Posts Tagged With: retreat

Why Give?

  1. Giving makes you feel happy. A 2008 study by Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton and colleagues found that giving money to someone else lifted participants’ happiness more that spending it on themselves (despite participants’ prediction that spending on themselves would make them happier). These good feelings are reflected in our biology. In a 2006 study, Jorge Moll and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health found that when people give to charities, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, creating a “warm glow” effect. Scientists also believe that altruistic behavior releases endorphins in the brain, producing the positive feeling known as the “helper’s high.”
  2. Giving is good for our health. A wide range of research has linked different forms of generosity to better health, even among the sick and elderly. In his book Why Good Things Happen to Good People, Stephen Post, a professor of preventative medicine at Stony Brook University, reports that giving to others has been shown to increase health benefits in people with chronic illness, including HIV and multiple sclerosis. Researchers suggest that one reason giving may improve physical health and longevity is that it helps decrease stress, which is associated with a variety of health problems.


  3. Giving promotes cooperation and social connection. When you give, you’re more likely to get back. Several studies, including work by sociologists Brent Simpson and Robb Willer, have suggested that when you give to others, your generosity is likely to be rewarded by others down the line—sometimes by the person you gave to, sometimes by someone else. These exchanges promote a sense of trust and cooperation that strengthens our ties to others—and research has shown that having positive social interactions is central to good mental and physical health. What’s more, when we give to others, we don’t only make them feel closer to us, we also feel closer to them.
  4. Giving evokes gratitude. Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of a gift, that gift can elicit feelings of gratitude—it can be a way of expressing gratitude or instilling gratitude in the recipient. And research has found that gratitude is integral to happiness, health, and social bonds. Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, co- directors of the Research Project on Gratitude and Thankfulness, found that teaching college students to count their blessings and cultivate gratitude caused them to exercise more, be more optimistic, and feel better about their lives overall.
    I Am Yours
  5. Giving is contagious. When we give, we don’t only help the immediate recipient of our gift. We also spur a ripple effect of generosity through our community. A study by James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego, and Nicholas Christakis of Harvard, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, shows that when one person behaves generously, it inspires observers to behave generously later, toward different people. In fact, the researchers found that altruism could spread by three degrees—from person to person to person to person. “As a result,” they write, “each person in a network can influence dozens or even hundreds of people, some of whom he or she does not know and has not met.”

So whether you buy gifts, volunteer your time, or donate money to charity this holiday season, your giving is much more than just a year-end chore. It may help you build stronger social connections and even jump-start a cascade of generosity through your community. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself benefiting from a big dose of happiness in the process.

Thank you for considering Asbury Hills in your giving!

2013 Annual Report

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10 Questions with Katie Stanczak

If you’ve called the Asbury Hills phone number, chances are very good you have spoken with Katie.  She handles all summer camp registrations and retreat group logistics.  She is also overall amazing and keeps things running smoothly.

Katie grew up in a small town just outside of Gainesville, Florida with four siblings.  She studied Family, Youth, and Community Science at the University of Florida with a minor in nonprofit management and is about to celebrate her one-year wedding anniversary with fellow Asbury Hills staffer Joseph Stanczak.

superhero weddingHere are 10 questions with Katie:

1. What is your favorite superhero?
Captain America

2. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Hmmmm, that is a tough question. I would have to say the ability to go through solid objects – trees, walls, cars, etc.

3. Have you played any sports?
Yes! I played soccer growing up both for school teams as well as traveling club teams.  I also played volleyball in both middle and high school.

4. What are your hobbies?
I enjoy spending time outdoors, hiking and running, as well as reading and crafting.

snow5. Favorite movie?
I don’t think I can pick one favorite movie.  I do enjoy watching all things Disney!

6. Favorite vacation spot?
Disney World.  I’ve decided I will never be too old to enjoy a trip to Disney.

7. If you had to live off one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Potatoes. I love that potatoes can be turned into so many different dishes. I love mashed potatoes, fries, baked potatoes, chips…

8. Favorite TV show?
Downton Abbey. I enjoy shows that are set in earlier time periods.

9. Favorite thing about Asbury Hills?
I love how peaceful Asbury Hills is.  Stress just seems to disappear here.  The lake and mountain chapels are my favorite spots on camp.

10. What are you most looking forward to about the next year?
I am looking forward to sharing Asbury Hills with new retreat groups, families, and summer campers!


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One Year of Blogging

It was almost one year ago today that Asbury Hills started this blog.  We wanted a better way to connect with you – to tell stories, share information, or even just share a quote and a picture.  We had no idea it would take off the way it has with 2,148 followers and thousands of monthly views.  The best part of blogging though is getting to hear from you!  We love seeing you share our stories around Facebook & Twitter and being able to read the emails you send us asking for more information or sharing your opinion.  So for the next year, we ask you to keep them coming!


And if you’ve missed out, here are our top 5 viewed blog posts from the past year.

1. 10 Questions with Asbury Hills Director David Rouse

2. Because I Went to Camp: Sarah’s Story

3. Happy Staff Equals Happy Campers

4. But Why? The Closed-Toe Shoe Rule

5. Asbury Hills – More Fun Than Disney World

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Creating the Perfect S’more

There isn’t anything more quintessentially camp than a s’more.  And it is usually around this time that I start going through s’more withdrawal after having them readily available each week during the summer.  Here’s how to make them at home.

Marshmallow (full-size)
Chocolate Bar
Graham Crackers


Step 1: Break graham crackers and chocolate bars in half.  They should fit together nicely.

Step 2: Roast marshmallows.  There is some debate on how to do this correctly.  I like mine evenly toasted and brown.  It takes some patience to get it right but is well worth the wait.  Others prefer theirs burnt to a crisp.  It’s really up to you at this point but make a campfire to roast the marshmallow.  It really adds to the experience and makes for an authentic taste.


In a pinch, you can microwave the marshmallows on High for 10-15 seconds.  Watch them closely however because they can go from warm, gooey, and delicious to completely burnt very quickly.

Step 3: Assemble the s’more.  Best order goes 1/2 graham cracker, chocolate, marshmallow, 1/2 graham cracker and squish together.

Step 4: Enjoy!


Want even more s’more ideas this fall?  Check out these ideas.

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Climb the Alpine Tower

The staff here at Asbury Hills are having a blast planning for Summer Camp 2015 and getting to serve tons of retreat groups.  One of our favorite activities for both campers and retreat guests is the Alpine Tower.  Now, we understand that some of you reading this are too far away to travel to Asbury Hills for our annual Fall Festival on November 1st to try it for yourself.  We also understand that some of you are terrified of heights and simply putting on the harness is pushing you outside your comfort zone.  So whether you have already climbed the Alpine Tower, wish to climb, or can’t imagine climbing it – here is your opportunity to virtually climb the tower.

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Get Hooked on Nature

At Asbury Hills, we believe in the importance of kids spending time outdoors.

“As kids now spend more time with entertainment media, they’re getting less and less time outdoors, despite the mental and physical health benefits. Ben Klasky, CEO of IslandWood, a 255-acre outdoor learning center, proposes a free and natural remedy to the physical problems kids face: the Great Outdoors. ” -from TEDxRainier

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Survey Says….

At the conclusion of each week of summer camp, Asbury Hills sends out camper and parent surveys.  Here’s what you had to say:

Asbury Hills Infographic


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Platforms Coming to Home in the Woods

Home in the woods is a long-standing tradition at Asbury Hills. But it is also one of the activities on parent and camper reviews that people seem to either love or hate. We get it! It is designed to be an activity to challenge groups to work together and push campers out of their comfort zones. We understand that family camping, especially primitive camping, is not as common as it once was. Because of this, for many of our campers, home in the woods is their first experience camping out ever!


Many of you know, our staff spends many meetings each fall and spring reviewing the results of summer evaluations and planning to make the next summer even better than the last. Because feedback is typically split on home in the woods, it is something that we discuss each year. The answer we come up with is always a resounding YES. Home in the woods is still worth it for our campers because it offers individual skills and aids in group formation in ways we cannot replicate with a different activity. (For a former staff’s perspective on home in the woods, click here.)


However, we are sensitive to our campers’ experiences and expectations. We expect home in the woods to be a challenging activity for some, but we want it to be a great one by the end! This is why we are excited to announce, for the summer of 2015, there will be platforms built at the home in the woods sites. These platforms will allow our groups to have the same opportunity to experience nature first hand and for campers to learn camping and cooking skills while providing a little more comfortable of an experience. Campers will still be sleeping in nature without having to sleep directly on the group. This will also limit the amount of tarp flooding that can happen when rain moves in on home in the woods nights.

Eagle scouts and other volunteer groups will be working various weekends this fall and spring to outfit our campsites with platforms. We are excited to be able to offer them to campers this summer!

Examples of a platform type:

platform 1

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Throwback Thursday: Dreams Becoming Reality On Methodist Mountain Camp-Site

Below is an article originally published in the February 21, 1963 edition of the Advocate. Today, we are thankful that 50+ years ago many worked towards and dreamed of the place that would become Asbury Hills Camp & Retreat Center.


Next Sunday is Camp Development Day in the Methodist Churches of South Carolina.

Behind it are the hopes, dreams, and mountain-top visions, on the part of many people through long years of youth-work in the Methodist churches of South Carolina, which are now becoming a reality.

In the mountains, between Travelers’ Rest and Caesar’s Head, Cleveland, SC, the Methodist Camp is taking physical form.

Ten cabins have been finished, of which seven are for Juniors, and three for Senior Youth.

Being built are the Health Center, Staff Lodge, and Dining Hall. Just completed is the Bath House. Previous to this, a water system was install, roads built, a dam built and water impounded for the lake, and a home constructed for Camp Superintendent Wesley Voigt and his family.

There are 565 acres in the site.


Camping has been an important part of the program of Christian Education conducted by the Boards of Education of the form Upper South Carolina and the South Carolina conference. With the merging of the two conferences in 1949, the program has been statewide in nature.

Working under the direction of the conference executive secretary of the Board of Education in this program have been Directors of Youth Work, who have borne a major part of the responsibility through the years.

With state-wide responsibility, and coming into contact with hundreds of young people from the nearly 800 Methodist churches throughout the state, the post is a vital one in the life of the church. At times served by volunteer leaders of the Conferences, and at other times by full-time persons, all have found camping a valued part of the church’s work.

Each summer, for many years past, the camping program has been carried on at State Parks, rented for limited periods of time in the summer, and in such other facilities as have been available.

Under such circumstances, limitations of time and facilities have limited the number of youth who could be accommodated in the summer camping program. It has also meant that no opportunity was available for junior-age children to camp. Yet, year-by-year it was demonstrated again and again that the camping experience under church sponsorship opened the way to joy and happiness and increased spiritual growth…

Now the work is under way.


With the earlier contributions, and the memorial cabins already built and the work that has already been done, the present construction will make it possible to use the Camp in the summer of 1963.

Beginning the third week in June, there will be four weeks of camping for Junior girls and boys.

Senior youth, age 15 and above, will have a two-weeks Work Camp, beginning the first week in July. At that time they will help to develop some phase of camp life. Last year, 20 young people in such a camp built two bridges over streams in the camp.

The Work Camp this year will be limited to 22 persons. Applications should be made to the Youth Director….

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What’s a Love Gift?

By Sarah Kelley

It’s the last week of summer camp, which means that the closing summer staff dinner party and love gifts are just around the corner. What is a love gift you ask? Well, it’s one of those things that really needs to be experienced to fully understand, but I will do the best I can.

Probably the best analogy for love gifts is Secret Santa, but that doesn’t cover the scope of it. During staff training, we focus a lot on unity and teamwork. Summer staff really comes together by the end of training to form a family. Inside jokes will be formed, and people will celebrate and vent to each other about the weeks they had. What does this have to do with love gifts you ask? Well, as a part of staff training, each staff member draws the name of another staff member. The goal is to really focus on getting to know that person so, by the end of the summer, you can hand-make them a gift that fits them best.

Paige The Saturday following the end of summer camp is a staff workday. This is the day where we try to put everything back where it came from, let the site recover from summer camp, and get Asbury Hills all ready for fall retreats. By mid-afternoon, chores are done and staff clean up for the closing dinner. This is always a themed event. Recent themes include derby days, Olympics, luaus, and blue & white. This year’s theme will be superheroes. Following the dinner, and with much anticipation, is the love gifts ceremony. One person will go first, present their love gift to their person, then the person who just received the gift will present, and so-on. 

NikkiWho you have for love gifts is supposed to a secret. There is the usual scoping out best friends and boyfriends/girlfriends for the inside scoop, but it is typically a complete surprise for the staff member receiving the love gift as to who has them. For example, the summer of 2007, one of my closest camp friends had me for love gifts. She made the paper and wrote a book detailing my experiences at camp. She had observed everything – the highs and lows of my weeks, favorite moments and hard struggles. She then wrote them all down and gave it to me as my love gift. I. WAS. SHOCKED.

We have also had had blankets, stools, and bags with various landmarks and maps of camp. Jessica and JoshWe had a soapbox derby car made for one of the staff to race down the hill. Ed 2Ed

We even had a marriage proposal. (Don’t worry. He made the box, not the ring.) Clack Engagement 2 Clack EngagementSo while it is always sad to see another summer go by and the staff head back to school, there will always be a love gift to help remember the summer by.

closing ceremony

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