1305 Sycamore Street
Manchester, Tennessee 37355
1979 June 20
Mr. Roger Comstock
979 Springdance Road
Atlanta, Georgia 30306
I am writing with regard to the prospect of the acquisition of property near Highlands, N.C. as a camp and conference center primarily for the use of Unitarian Universalists in the Southeast. My view can perhaps best be expressed as one of enthusiastic cautious optimism.
Please permit me to indulge for a moment in some personal reminiscence. As a newly identified Unitarian, I first attended Blue Ridge Assembly in 1959. It was an exhilarating experience–truly one of the most meaningful ones of my life–living for a whole week in a 1007o Unitarian community. I have taken part in all Summer Institutes since then–Blue Ridge, Brevard, Boone, Sewanee, Fontana and Radford. The current success of SUUSI is much tooted as the second largest gathering of UUs in the continent, General Assembly being the first.
There are, of course, many other annual (principally summer) gatherings–deBenneville Pines, Unirondack, Ferry Beach, Star Island, Rowe, etc. I receive and read the newsletters of many of them and have talked with many of their alumni. Enthusiasm is everywhere evident. The spiritual contribution of all of these to our movement is beyond all reckoning and in my opinion immense. Delete-all these experiences and our congregations, churches, fellowships, districts, the APF and “25 Beacon Street” itself would all be significantly impoverished. I salute them all.
Now let’s look at the Southeast. We definitely ought to have a camp and conference center. We do not have one. Ours is a growth area. As the energy crunch steadily increases, and there is absolutely no doubt that it will, our part of the country becomes more and more desirable for commercial and personal location alike. The long range future in this aspect looks optimistic.
The market survey indicated that we can raise enough funds to proceed with purchase. With all due respect to my good friend Al Faber, I do have some reservations about the results of the market survey. As one of my acquaintances who answered one of the questionnaires remarked, “I have completely forgotten what I said.” Nevertheless, I believe that the financing to purchase can be arranged. Purchasing the property may be less a problem than the consideration of the sustaining on-going operational financial and management requirements.
I do not believe there are enough Unitarians in the Southeast market area now nor in the immediate future to sustain the operation. The proponents of the project are, of course, aware of this and plan to rent the facilities to other groups. The proximity of Atlanta is most fortuitous in this regard. Also the UU market area is not limited to the Southeast. Our neighboring districts northward have a large UU population and are not all that far away. Milwaukee, Toronto and New York City are all about the same distance away as Miami!
Sue and I drove to the site on April 3 in order to see it “in person.” We were both favorably impressed. It is a mountain top quite literally and worthy of countless mountain top experiences. Real estate of that kind is very difficult to find on the market today and probably will become more so as time goes on. Certainly no more of it is in production today. The buildings, though needing work, were mostly sound and could be made usable in the immediate future.
I commend the SUUSI search committee for both its diligence in its hunt for suitable property and the thoroughness of the proposal study for acquisition and operation.
The commitment, capability and efforts of Larry Wheeler are crucial to my overall feeling about the feasibility of this project. Were there not such an individual willing to virtually give himself to its success, it is unlikely I could support the project. Given his presence, along with all the foregoing comments, it is my pleasure to add whatever encouragement I can to proceeding with the attainment of a Unitarian Universalist Camp and Conference Center for the Southeast.
It is a risk. It will take much hard work by many. But few worthwhile things in this world are accomplished without risk. Our youth will benefit perhaps more than any others if this project succeeds, and the future of our movement inexorably is transmitted into the hands of our youth. And so with enthusiastic cautious optimism I wish this project all success.
With all good wishes,
Donald W. Male
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