Church recreation center serves both community and congregation

February 06, 2004|JIM LOGAN

The difference between player and prayer is a single letter. For Larry D. Camic at Harrodsburg Baptist Church, the tiny distinction is fitting. As minister of recreation and outreach for the 900-member congregation, it's his calling to bring the two together.

Camic's job got a whole lot easier when the church opened its new recreation center in January. A striking facility that includes basketball courts and a walking track, the gym has become a community focal point.

Call it an exercise in faith.

Since it opened officially Jan. 2, the 9,000-square-feet gym has attracted a multitude from a broad swath of society. On a recent afternoon Camic surveyed the basketball court and noted an ethnically diverse collection of players. That's just the way he likes it.

"We don't turn away anyone," Camic said. "We try to reach out to all people."

The outreach has been an unqualified success.

The center, which cost $1.35 million to build, has 160 kids in grades 1-6 in its Upward basketball league for kids. Camic expects 300-350 next year.


The elevated walking track that circles the gym has been wildly popular from the beginning. Eight feet wide and rubber-coated, it averages 275 walkers a day, many of whom are grandparents and great-grandparents.

Larry "Pops" Camic, who oversees maintenance at the gym and is a distant relative of the outreach minister, walks seven miles a day. At 15 laps per mile, that's 105 laps.

The track, he said, is "more comfortable than any wood you're walking on. At 4 o'clock this place'll be packed with 30 to 35 walkers up here."

Early Wednesday afternoon, Imogene Sims, 75, Dorothy VanArsdall, 81, and Louise Rogers, 79, were circling the track at a steady pace.

"We love it up here," said Sims, who uses the track regularly. VanArsdall walks three to five miles a day; Rogers usually does two.

M.C. "Bob" Baker, 75, was walking the track for the first time.

"Now that I'm into it I'll probably have to keep coming," he said.

Although the public is welcome to use the track when the center is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Larry D. Camic says there are limits on participation.

"I had a woman ask if she could bring her dog," he said, "but we had to draw the line."

The recreation center is the culmination of years of work and effort by the church.

"We've been dreaming about this for 15 years," said Camic. "It finally just all came together."

Harrodsburg Baptist was effectively landlocked and unable to expand until the Catholic Church, which built a new St. Andrew's Church, sold the property at U.S. 127 and East Office Street in 2002.

"It's like God conveniently opened it up for us next door to the church," said Camic.

The recreation center, he said, is more than just a place to walk or shoot hoops.

"It's part of God's kingdom."

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