The Hidden Acres Annual Chicken BBQ turned 50 years old in 2016 without much fanfare. But it certainly was another successful outdoor party here, hosted by lots of volunteers for around1000 satisfied folks who came to enjoy the latest celebration in this event’s long history at the camp. In the midst of all the busy activity, Dale Leis, who has been faithfully manning the ticket table at the BBQ for many years, turned to me and said, “I would like to make a donation to cover the cost of the chicken this year.” He added that he had realized it was also fifty years since he had started feeding chickens, a notable coincidence.
I quickly recovered from the shock of his statement and thanked him for his generosity. Then I needed to dash off to show someone where to take their donation of pies for the pie auction. I actually never made it back to talk further with Dale that day, but made a point to follow-up later.
I sat down with Dale earlier this month to pick up the conversation. I had to wait for a rainy day when he wouldn’t be out on the tractor doing field work. So Dale, I asked, why did you decide to donate the cost of the chicken for this year’s Chicken BBQ?
Dale told me that he had thought about finding a way to provide the chicken for the annual chicken bbq in the past and it just hadn’t worked out. This year he was struck by the fact that this was a special anniversary for the Hidden Acres BBQ and that it coincided with the 50-year milestone for his own chicken farming business. It seemed like now was the right time to do it.
Dale related that his parents had been very involved at the start of the annual barbecue, and this would also be a way to honour them. Oscar and Anna Mae had been involved in supporting Hidden Acres from its beginning back in the early 60s. Dale along with his wife Elaine have continued to support the camp in a variety of ways, including Dale’s term as President of the Board and Elaine’s involvement on the Retreat Committee. So they have been well acquainted with the positive impact this ministry has on people’s lives. As Dale noted, “This involvement has given us insights that motivate us to support the camp.” He then referred particularly to the program for low-income single mothers and their children, and the many children whose camp fees are subsidized by the camp each year. He concluded by reflecting that during the fifty years his chicken business has grown, for which he is grateful to God, Hidden Acres Mennonite Camp and Retreat Centre has also grown and been blessed—and in turn has been a blessing to many others.
I thanked Dale once again for his donation and for taking the time to share these thoughts with me. As I drove away, a scripture sprang to mind, the one that observes it is more blessed to give than to receive. Gratitude is meant to overflow! I felt uplifted and refreshed by the gratitude that had spilled over from one family’s life to affect others connected to this ministry. Many such acts of generosity have been shared in past reports and newsletters. I also reflected on Dale’s comment that it was partly because of his and Elaine’s volunteer involvements that they were aware of the difference the camp was making. I couldn’t help but wonder: might there be others thinking about contributing because of an impact the camp has had on them or someone close to them?
Camp Nisbet, Executive Director