By Anne O’Connor
GROTON — Tucked away just ten miles from Route 495, Grotonwood welcomes everyone for camp or retreats.
With over a mile of shoreline on Lost Lake and hundreds of acres of woods and fields, Grotonwood retains the feel of an old-fashioned summer camp. Even in October, children are running and playing around the wooden buildings.
Nature’s Classroom uses the camp in the fall and spring, said Breeze Everitt, the new program director.
Grotonwood provides the food for the environmental learning program and Nature’s Classroom does the rest.
The aromas coming from the dining room on an autumn day were mouth-watering. The Hawaiian-born Dan Kaleo is an award-winning chef, she said.
Groups using the conference center for a retreat or seminar have many options, Everitt said. They might be totally self-sufficient and cook for themselves.
A separate area in the camp has a building with a commercial kitchen. There are cabins, a gym, meeting space, a dining hall and a separate chapel.
A group might stay for just a few hours or spend several days. The Boy Scouts meet at the camp and a girl’s softball team trains there.
Accommodations range from heated buildings with twin beds and private bathrooms, some handicap accessible, to yurts open in warmer weather.
There are plenty of bathrooms and showers for campers, Everitt said.
The Baptist camp continues to change as the years go by.
Purchased in 1956, the first screened cabins were built by the families that planned to use the camp. Buildings already on the land, like the 1694 home, were repurposed.
In 2015, a dorm in a more than 200-year-old barn burned. Memorial Lodge, which has handicap accessible rooms, replaced it.
The newest feature, The Peanut, has yet to arrive.
Everitt was enthusiastic as she described the purchase. Campers can jump on one end of the inflatable raft that is sometimes called a blob, propelling a person at the other end up in the air and out into the water.
Grotonwood supports itself, she said. The facility is owned by the American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts, which also provides oversight for the religion curriculum used in summer camp.
Jewish, Catholic and Hindu children attend day and overnight camps. The religious education invokes a loving community, Everitt said.
“We’re very inclusive,” she said. “We don’t beat anyone around the head with a bible.”
Kids from all backgrounds go to the same camp sessions. Children of traumatized veterans, inner city children and kids from the greater community may all interact together.
Some of the inner city children may come from terrible, traumatic backgrounds, Everitt said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re loving them.”
Donors and alumni provide scholarships for children and disabled adults to attend camps run by Grotonwood. Between 125 and 150 campers were subsidized last year, Everitt said.
“We’ll never turn a camper away,” Everitt said, just because the family cannot afford the tuition.
Children’s camps are divided by age group and last one week. Campers can attend more than one week, but most return home on Saturday nights.
Adult camps have sit-down dinners and dances. Staff ratios change depending on the needs of the individual camps.
Grotonwood is also a place of romance. Three couples formed in 2013, all staff members. Now, all three are married, Everitt said.
Everitt and her husband Daniel Everitt, the executive director, first came to Groton a few years ago. The British couple had a yearn to travel, so they saved up and spent time in Africa and Groton doing a service ministry.
They returned to the United Kingdom where she works in finance and he works in construction in upscale neighborhoods. Everything was in place for them to build a new house of their own.
Instead, the call came from Grotonwood. The Everitts were needed.
Instead of a home in the U.K., they live in a cabin in the Groton woods and are learning to drive on the opposite side of the road.
Follow Anne O’Connor on Twitter @a1oconnor.