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Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2017:05:10 12:13:41

Mary Carroll Donahoe shows off a retreat area where campers commune with nature.

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Tunkhannock Area FBLA students walk up from the camp’s swimming area in Oxbow Lake.

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STAFF PHOTO/ROBERT BAKER United Neighborhoods Center CEO Michael Hanley shares some of the gens of the campground including the climbing wall at right.

Members of the Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce stepped out of their comfort zone for their May educational luncheon last Wednesday and took a hike at Camp Kelly in Lemon Township.

The United Neighborhood Centers of Northeastern Pennsylvania acquired the former Camp St. Andrew from the Diocese of Scranton in November after leasing the facility and taking over operation of a variety of camps last summer.

The facility was renamed UNC’s Camp Kelly, in honor of Monsignor Joseph P. Kelly who served as director of the resident Camp St. Andrew for more than four decades and was the founder of Project Hope.

The Diocese of Scranton established Camp St. Andrew in 1940.

With the start of the camping season still a couple of months away, Michael Hanley, UNC’s chief executive officer told the Chamber members he had attended the former camp in 1961 and it had always held a special place in his heart.

About 10 of the Chamber members present admitted they had attended Camp St. Andrew, and Bernadette Kozlowski, a former camper, counselor and administrator who helped rally support for keeping the camp open after the Diocese announced its intentions to close it two years ago, said that Camp St. Andrew was the single most important influence in her life.

Hanley said that since acquiring the camp, UNC has been exploring different ways to use the camp, and possibly extending that use into the spring and fall - and even raised the possibility if ample snow were on the ground to have a snowshoeing hike in the winter.

As for this summer: The first week of girls resident camp, scheduled July 9-14, actually filled up within hours after registration opened Feb. 1 and now has a waiting list. The second week, set for July 16-21, is almost full, while spots remain for the third week, July 23-28.

UNC officials are working to get the word out about the boys resident camp, a once-popular program that the diocese discontinued more than 20 years ago.

After a box lunch, the Chamber crowd broke into four groups as UNC staffers became temporary counselors showing some of the campground’s hidden gems, such as a climbing wall and other places to commune with nature, and also making an occasional pitch for needed funds for a Camp Kelly Restoration fundraising campaign that is currently underway.

“There are lots of dreams about what we can do,” Mary Carroll Donahoe told her group.

“We don’t want to change anything, except to change up,” she said in terms of modernizing some of the facilities while preserving the outdoor experience.

UNC has raised about $125,000 for its Camp Kelly capital campaign, which has a goal of $500,000 to repair and upgrade cabins, bathhouses and other camp facilities.

The priority is renovating the bathhouses, which UNC hopes to complete by July.

If you’d like to help, contact Donahoe at 570-346-0759, ext. 114.