Will Craig County build it so that kids can come?

Ping pong and other games are being set up in the upstairs part of CCM to add a variety of options.

Pam Dudding-Burch Contributing writer

How many people in Craig County remember the ‘good ole days’ when Camp Mitchell was in its prime? Several stories have been displayed across Facebook lately, as the camp is getting a long overdue facelift.

Robin Nobles, a native from Craig County, relocated back to Craig with her family 11 years ago. “My grandparents lived here when I was a child and I always wanted to settle here in the mountains,” she shared. But not only did she bring her family, but her love for sports and her tenacious spirit for creating something progressive for the kids in Craig as well.

“When asked what my motivation is…. well, since moving here, 11 years ago, our little town has lost several of our young people to accidents and suicide,” Nobles said. “Each one has touched and broken my heart….they are my motivation!”

After learning there was not a soccer program, she decided to share her love for the sport with the kids in Craig and started a soccer league. “Over the years, while playing soccer off and on at Camp Mitchell, I have watched it slowly fall into disrepair,” she explained.

She came to discover that others carried the same fire for a venue for the kids. “A friend and fellow soccer coach, Jeffery Hickson, actually came up with the idea of fixing up Camp Mitchell,” Nobles said.

After learning that the County was considering selling Camp Mitchell, Nobles went to the County Board of Supervisors and asked for the opportunity to try and make Camp Mitchell support itself.  “The Board voted to allow us to form a non-profit organization and work to prove that Camp Mitchell can support itself,” Nobles shared. “The county gave us permission to fix it up over the summer and they are giving us one year.” She added, “If we succeed, Camp Mitchell will not be sold!”

One important thing that Nobles wanted to share with the citizens of Craig County is, “This is not just about soccer”.  The plans are to have soccer, but that is only one of the many activities on the agenda.

Another big question has been asked multiple times to Noble, “Will you open the pool?”  The plans are affirmative, but not within the first year. “We will work on the pool house and the pool, however, we have to make several other improvements and repairs,” Nobles said. “The roof repairs are a huge necessity as well as the repairs to the gym.”

A non-profit organization called “Club Camp Mitchell” (CCM) has been formed.  The mission statement is; “A secure place for recreation, learning and events”.  Club Camp Mitchell recently elected a Board: Chairman – Robin Nobles, Co-chair – Jeff Hickson and Secretary – Anna Ledford. Jason Hutchison, James Ledford, Rusty Zimmerman, Faye Trivette-Powers, Jamie Patterson and Hannah Blevins are also board members.

“Good things are happening at Club Camp Mitchell now, and we need Craig County people to step up to the plate and help support this place,” Powers shared with a smile. “However, if you cannot help support financially, maybe you can help support with your gifts and talents such as carpenters, electricians, plumbers and painters. Other TALENTS are needed too!”

“Good things are happening at Club Camp Mitchell now, and we need Craig County people to step up to the plate and help support this place,” Powers shared with a smile. “However, if you cannot help support financially, maybe you can help support with your gifts and talents such as carpenters, electricians, plumbers and painters. Other TALENTS are needed too!”

Volunteers are also needed for many avenues. “We would also love to have volunteers to run pickup basketball and other events,” Nobles added. “They do have to be a member and agree to a background check.”

CCM is $20 per person (ages six through 54) for the first year while free for children five and under. Individuals 55 and older will pay $15. However, family memberships are available at a cost of $50 for a family of three plus $10 for each additional family member. One can stop by CCM on Mondays, Thursdays or Sundays from 6-8pm to join. Currently, there are 95 members.

Membership fees pay for insurance, non-profit legal cost and repairs. Members will be able to attend weekly events such as sports, open gyms and educational classes. Photography, art, music, internet safety and babysitting safety are just a few examples of classes that will be offered free to members.

The facility will also be available for adult members to rent for events such as birthdays, wedding receptions and family gatherings. “We are in the process of forming committees to plan future activities including dances, movie nights and much more for both kids and adults,” Nobles shared.

Along with free events for club members, plans are to also have special community events. The latest was the Teen Valentine Dance on February 14 where many volunteers helped make it a success. “We don’t have anything like that right now.” Some benefits for members at this event were they received a free soda from the snack bar. All the proceeds went to pay for the oil to heat the gym.

Nobles hopes that Club Camp Mitchell will give the kids a secure place to go play, learn and be a part of something good. And, at the Valentines Dance, when the local police officers joined teens on the dance floor, it seemed to ‘perk up’ the atmosphere, especially when Officer Andy Beane did his special dance routine (The video exists on Facebook) under the ’70s lighting.

When Nobles was asked why she had not asked for help up to this point, she replied, “I wanted the kids and the community to see that we ARE making changes and fixing up Camp Mitchell before we asked for any help.”

“If you have a skill to offer, want to teach a class, donate something or just volunteer your time, please don’t be shy,” she added. “We would love — and NEED — your help.”

Nobles and community members now have the gym open offering; dodge ball and soccer, a weight room, basketball goals, a game room with ping pong, bumper pool and more. There is a snack bar where items like pizza, hot dogs, hot pockets, cookies, candy, chips, water and soda can be purchased.

An event schedule for two weeks at a time is posted at CCM.

    * Thursday nights 7-9pm – Basketball and dodge ball (elementary kids can only attend with an adult.)

    * Every other Saturday night 7-10pm – Open Gym for all ages. (seven years and below must have an adult or teenager stay with them.)

    * Sunday nights 7-9pm – ‘pick up’ basketball for middle school and older. (elementary kids can only attend with an adult.)

Each event is free for people who have joined CCM. “If you are not a member, you may pay $5.00 and it can be applied to your membership if you like,” Nobles shared.

Currently, projects include: the game room, a weight room, the entryway, the kitchen, and the bathrooms. “I had no idea that Camp Mitchell had gotten so bad with water damage and just no upkeep,” one community member shared. “It’s going to take a lot, but there are many people here in Craig with a heart to help, so I know we can get it done!”

Some needed items are; weight equipment, basketballs, volleyballs, dodge balls, pool sticks, pool table light, stools, 2×4’s, OSB plywood, hanging lights, a stereo system, paint, paintbrushes, paint rollers, mops, a floor buffer and flooring materials.

“It is almost Spring and we will be asking for help to repair the gym roof and tear down the pool house roof,” Nobles shared. Due to the cold weather, the roof has expanded and is not leaking which has been a blessing to them, however Nobles said that when the weather warms up, it can leak badly. “We have to have the entire roof coated with a rubber type of paint which will cost approximately $1500.” She added that after that is done, the attention will be concentrated on the pool where they will have to tear down the pool house roof. “Money will dictate what we can do and how quickly.”

“We still need volunteers for our planning committees and to help with open gym and other activities as well.” She also mentioned that if a business owner or community member would like to assist financially, it would be greatly appreciative.

Future goals are to also have indoor flea markets and dances for all, a variety of classes such as guitar, banjo, drawing, photography, intro computer for new learners, cake decorating, cooking and overnight camps in the summer.

When asked about the future of CCM, Nobles was quick to say, “I see a bright one!” She believes that all that is needed is for the community to pitch in and everyone do a small part to help. “I hear stories from almost every adult that grew up here about how great Camp Mitchell used to be…. and I think it can be great again!” Denis Looney shared a photo on Facebook of a swimming class in 1982, where several kids were sitting along the beautiful new pool.

Conversations of CCM have been reverberating the walls of many homes and restaurants recently. “It is very important to Craig County and all those who live here!” many have agreed upon. Nobles added, “We need to do more than just remember how great Camp Mitchell was… Let’s join together and rebuild it so our kids will remember how great it was as well!”

She strongly explained that “Once Camp Mitchell is gone…it’s gone forever.” The new Board is working diligently. “Robin has graciously taken this project on and has one year to see if she can get this place up and running,” Powers shared. “We are here to help and to encourage others to as well, adults and kids.”

Everyone is encouraged to check out the Facebook page called, “Club Camp Mitchell” and the website; www.clubcampmitchell.com. The webpage is still under construction, but hopes are to have it functioning soon. (Technical volunteers are welcome) For additional info, you may contact Robin Nobles personally at 540-765-7805.

Nobles sweetly added, “Maybe “Club Camp Mitchell” will keep a few kids out of trouble and maybe, it will give that one kid a place to come when they just need to be with friends.”