Originally created 09/30/05

4-H camp gives shelter from storm



EATONTON, Ga. - The Rock Eagle 4-H Camp's guests usually include businessmen, churchgoers and students. For most of September, though, the Putnam County camp played host to visitors of a different sort - evacuees from New Orleans.

Converting the camp into a shelter for 700 people undoubtedly saved lives, but it also forced the cancellation of more than 30 scheduled events, costing the University of Georgia-run facility more than $400,000, according to 4-H Associate State Leader Arch Smith.

The canceled events ranged from small banquets and civic club meetings to a bicycle-race fundraiser for multiple sclerosis and a United Methodist Church retreat expected to draw 1,000 men, Mr. Smith said.

The Methodist retreat chose not to reschedule.

"We just learned that for security reasons we cannot use the (Rock Eagle) facility as long as they are housing evacuees," said a post on the Methodist group's Web site signed by church officials. "We weighed other possibilities but realized the spirit of Rock Eagle is special to all of us and could not be duplicated elsewhere."

Twenty-nine events were canceled at Rock Eagle in September along with three in October, because camp authorities couldn't commit to them, Mr. Smith said.

The camp was closed from Sept. 3, when evacuees began arriving, through last Friday, when the American Red Cross and other area nonprofit groups placed the last 100 or so evacuees in temporary housing.

The camp will be up and running again Monday, playing host to student groups throughout the week and training 650 4-H leaders from across the state beginning next Thursday, Mr. Smith said.