Upward Bound Camp’s program building, which housed dorm rooms, administrative offices and a chapel, was burned by the Beachie Creek Fire in September. (Courtesy Upward Bound)
Upward Bound Camp’s program building, which housed dorm rooms, administrative offices and a chapel, was burned by the Beachie Creek Fire in September. (Courtesy Upward Bound)
GATES — Upward Bound, a nondenominational Christian camp for individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities, was badly damaged by the blazes that charred swaths of Oregon last year. Now the grounds are looking less desolate, and staff and volunteers are feeling more optimistic.

“God is certainly keeping an eye and hand on this place,” said Diane Turnbull, executive director of the camp. Founded more than 40 years ago, Upward Bound is supported by many local Catholics.

In September while firefighters were tackling the Beachie Creek Fire, the U.S. Forest Service had for a brief time used the camp, located on the site of a former school, as an incident commanded post. But the fire approached more rapidly than expected, and firefighters and support personnel, totaling more than 300, were forced to evacuate quickly.

Much of the firefighting equipment and the camp program building, a camp vehicle and portions of a forested area were destroyed.

Since then “amazing things have happened,” said Turnbull.

The camp was approved for a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which will fund rebuilding expenses not covered by insurance and a Small Businesses Administration loan. The Christian Camp and Conference Association, of which Upward Bound is a member, found an architecture and design firm willing to create a master plan for the camp for free.

One of the camper’s parents volunteered to cut down burned trees, and students from a Christian college recently helped pick up brush and limbs strewn about the property.

With FEMA’s help, the camp grounds should be fully cleaned by summer, and staff will offer modified camp sessions with 10 semipermanent tents for campers and rented portable bathrooms and showers.

“Our staff and volunteers continue to be guided by Christian principles, striving to show the love of God to those whom we serve through the wonder and beauty of his creation,” said Aaron Thompson, Upward Bound board chairman and a parishioner of St. Juan Diego Parish in Northwest Portland. He said his prayer is that God will continue to lead the camp community through the difficult patches, “allowing us to participate in the work he has for us.”