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Couple’s gift brings upgrades to South Lodge

Brenda Mallett’s love of Pilgrim Firs from more than 35 years of going on University Congregational UCC’s women’s fellowship retreats the third weekends of January has translated into a gift for upgrading South Lodge.

Brenda Mallett shared this photo as an example of why she loves Pilgrim Firs and finds spiritual renewal there.

In the early years about 35 would go and stay in South Lodge, doing most of their activities there and eating in Madsen.  Over the years the retreats grew to an average of 60 to 80, so women also stayed in the cabins and Huckleberry Lodge.

Don became involved with the camp, drawn by his wife’s enthusiasm and by being on the conference Stewardship Committee for about five years.  He was asked to help with a capital fund drive for Pilgrim Firs, but found there was no donor base that could give major gifts.

“When Wade Zick became managing director, I visited him and learned that South Lodge had saved Pilgrim Firs when it was built, but it had issues that had to be addressed,” Don said.

It needed new heaters and better lighting and improved restrooms.

“I was impressed learning that Pilgrim Firs was bringing in enough income to meet its expenses.  It is thriving compared to many UCC camps around the country that were closing,” he said. “Both camps are operational, not draining conference funds, but paying for themselves.”

Investigating the income more, Don found that much was from non UCC sources, many groups using the camp since the 1970s, like the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop and a Stone Artisan Group.

“In fact, they felt as much ownership of and love for Pilgrim Firs as UCC folk do.  They also found it a spiritual experience to go there,” he said.  “I realized it was a jewel, so my wife and I made a financial commitment.”

With that gift and others, Pilgrim Firs generated funds to upgrade South Lodge, bring cabins up to date and upgrade the septic system.

Don also arranged with the logging company that bought adjacent property it was clear cutting to allow Pilgrim Firs to reacquire land or to set up a conservation covenant so they did not clear cut all the way to the end of South Trail.

The logging company had paid millions for the 1,800 acres.

Now South Lodge has new heaters, upgraded bathrooms, a gas fireplace and LED lighting in common areas.

There’s also work to do to upgrade themed-century cabins and Huckleberry Lodge.

Brenda celebrated her 50th year as a member of University Congregational UCC in Seattle last May.

She and Don had moved to the area when he was in the Navy. He went to the University of Washington Law School, living on campus.  Brenda lived to the north. They were overseas for a while in the Philippines at Subic Bay, where Brenda taught for a year.  They returned and he was stationed at Sandpoint.  Friends invited them to UCUCC.  Don left to serve in Vietnam.

He passed the bar and was part of JAG, four years on active duty and in reserves until retiring and starting his own practice.

After their children were in sixth and ninth grade, Brenda earned a master’s in counseling and worked as a guidance counselor.

Don knew Pilgrim Firs was important to her.  She went and stayed in the rustic cabins.

“I heard stories of families over generations going there, stories of grandparents who helped build the cabins and stories of grandchildren going,” Brenda said.

“For me it was a spot to regain energy, serenity and stability,” she said.  “It fed my spirit to be in the open space, an oasis of calm in the midst of seeing so much building going on around the Seattle and Puget Sound Area.  It was open land and forest.

“We need to be sure we have it and keep it so it is viable for use in today’s world,” she said.

Even though there have been improvements to Pilgrim Firs over the years, they have been “under the surface,” so it seems to Brenda when she goes that it’s the same, and that’s comforting.

“I appreciate going with the group of women to this spiritual spot where I have deepened friendships and made new friends,” she said.

The group always goes the third weekends of January, whether there’s snow or beautiful weather.

“Each year we have a different theme, bringing in local or outside presenters.  Along with chewing on the topic, we have creative activities—art, writing, movement and song—and breakout sessions,” Brenda said.

Some come 24 hours early for a silent retreat that begins Thursday at noon.  They stay until after worship Sunday.

For information, call or call 206-769-3596.


Copyright © March 2020 - Pacific NW United Church News



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