PC(USA)-related conference centers face challenges, transitions
Stony Point, Ghost Ranch present on financial realities, hopes for future
Representatives of two financially troubled conference centers dependent on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) spoke about their centers’ strengths, challenges and viability before members of the General Assembly Mission Council March 31.
Rick and Kitty Ufford-Chase, co-directors of New York’s Stony Point Center, and Debra Hepler, executive director of Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, presented to the GAMC’s Evangelism and Stewardship committees.
In 2010, Stony Point lost about $377,000 and Ghost Ranch lost about $739,000, according to reports supplied by the centers.
Representatives of Stony Point met with the GAMC three years ago to acknowledge the center’s problems and request time to understand and approach them.
When the Ufford-Chases came to the center in 2008, its buildings needed significant maintenance and there was no work being done in funds development. Accounting practices and financial projections were uneven, and the center lacked coordination with the national PC(USA) staff in Louisville.
After running a deficit in 2007 and breaking even in 2008 and 2009, Stony Point was hit by the economic crisis in 2010 and saw a 3 percent decrease in occupancy. This year, the center is predicting a $95,000 deficit.
“There is the potential for it to be financially viable, but it’s going to take a little bit more time,” said Gary Batty, chairman of Stony Point’s governing board.
Stony Point is operating on a “get-rich slow” philosophy, focusing on building a committed donor base, contracting with a marketing consultant and seeking long-term partners in educational and religious groups.
Three years ago, Stony Point seemed to have an adversarial relationship with the GAMC, Batty said. But the governing board is not willing to have such a relationship again and will be the first to acknowledge that Stony Point might no longer be a viable part of the PC(USA).
Part of Stony Point’s value is its commitment to welcoming people of all faiths, said Kitty Ufford-Chase. To that end, the Community of Living Traditions — an intentional community of Christians, Jews and Muslims focused on peacemaking — was formed at the center in 2009. The center also has strong dedication to simple living, wholesome and sustainable food and nonviolence.
To read Stony Point’s three-year update in full, click here.
“We are really growing in name as a spiritual center,” said Debra Hepler, Ghost Ranch’s executive director.
Annually, Ghost Ranch sees 45,000-60,000 visitors who stop in because they’re traveling through the Southwest. But the center would like to attract more long-term, repeat visitors.
In December 2010, Ghost Ranch closed its facility in Santa Fe and is exploring long-term leases or sale of the building.
Ghost Ranch is also moving forward with its annual fundraising campaign. Although historically, campaigns have worked to raise $300,000, Ghost Ranch’s goal for 2011 is to raise $750,000. A volunteer fund development consultant is leading the campaign.
The center is also working to build up its endowment fund, which is now at about $1 million. For an organization of its size, the endowment should be about $20 million.
Because of its Abiquiu, New Mexico, location, Ghost Ranch is staffed largely by Latinos and Native Americans. It also hosts visitors from every state and from 40 countries. Considering the diversity of staff and guests, Ghost Ranch has begun offering intentional, Christ-centered hospitality training, Hepler said.
Ghost Ranch also offers more than 300 programs ranging from art classes to a service corps.
To read Ghost Ranch’s update in full, click here.