After long search, Retreat Center finds their man

<I>DAMIAN MULINIX photo</I><BR>Willis Williams was recently named the new director of the Ocean Park Retreat Center and Camp.

OCEAN PARK - Recently appointed director of the Ocean Park Retreat Center and Camp [OPRCC], Willis Williams has spent several years in the field of business management and sales. But he has long been interested in what he calls "spiritual growth and development" for himself and others.

"This gives me a chance to kind of combine those two, because it is a business and needs to be run as a business," he said. "But why we're here is Christian spiritual growth."

He said this, coupled with the beauty of the surrounding area and the opportunity to work with literally thousands of children, youth and adults, is what drew him to the job.

The OPRCC is owned by the United Methodist Conference and offers a wide variety of camps and activities throughout the year. OPRCC is the site of Camp Victory, the Life Tides adult camp, plus many family and student-aged camps. County-owned Moorehead Park is managed by OPRCC, where they host a kayak camp. The site is also host to several church camps and is a regular stop of youth and missionary groups from around the country who do work on there.

Williams moved to Ocean Park from Longview, where he had lived for the past 25 years. He and his wife had become familiar with the Peninsula through vacations and such, when they also had the occasion to visit the retreat center many times.

"It was difficult to leave the Longview community after being there for so many years, but we're certainly coming to a very attractive area," he said.

The OPRCC had been without a director for almost a year-and-a-half prior to the hiring of Williams in April. He said they took their time on purpose, sorting through a large selection of candidates before choosing him.

"I think they were being very careful in their selection. They advertised all over the country and had a large number of applicants," Williams said. "I think it was them taking their time, making sure they got the right person."

Williams believes it was his business background and 40-year relationship with the United Methodist church that set him apart from the others.

Having a general direction for the camp and increased promotion are two of Williams' main goals as the director.

"I think the [OPRCC] is in many ways a pretty well-kept secret. Those of us who are local know about it, but not too much beyond that," he said. "Part of my job is to let people know who we are and what we are."

He said he would like it to become better known on a national level as a destination for campers, both Methodist and otherwise.

As for the long-term, the camp will need some new buildings in the "not too distant future," he said. They also have plans to introduce some new programs in the future as well.

"I think longer term guidance is what they're really looking for here."

Though he's been in his new office now for a couple of months, he said he's glad he's had a chance to get acquainted with everything prior to the busy season.

"I think being on-site for a little while [is good], seeing how things work, especially seeing opportunities to improve things - there are a lot of those," he said. "Summers are very busy for us, as you can imagine. We'll have hundreds and hundreds of campers coming through there this summer."

For more information about the Ocean Park Retreat Center and Camp and their programs and activities, call 665-4367, or see their Web site: (www.willapabay.org/~opretreat).

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