Nine years after a tornado struck Pine Lake and killed 12 people, a children’s camp has opened four new sleeping quarters with fortified basements.
The Salvation Army Pine Lake Camp officially opened its $4 million lodges on Saturday in front of young campers wearing lime green shirts which read “Extreme Makeover: Camp Edition.”
Each building contains several bunk rooms, washrooms, plus a sitting area with sink and cupboards. But what makes the lodges unique is below ground.
Operators of the Christian camp decided to build tornado shelters on its southwest property, 25 km southeast of Red Deer.
Captain Pam Goodyear said the camp wasn’t significantly damaged, except for trees, when a tornado tore through the lake’s west side on July 14, 2000.
“It’s an area where a lot of tornadoes tend to touch down within the surrounding area,” Goodyear said.
Karen Diaper, communications co-ordinator for divisional headquarters in Edmonton, said the lodge basements have no windows or doors. “And the rebar is stronger and thicker, so the area is reinforced,” Diaper said.
She said emergency drills will be held so that children and staff know to head to the basement.
The Salvation Army camp accepts more than 1,000 underprivileged children from across Alberta each summer.
Goodyear said these children may come from dysfunctional homes, foster care or homes where single parents are financially struggling.
“These are kids who might not otherwise get away for the summer,” she said. The children who attend range in age from seven to 16.
With the larger accommodations, more children can be accepted.
Each lodge can hold up to about 30 campers.
“The original cabins had been there since the campground opened 50 years ago,” said Goodyear. Those cabins were torn down.
Commissioners William and Marilyn Francis of Toronto, national leaders for The Salvation Army, helped dedicate the buildings and install Edmonton area residents Fred and Wendy Waters as divisional leaders for the Alberta and Northwest Territories.
“We’ve been to many camps around the country and the world and these facilities are state of the art, and they will last for many years with heavy use,” said William Francis. “It makes sense to build tornado shelters because this is a tornado alley. Camping is wonderful, but there are risks involved and we have to do everything we can to reduce them.”
Marilyn is pleased these lodges are so comfy for the children.
“It will increase their wanting to stay,” she said. “We have some camps where they have to stay in tents and get rained on. Here, the children will be loved and sheltered in a beautiful homey atmosphere.”
The building project was supported through donations and an annual golf tournament. Of the $4 million, about $300,000 still needs to be raised, Goodyear said.
“We did manage to get some bridge funding to get them open,” she said.
People can give money to the Donate a Bed campaign by going online at ab.salvationarmy.ca/pinelake