Divide Camp gears up for new year

Steve Tool/ChieftainDivide Camp vice-president Andy Marcum (center), flanked by La Grande American Legion Unit 43 members Jodi Craig (L) and Kathi Karnowski (R) receives a $4450 check from the unit to use toward enclosing the camp's outdoor kitchen. The donation is a combined $3475 grant from the Veteran Project Fund of the American Legion Auxiliary Foundation and $975 from Unit 43.

Divide Camp, the local nonprofit that offers Sept. 11-era veterans an opportunity to repair physical and psychological wounds through outdoor pursuits, is gearing up for their most productive season yet. The camp is located on Sheep Creek Divide about 18 miles from Joseph and serves about 40 veterans per year.

The camp recently hired a part-time director, which will leave Julie Wheeler more time for fundraising.

Camp vice-president Andy Marcum just returned from a trip to La Grande bearing a check for $4,450 from Unit 43 of the American Legion. The check is the result of a grant to the unit from The American Legion Auxiliary Foundation, which will help the camp upgrade its outdoor kitchen. The local unit contributed $975 in addition to the grant. Unit member Kathi Karnowski said that the grant will go toward upgrading the camp’s outdoor kitchen.

Although the camp has somewhat of an outdoor kitchen facility, it is not enclosed from the elements and it does not have its own cookware, so utensils and cookware are shuttled between the lodge and outdoor facility.

“This is going toward the outdoor kitchen. “We have the roof and a lot of the stuff there,” Marcum said. “We need to completely enclose it and keep it sanitary. This is going to be a great addition to the camp.”

Two volunteer work days to help with the kitchen upgrade and the archery range are planned for June and July.

The archery range work is in preparation for the camp’s first archery tournament, slated for July 14.

A successful camp fundraiser held in the Rogue Valley is already helping pay for the upgrades to the range.

“We have an unbelievable team that puts it together down there,” Camp Director/ President Julie Wheeler said. “We brought in $35,000 after expenses. Last year we brought in $21,000 so it’s a big step up.” Camp representatives also had booths at seven major sportsman shows in Washington and Oregon to help drum up support.

Along with the usual rafting, fishing and hunting trips the camp offers to its guests, a couple from Bend is offering their expertise and use of their llamas for at least one backpacking excursion into the Wallowas that will take place in August. Several other backpacking trips are on the camp agenda for the summer as well.

On the hunting side, due in part to a Divide Camp request, the state legislature passed Senate Bill 1517 during its 2018 session. The bill authorizes the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to annually issue a limited number of free big game hunting tags to nonprofit organizations for use by disabled veterans. The camp will have access to five more bull elk tags, in addition to the landowner preference tags gifted by the local landowners.

Marcum will open the camp in May, weather permitting, and start preparing the camp for the season. The vice-president hopes to see more veterans utilizing what the camp has to offer.

“A lot of people don’t realize what goes on in your military career and the struggles veterans have afterwards,” he said. “Many veterans are struggling in life to find a purpose. We’re trying to give them an opportunity to do more than they ever thought was possible.”

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