Nonprofit group seeks to provide support to Camp Kaleo


FORSYTH, Ga. — A new nonprofit organization has been created to generate financial support for the Camp Kaleo Retreat Center, a site in rural Monroe County where children gather each summer to learn about Jesus.

Friends of Kaleo will raise money for improvement projects and to help cover camp fees for students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend, said Jim Strickland, president of the organization.

“We also want to connect all the generations of people who have worked at camp, former campers, missionaries, pastors, nurses, families, and community members,” said Hope Castillo, the group’s vice president, communications director, events coordinator, and a former camp staff member. “The group is open to everyone who loves Kaleo.”

Strickland, who served on the Kaleo staff from 1989 to 1993 said Camp Kaleo has been important to generations of Georgia Baptists.

“It changes the lives of the boys and girls,” he said. “When campers come to Kaleo, they’re away from the distractions of the world, They’re in God’s creation, and they get to see Him come alive to them, sometimes for the very first time.”

The group is sponsoring a Kaleo homecoming on Nov. 11 in hopes of pulling together people who have a current or past connection to the camp, whether as a staff member or a camper.

The group has already sponsored scholarships for four campers and purchased a refrigerator for the camp store.

“Kaleo is the best kept secret in Georgia,” Strickland said. “It’s a wonderful place with a lot of potential.”

The idea for Friends of Kaleo was birthed in the late 1990's when a group of former staff members created a newsletter and opened a bank account for membership dues.

“Fast forward 25 years, and a new generation, in conjunction with the old one, saw the need for this group,” Castillo wrote on the Friends of Kaleo website. “We wanted to create a way to help further the mission of the place we love.”

Castillo describes Kaleo as a holy place where people experience God’s call on their lives.

“Our goal is that we keep the mindset that this place is not ours to preserve our own memories and traditions, but it's God's,” she said.