Snider shares love of camp

Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Nan Snider looks over her souvenirs from Camp Mt. Zion 2006. This year's theme was "Pearls of Love." (Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)

Nan Harrell Snider of Monette is a busy person. She serves on various committees, is a published author, serves as guest speaker throughout the area, served as 4-H leader for 30 years, holds state 4-H leadership positions, serves as church clerk at Monette First Baptist Church, is a freelance writer for local newspapers, wife, mother and grandmother, to name a few of her activities. She has never been too busy to take one week a year out of her full schedule to serve at Mt. Zion Baptist Church Camp.

Snider's love of church champ started at the early age of 9.

"My father, Jethro Harrell, was an avid supporter of summer camp for kids," Snider said. "As a Methodist girl, he let me go with the girls from Childress Baptist Church to Ravenden Springs Baptist Camp where I was saved."

Snider finished her 31st year of service at Mt. Zion Camp on June 16. Through the years she has worked in most positions of camp serving as counselor, recreation director, Bible study instructor, assistant director and has served as director for the last 15 years.

"Of all the things I do, I am most passionate about church camp," Snider said. "It has allowed me to touch so many lives and make lasting friendships."

Snider said she starts planning next year's camp as she drives home from Mt. Zion each year. Mt. Zion camp is located at Walcott. The facility sits on 60 acres with a facility for 120 beds. A 40-bed addition was added five years ago for the overflow.

Mrs. Snider works with the Girls' Camp for girls going into the fourth through the sixth grades.

In addition to the Girls' Camp, Mt. Zion holds three other week-long camps including boys' camp, junior camp, and youth camp for high school students.

Snider is quick to point out she does not do it alone.

"I have a great group of volunteers every year," she said. "Many of our campers are now grown and come back to serve as counselors or in other capacities. Our cooks are wonderful. You never hear any complaints about the food. I am a lifetime member of Weight Watchers and I don't even try to resist their cooking. I just forget the diet while I am there."

Every year Snider chooses a theme for the camp and all activities and decorations coincide with the theme. This year's theme was "Pearls of Love" using scriptures from Romans 12:3-21.

"Many of our volunteers come year after year," Snider said. "Many teachers take a week from their summer to help."

This years staff included Tara Smith, assistant director; Kathy Morrison, program assistant; Ken Overton, camp pastor; Ron and Jan Langston of Lake City, camp missionary from Kenya/Botswana/Zimbabwe; Stacey Aldridge and Morrisons, music leaders; Lisa Robinson, Beth Benzing and Kathy Morrison, camp nurses; Tara Smith, Bible study; Margaret Mann and Jennifer Stephenson, nightly devotionals; Virginia Gray, planned recreation and patio time; Chloe Huff, camp photographer and slide show presentation; Allan Bowles and Amber Puryear, lifeguards; Linda Smith, banquet decorations; Holly and Becky Morrison, sunrise service directors; Jim and Judy Johnston, camp caretakers; Bonnie Baird, Alisa Poe and Deborah Burns, camp cooks; Harold Ray, associational missionary; and Billie Moore, registration.

Each year special guests come to camp and this year Debbie Johnson's group Praise PAK from Leachville United Pentecostal Church did a sign-singing concert. Another guest this year was Dustin Finch, formerly of Monette, who led sing-along songs for the campers, while accompanying himself on the guitar.

"Tara Smith has been coming to camp for 25 years starting as a camper, group leader, and now serving as assistant director," Snider said. "Every year her parents, Lyn and Linda Smith, come up and decorate for the banquet.

Snider's husband, Alvis, volunteers each year to prepare the bonfire.

For many of the last 31 years Mr. and Mrs. Snider have celebrated their wedding anniversary at Mt. Zion during camp week. They were married on June 16 and celebrated their 45th anniversary this year.

"He usually comes to camp with flowers or a gift on June 16 (unless it falls on Friday as it did this year)," she said. "The counselors and kids always remember our anniversary.

Snider's first year as a volunteer camp worker was when her older daughter, Allison, was only one and a half and the family lived in Jonesboro. The family moved away for 11 years and after returning to Monette in 1974, when her younger daughter, Stephanie, was 3, she started back to camp as a group leader and has never stopped.

Her daughters attended camp as children and served as counselors when they were older.

Snider's granddaughter, Rachel, now 17, spent years at camp with her grandmother.

"Rachel has not missed many camps but she just couldn't work it into her schedule this year," Snider said.

Camp has been a part of four generations of Snider's family for many years.

Mrs. Snider's mother, Faye Harrell, also loved helping at summer camp.

"My mother had worked hard all year getting ready for the 1999 camp," Snider recalls. "The theme was to do with wildflowers and she had collected flowers, dried them, preserved the seeds and packaged them so each girl could have a packet of flowers to plant during camp week. My mother passed away on the Saturday before camp was to start on Monday. As I said before, I always have a great staff. I went to camp on Monday morning and I came home for visitation and the funeral going back and forth all week. All of my family went up for the banquet. In the long run, I think it helped me cope. Whenever I see the flowers growing from those seeds I think of my mother."

This year's camp had 90 girls and 20 workers.

"We enjoy a sunrise service at the creek on Tuesday mornings. We walk 1-1/2 miles to Sand Creek. On Wednesday we take a two mile night hike through the woods with flashlights and have a bonfire. On Thursdays we have the annual banquet. Girls from each room present a drama created at the camp. Their costumes are made there. We usually don't have a sheet left on the bed during the dramas. The girls can choose from three themes, Biblical; a modern day situation using Biblical conclusion; or a musical drama. It is always a great night."

Snider said they have been very fortunate in the fact they seldom have an accident.

"The success of the camp is because of the volunteers and workers," Snider said. "We call each other and stay in touch through e-mail."

"It is a good week and I want the girls and volunteers to be excited about coming back each year," Snider said. "The girls love to put my underwear up the flag pole sometime during the week, so I always take extra. There is always one who does a great imitation of me during the fun and games session. Camp is a special time for me and I want it to be the same for our campers. Hopefully, the things they learn and the friends they make will last a lifetime."

Snider is also a dedicated historian and keeps records from camps throughout the years.

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