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Pork Industry Steps Up to Help Camp Don Lee

Camp Don Lee pic Many of us who live along the eastern coast of the U.S. remember Hurricane Irene as a large and powerful Atlantic storm. Irene made landfall near Cape Lookout in late August of 2011 and, ahead of landfall, it spawned several tornadoes.

From falling trees and power lines to heavy rainfall and extensive storm surge, there were significant impacts across eastern North Carolina. By the time it moved north, Irene caused seven deaths in our state. Over 660,000 power outages were reported along with more than 270 roads flooded. Federal disaster declarations were made for 38 North Carolina counties.

Many of our farmers suffered significant crop losses as well as damages to farm structures. One of the hardest hit areas was Pamlico County where Irene caused storm surge up to 15 feet along parts of the Pamlico Sound. Doppler Radar estimated totals of over 17 inches of rain in portionscamp don lee logo of the county.

Camp Don Lee, a treasured camp of 55 acres on the banks of the Neuse River in Pamlico County, was a victim. The camp, formally known as Don Lee Camp & Retreat Center, suffered the traumatic loss of its nature facility to the ravages of Hurricane Irene.

ncpc logoAlmost three years later– in fact, almost three years from the very day that Irene made landfall– Camp Don Lee broke ground for a 2,700 square-foot Environmental Education Center to replace the nature facility that was brought down by storm. The new construction is being largely funded by the generous support of Murphy-Brown LLC, Hog Slat Inc., and the North Carolina Pork Council(NCPC).

In the August 10 celebration, attended by about 500 guests, Camp Don Lee representatives were joined by Don Butler of Murphy-Brown LLC, Billy Herring of Hog Slat, Inc., and Bryant Worley of NCPC in the groundbreaking ceremony. Speaking at the ceremony, Murphy-Brown Vice President Don Butler said, “This fine new center will be here long after we are all gone. It’s a facility where young people can learn about the bounty of the earth, how to take care of it, and where our food comes from.”

The camp lost its former home for many aquatic animals and teaching aids when Irene struck on that late August day three years ago. Dail Ballard, executive director of the N.C. United Methodist Camp & Retreat Ministries, remembers deciding that if ever there was a good time for a fundraising effort, this was it.

Ballard said, “But we didn’t have much traction with our fundraising until we talked to Don (Butler) at Murphy-Brown and he clearly saw how learning here makes a difference in children’s lives. Then our dreams started to come true.” Following Murphy-Brown’s participation, the N.C. Pork Council and the Newton-Grove-based Hog Slat firm joined the effort, as did other contributors, including Grady-White Boats, Inc. NCPC President Worley commented, “On behalf of all the pork producers in the state, I know how proud they are that these resources will help make the dream of a new center a reality for the camp and all the children who come here.”

Ballard said, “The pork industry’s environmental stewardship efforts are an important part of our relationship that has developed over the past few years. Also, it helps us teach children that their food doesn’t just come directly from supermarket!shelves.”

The new facility dramatically expands the capabilities of the camp’s lost nature building. The education center will include state-of-the-art housing for education animals, classrooms, a display room, office space, restrooms and storage space. Construction will begin in the fall and camp officials plan for completion in the spring.

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