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Alabama Small Business Development Center Network

Maranatha Camp & Conference Center

The CARES Act legislation opened the door to disaster assistance for many nonprofit organizations, allowing them to keep their doors open. Camp Maranatha is a great example of how SBDC Business Advisors helped so many small entities, both for-profit and nonprofit, access disaster resources.

Maranatha Camp and Conference Center was founded over 52 years ago. Maranatha’s founders, members of the North Alabama Presbytery, created it as a ministry to serve the greater church and provide an affordable camp facility for youth and families in the region to allow them to connect with nature.  Over the years they constructed new facilities and Maranatha expanded its vision as well, becoming a favorite refuge to people of all walks, economic situations, and cultures as a means to enjoy nature.  Maranatha became more than just a summer camp, it is a year-round camp and conference center, with the Lakeside Conference Center opening in 2002.

a group of people flying a kite

In Spring 2016, Maranatha was separated from the North Alabama Presbytery to operate as a stand-alone 501(c)3 Non-Profit Organization. This opportunity opened up new doors for Maranatha as it continues to draw from its deep historical roots and network of alumni to create new experiences in nature for their guests, but also left Maranatha without a funding source when the COVID-19 pandemic forced all spring and summer retreats and events to be canceled and no revenue to pay for maintaining the facilities and staff.

Maranatha reached out to the Alabama SBDC at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) for guidance regarding the Cares Act funding for small businesses.  As an operating non-profit, Maranatha typically would not have contact with the SBA or SBDC.  The CARES Act provided an opportunity for them to be exposed to the expertise and guidance available to for-profit entities.

“Without the daily Chamber and Mayor Zoom calls with updates from the UAH SBDC Center Director, especially in the opening 10 days of the by-hour changes in the PPP and EIDL application process, we would not have been successful applying for the funds and I’m convinced we would have closed our doors. The SBDC presenters and advisors were honest and up front.  They cautioned participants when material was likely to change, they answered every question (and I offered up many) to the best of their ability.  And since we were a non-profit, they helped hold our hand and even made phone calls when it appeared contracted SBA processors up the line were having difficulty with entities who didn’t have owners, stockholders and individuals who would be personally responsible for debt repayment.”

Bob Ludwig, Board Member

Maranatha received the EIDL Advance, PPP and EIDL funding.  They have maintained their six year-round staff.  In a normal season, they expand staffing to include 25-30 college-age counselors and 5-10 cooking and facilities crew. Maranatha is committed to providing a safe, healthy environment for campers and retreaters of all ages. At a time when the news is dominated by Coronavirus (COVID-19), Maranatha has clearly and proactively communicated how they are vigilantly implementing enhanced protocols to ensure camp, retreat, & event safety.

a group of people in a park

Maranatha has plans to expand programming into environmental education, taking advantage of our unique location on the shores of Lake Guntersville, a large marsh area and hill country on the property as well.  They typically have 600-800 youth on property in the summer and are missing the kids. Maranatha has expanded that focus to include campers from area ROTC units, Boy and Girl Scouts and Boys and Girls Clubs.  Ludwig said “We are grateful for the guidance and support of the SBDC, and the Maranatha team looks forward to serving our community for many years to come.”

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