Friday, April 20, 2018


Two things came to my mind yesterday when I thought of the number eleven.  First I'm reminded of our good friend Fritzi who was part of our first group of German volunteers back in 2012 - the same year I started here at Camp Evergreen.  We were at a fundraiser in Edmonton (Lendrum) and were heading back to camp late at night.  In need of a snack to help keep us awake at night we stopped at the 7-11 just before exiting the city.  Fritzi was having a hard time deciding what to buy (which if I remember was a regular occurrence!) when I suggested she try a slurpee even though it was quite cold outside.

As she was browsing through the cup sizes, one of the cups had a movie theme on it.  With the movie cup in her hand she realized that this was way too scary of a cup to drink out of, and in replacing the cup back on the stack, knocked a whole wack of cups (a wack is equal too or greater than 4 stacks of cups) behind the slurpee machine.  Fritzi was very apologetic at the counter and that's how we came to calling her Jessica Seven-Eleven Fritzi!  Fritzi ended up coming back a second time to volunteer here at Evergreen and I would like to say thanks again Fritzi, you are welcome back anytime!

Our German connection has become very important to helping us in our ministry.  I think that it is safe to say that without their help over the past six years we wouldn't have been able to serve as many guests and campers as we have.  Claudia arrived this week from Neu-Ulm and is now German number 34!

The other reason I'm thinking of eleven is because when I started this blog we were eleven campers short of our total last summer.  This morning that number eleven dropped to six.  We are 162 campers ahead of last year at this time.  21 of our 28 camps are full.  We recently tweaked a couple of our camps in an effort to create more room for campers.

We are fielding calls every day from parents who are hoping that our web site is wrong, that we're not full and there is room for their child.  I was in the dining room yesterday when Josh was inviting the St. Alphonsus students at the end of their band camp back in summer.  Unfortunately there were very few spots open in their age group.

That is why we are Reaching Higher - to create more room and expand our ministry.  The board will be meeting this Saturday with the only agenda item being Reaching Higher.  We need to grasp the urgency, we need to realize the potential and we need to make a pledge!

And what about the blog word of the week?  St. Alphonsus band left one of their mallets here at camp simply because some of the students couldn't get enough of our dogs.  Sometimes I'm still surprised at how much they are loved.  As the bus was about to leave a couple of boys came into the Welcome Centre to say good-bye - to the dogs - not me!  And they forgot their drum mallet.  I'm glad the dogs are helping us give our guests and campers a great experience, but there must be some way to send the mallet back home with one of the dogs...

Thanks for your support.

Bob "Ranger" Kroeker
Executive Director

Friday, April 6, 2018

It Happened Again!

Well it happened again.  One of our student guests came with his band camp in March of this year, had a great experience with our staff, and went home very excited about Camp Evergreen.  His parents caught his excitement and registered their family for Family Camp - only to find out that Family Camp is full.  (Remember our first Family Camp filled in less than an hour after registration opened!)  This family is now 7th on the waiting list and hopefully there is enough movement on the list that we can get them in.

This challenge is not new to us.  We are entering our very busy spring season next week.  From Tuesday until the end of June (actually till the end of October) we will have a guest group on site every day.  Many of our student guests will have the same great experience this young man had.  They will bond with our staff, (we have a great staff!) and will go home excited about Evergreen.  However, when they try to register for summer camp it will be full.  As of writing this blog we are 132 campers ahead of last year at this time.  16 of our camps are full.  We have made some adjustments to ages and camps in an effort to squeeze a few more campers in this summer.  And yet, we have been turning children away as early as January.

Between now and the end of June we will see approximately 1,500 guests, the majority of which are camper age.  We will be turning campers away for the next two months.

That is why we are Reaching Higher.  The board has recently talked about increasing our ministry capacity by 50% in 5 years.  That is an aggressive goal.  But the reason is as simple as it is clear - we want to see more children have a life changing experience here at Evergreen.  Pray for us as we work hard to accomplish that goal.

With all our guests and campers we are still looking for a few more spring staff and summer volunteers.  The spring staff positions are paid positions and you can contact Lane for more information.

In summer we're looking for adult volunteers to spend a week in the (fun) kitchen.  And if you're 16 years or older and love working with children, we need you to volunteer for a week or six!  Again, please contact Lane for more information.

And what about that blog word of the week?  Some of you are thinking, "How is Ranger going to tie hatchet into Reaching Higher?"  Sometimes I wonder the same thing myself.  Well, this weekend is our Ladies Retreat.  There will be lots of ladies.  (read LOTS of ladies!)  The small lodge reno was finished just in time.  We have a coffee plan ready to kick in, (did you catch the pun?) and it looks like we will huck some boots again.

New for this year...well you will just have to wait to find out about the hatchet.  But I can say with great confidence, there is a hatchet somewhere in Ladies Retreat 2018!

Thanks for your continued support.

Bob "Ranger" Kroeker
Executive Director

Friday, March 23, 2018

What's Going On?

I often have people ask me how things are going and what do you do in the winter?  While it is true that we have less guest groups in winter, that doesn't mean we are less busy.  In fact, in some ways we are busier, especially when it comes to projects.  Here is a list of ministry expansion projects (formerly special projects) that we've either completed or are currently working on since the beginning of November.

 - Built 30+ shelves.

 - Built 7 bunk beds.

 - Painted the shoe shelves.
 - Painted the mini lodge interior.
 - Working on the beverage counters.

 - Painted both mobile home interiors.
 - Installed new beverage counter lights.
 - Painted the upstairs lodge - "staff" side.

 - Added equipment to our archery range.
 - Many, many, (many) hours spent making ice.
 - New flooring in the upstairs lodge washrooms.

 - Making a new Nine Square game - thanks John!
 - Working on a new guest group orientation video.
 - Painting the boot rooms and hallways in the lodge.
 - Installing an en-suite door into the guest washroom.
 - Installed a permanent video projector in the Heritage Room.

 - Shoveled snow.  Lot's of snow.  More snow than we wanted to shovel!
 - Renovated the Creative Arts Building.  (CAB)  Including some new shelving, painting the floors and the walls.
 - Continued work on The Fort.  Took down scaffolding, cut down two trees in preparation for finishing this spring.

As I look at this list I'm thankful for our staff working hard to keep Camp Evergreen looking good and moving forward.  A BIG thanks to Rolf as his hand was pretty much in every project!  We would like to finish these projects and if time and resources allow reach a little higher by starting a few more projects.  You can help us by making a donation to ministry expansion.

June 23rd.  I'll stop blogging for a minute while you get out your calendar.

Did you find it?  It's the second last Saturday in June, right between the 22nd and the 24th.  Go ahead and put Camp Evergreen Annual General Meeting in your phone/ipad/calander.  I'll wait for you.

June 23rd is our AGM, the perfect way to support Camp Evergreen and check out all the new projects.  I look forward to seeing you there.

And where does the blog word of the week fit in?  We're talking about none other than Ken's Uncle Ben VanHaga!  Uncle Ben is Ken's mom's younger brother, number 7 out of 10 siblings to be exact.  Uncle Ben helped us out by donating his truck to deliver hay.  On  behalf of our horses - thanks Uncle Ben!

And thank you for your continued support.

Bob "Ranger" Kroeker
Executive Director

Friday, March 9, 2018

One Million!

Well we did it!  Through cash and pledges we have raised our first million dollars!  1,033,906.36 to be exact.  I always like putting the 36 cents in as it reminds us that no matter how big or small our pledge is, together we can do much more than by ourselves.  We need to take this first million and keep moving forward simply because we have run out of space.  We're still about 140 campers ahead of last year at this time, 14 of our 25 summer camps are full, and we've been turning campers away since January.

I think it's appropriate to stop for a moment and realize what Reaching Higher has accomplished so far.  First, we've built two staff homes for the price of one.  Two for one!  Buy one get one free!  That is no small deal.  Second, we've raised over one million dollars.  One million is a big number.  Any one of these would be a great accomplishment on their own.  Put them both together and you get a HUGE accomplishment!  Thank you very much to everyone who has participated.

We continue to move ahead with the new lodge.  I had the opportunity to meet with our architect recently and as a building committee we're working hard to finalize our needs and the floor plan.  Some of you might be wondering about the exciting septic system.  (I realize that septic and exciting don't usually go together!)  To be honest it's not likely that many of us have lost sleep wondering about the septic system.  But we are currently exploring the possibility of government grants and new technology.  That's exciting!  The septic system is needed for the new lodge and we hope to start on that project soon.

In other news we are working hard with some ministry expansion projects here at camp.  We want to finish the fire circle by summer.  One of our long time supporters has donated the funds to help us finish the project and I'll share more about that in another blog.  We are painting the lodge boot room, the hallway, and the upstairs lodge on the staff side.  Rolf is renovating our guest washroom in the lodge and all three upstairs bathrooms will (finally) be getting new flooring.

We have two new guest groups on site today and they needed both wings of our archery range open at the same time.  That gave us the opportunity to reach higher by purchasing some additional bows and arrows to accommodate the larger group.  This increase in programming is a trend that will only continue to grow.  John recently built us a new game called 9 Square which is a lot of fun and gives us another indoor activity.  Thanks John!

To complete these projects and to be able to start several other projects we will need your financial help.  Please designate your donation to ministry expansion.

Our family was able to celebrate Christmas in Orlando this year.  It was difficult for us to get together at Christmas so we decided to go somewhere a little warmer.  Of course I needed to bring the camp mug along for the ride!  Bev wasn't as excited about that as I was.  :)  In the bottom front right you have me with the mug, Mitch and Samuel beside me.  In the front is Bev, Nina and Samara.

Thanks for your continued support!

Bob "Ranger" Kroeker
Executive Director

Friday, February 9, 2018

A Little Of This...

-35 is what I woke up to this morning.  Minus Thirty Five!!!  And then it got colder!  -37!  It seems that winter is trying hard to hang on here at Camp Evergreen and so far it's doing a great job.  We experienced the same snow storm yesterday as most of you did which created perfect snow shoeing and snow shoveling conditions!  In spite of the cold and in spite of the snow, our guest group arrived on site this morning which is a great segway into sharing our need for a new lodge.

You may have heard of the phrase - there is no such thing as bad weather - only bad clothing.  While that may be true we are finding more and more of our guest groups have temperature guidelines from their school districts or head offices.  We're pretty happy working in -20.  (Well, pretty happy is a little subjective and it's safe to say we're usually not ecstatic!)  But once it gets colder than -20 things stop working.  Gators, quads, our hands, even Scamp.

Today is a great example of why we are reaching higher with our new lodge  As we continue to push into the colder months we need the flexibility to keep on programing when it's -37 outside.  More meeting space today would have allowed us the opportunity to be more creative with this school.  An Adventure Centre today would have allowed us to climb inside and to have archery indoors.  Believe me it's much easier climbing inside than outside with 36.3 layers of clothes on!

If you're wondering what it would feel like to serve a school when it's -37, bundle up, stop by Courtney's office for a Hand Warmer, and join us as we do our best to give this school a great experience.  We're hoping some of the students come back as campers!

Speaking of campers - as of the writing of this blog we are 161 campers ahead of last year at this time with a total of 732 campers registered.  11 camps are full.  Remember last year our family camps filled up quickly.  29 minutes is all it took for our first family camp to fill this year.  That's got to be a record.

What's currently happening at camp these days?  A little of this and a little of that.  We re-painted and touched up the Creative Arts Building.  We're in the process of hanging curtains in there so when we use it as a band clinician room the trombones won't bounce off the walls quite as much.  The Mini Lodge's main room got a fresh coat of paint.  Rolf is working on the new beverage bar counters when he's not plowing, plowing or plowing.  Max and Dylan are working on garage shelves for the new homes.  There is no shortage of things to do.

With weather like this - I can hardly wait for summer!

Thanks for your continued support.

Bob "Ranger" Kroeker
Executive Director

Friday, February 2, 2018

The Evergreen Shuffle

The Evergreen Shuffle - not to be confused with the Rankin Families "Mull River Shuffle" - is the staff here at Evergreen moving from house to house.  Here is the skinny:

- the Kroekers moved from the Blue Trailer to the Green House.
- The Underwoods moved from the Grey Trailer to the Red House.
- The Thielmann's moved from the Little Brown House to the Blue Trailer - after a wonderful painting job led by Mikaela.
- John moved from the Brown House to the Little Brown House and immediately put up two Calgary Flames flags at the front door.
- Dylan moved from the Lodge to the Little Brown House and now there is only one Calgary Flames flag flying!
- The female seasonal staff have moved into the Grey Trailer and will be sleeping on newly constructed bunk beds.
- The male seasonal staff will be moving into the Brown House.

Thankfully this didn't all happen at the same time as we've been sharing the 1 ton truck for moving!  We're hoping the end result will give us a little more elbow room in the lodge for guest groups and campers as space continues to be one of our challenges.  So we've built some more bunks, fixed some walls, painted some walls and anticipate the shuffle finale is about a week away.

Speaking of space, space is rapidly disappearing in our summer camps.  At the time of this writing we are 125 campers ahead of last year, we have 650 campers registered and seven of our summer camps are already full!  That means we were already turning campers away in January which is the main reason we are reaching higher.  We want more kids to be able to experience the life changing experience of summer camp.

Now that the homes are finished, the board and building committee have turned their focus to the new lodge.  The biggest challenge we have - at least from this directors perspective - is fundraising.  Fundraising is difficult, I guess that's why they don't call it Easyraising!  As many of you already know, we are very close to raising our first million through cash and pledges.  We've raised $974,452.11 to be exact.  Where did the eleven cents come from you might be asking?  We've had quite a few young children support us, and sometimes they give us their hard earned cash money in pennies.  These children are an example to those of us who can give more than pennies!

My encouragement today is to all our supporters who are not quite willing to make a commitment, not quite willing to make a pledge - just in case we don't end up building.  I don't know if I can make it any clearer - we are building.  We have to build.  Did you read those numbers two paragraphs ago.  We're turning campers away in January!  The question then is not if we're building, but when we're building.  The trouble with waiting for "someone else" to donate before we donate, is that then we will be waiting a long time - time we just don't have.  Your pledge doesn't have to be a lot.  (However if it was a lot that would be good!)  We just need your pledge.

Thanks again for your continued support.

Bob "Ranger" Kroeker
Executive Director

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Underwoods

It is after Christmas and we are now into the second week of January 2018.  In Bob's last blog post of 2017, he wondered why does time always seem to pass so quickly?  For us - the Underwood family - we ask the same question.  2017 was a year that we were glad to be able to put behind us on a high note.  The day we received the "keys" for the Red House - now the Underwood home - was one year plus a day that Rachel was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  The start of 2017 was a little challenging to say the least!  However, we are blessed by our Heavenly Father for the amazing gift of life and healing that we have experienced, Rachel in particular.

We are also blessed with the beautiful gift of this home that we are now living in and thoroughly enjoying.  We are thankful for the community of Evergreen that we call home and for you, the greater community, for making all of this possible.  We thank you for your prayers and your love for us as a family.  There is no better place for us to be as a family than where we are right now.  It has always been a desire of our hearts to be in a the centre of God's will and we believe Camp Evergreen to be that place.  The added blessing to this is having a phenomenal church in Bergen to be part of.  Bergen Missionary Church has been an incredible support to us in 2017.

We're often asked how Rachel is doing.  To say she is doing well is an understatement.  She is doing fantastic!  We had a follow up appointment on December 18th and her levels are normal.  Praise The Lord!  Rachel returned to work in the middle of September to Mount Imagination Chldcare where she teaches preschool three days a week.

We want to thank all of you for your love, your generosity, and your faithfulness to the ministry here at Camp Evergreen that impacts so many people, including our family.  We have been blessed far more than we can ask or imagine.

We also want to thank all the people who made our home possible.  Craig and his guys from Kingsmith Homes, the Evergreen Board for having a strong vision, Ben for the amazing cabinetry, the tin roofers, Scott and Brian for framing the homes (even when the weather was downright cold!), Larry and Linda for painting, the flooring and tile installers - the list goes on.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

May you be richly bless more than you can ask or imagine in this year ahead.

With much love, joy, peace and hope,

Ken, Rachel, Kiah, Daniel and Levi Underwood