has depended on the focus of the respective retreat center directors.
Current director Jim Palmer said the camp will provide an inimitable experience for local youth.
“It’s the need for young people to step away from our world of instant gratification and electronics, and to realize that to really create a whole young person, it’s essential to see God’s presence in nature,” Palmer said. “If we could introduce people to that, even in small doses, that might help them in everything else.”
Palmer said that before going to work for the retreat center, he worked with high school students, which led him to see the intrinsic value of giving students a place to be detached from the modern world.
“I think it allows them to understand that life goes on, even in the quiet,” Palmer said.
White added that the retreats are a way to “be outside and experience God in different ways,” which keeps with the Jesuit values the organization works to promote.
Palmer said he hopes to have the camp open and accepting groups by summer 2014. Currently, bath and shower facilities are being renovated. The group is also making improvements to the barn that serves as a recreation and worship center for campers.
Palmer said the group also is working on adding platform tents to the land for the campers.
Area businesses and organizations have donated money and services for the renovation. Mike Mona Jr., general manager of the Port Tobacco Restaurant, said he decided to help the cause because of the camp’s place in his family.
“A lot of my uncles went there growing up,” Mona said. “It was an instrumental part of their lives.”
Mona said he and his uncle, Prince George’s County businessman Vincent “Cap” Mona, were moved by White’s enthusiasm for the cause, and such dedication is what has made the pieces of the project fall into place.
“I think it will bring a lot of youth camps and clubs together. They’ll have a place to go, even for people from outside the county,” Mike Mona said. “A lot of schools and groups come here for overnight retreats, and I think that having this open will give them more opportunities.”
Vincent Mona said that it was his family’s support that gave him direction growing up and that he thinks the organized structure at the youth camp will provide the same for future generations.
“Our youth is our future. Whatever we can do to help educate them and make good decisions,” he said.
“Where will they find that direction? It gives some time to reflect and see nature is a gift.”