Lake Junaluska announces major renovations for youth dining facility

March 8, 2019

Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center recently announced plans for major renovations to its youth dining facility as part of its ongoing revitalization of youth ministry effort made possible by charitable donations.

The dining facility renovations will allow Lake Junaluska to modernize and develop the existing building, improving its accessibility, aesthetics and usability for the benefit of youth program participants and visitors.

Lake Junaluska Executive Director Ken Howle announced during the conference center's annual donor banquet on March 7 that the Ann G. and W. Vann York Foundation of High Point, North Carolina, has added its support for the revitalization initiative.

The York Foundation joins 60 other donor households, comprised of foundations, corporations, couples and individuals, who have pledged their support.

“Because of this generosity, we are able to live more fully into our aspiration to be a place that connects more youth to Christ through meaningful ministry, recreation and education programs," said Howle.

According to Howle, Ann and Vann York's leadership-level gift increases the overall total committed to the revitalization of youth ministry in the past 16 months to $1.5 million. The first gifts to the initiative funded recent upgrades to youth and young adult lodging facilities and Shackford Hall, the home of youth events at Lake Junaluska.

North Carolina natives Ann and Vann met in the dining hall's cafeteria line at Lake Junaluska while attending a youth conference with their Methodist Church groups in the summer of 1952. The couple wed in 1953 and went on to raise their three children while building a successful automobile dealership business in High Point.

“We feel that God had a purpose in the way we met at Lake Junaluska,” said Ann York. “He’s been good to us, and we’ve had a very happy life.”

Through the years, Ann and Vann continued their relationship with Lake Junaluska. They visited Vann’s sister, who worked at The Terrace hotel for some summers, served as lay delegates at the Western North Carolina Annual Conference for many years, and attended many other conferences and meetings at the lake with their church. On occasion, the whole family would stay at the campground in their camper.

Ann and Vann both grew up in families devoted to the Methodist Church. They have been active leaders and supporters of United Methodist Church youth ministries and numerous community organizations throughout their life together. Their community partners include United Way, YWCA, the Boys and Girls Club, the Open Door Shelter and other High Point organizations.

The Yorks became interested in contributing to the dining hall while on a visit to Lake Junaluska a few years ago. A discussion around the potential addition of a deck overlooking the lake caught the couple's imagination.

"Vann and I love Lake Junaluska because it's a beautiful place that uplifts you – you just feel good after being there,” said Ann York. “We thought the dining hall would be a wonderful place to give to, not only because it meant so much to us, but also because renovations and new programs can help to get more youth to come."

Lake Junaluska executives have planned the dining hall improvements in three phases.

The first phase, which was completed in 2017, included the installation of insulation, insulated windows, a heating and air-conditioning system, a new ceiling in the main dining room, new flooring in the secondary dining room, new exterior and interior paint, and infrastructure repairs.

The second phase, which is planned for late 2019 to early 2020, includes a deck overlooking the lake, an accessible entrance ramp to the building that also provides access to the deck, landscaping, new accessible bathrooms, new exterior doors, dining space and kitchen upgrades, and mechanical system improvements.

Upon completion of the second phase, Lake Junaluska will rename the youth dining facility the “York Dining Commons” in honor of Ann and Vann York’s support of this effort.

The third phase of renovation is planned for 2022. Lake Junaluska executives expect efforts to center around the expansion of the kitchen and the development of a food court area.

"We know that our future is connected to the youth of today,” said Howle. “Ann and Vann's story and their leadership-level support are inspiring both to supporters of Lake Junaluska and to the young people that use these facilities."

Lake Junaluska has a more than 100-year tradition of making it possible for youth to experience personal and spiritual renewal through youth events and programs. The conference and retreat center serves thousands of middle and high school students annually through its winter and summer multi-day retreats, which feature worship, fellowship and adventure in the Great Smoky Mountains.

At the retreats, participants choose seasonal activities such as whitewater rafting or skiing and have the option to take part in mission projects. They also participate in worship services featuring high-energy bands and guest speakers, group games and activities. In summer months, they meet for spiritual formation workshops, prayer sessions and Bible studies.

Primary facilities for youth retreats include the Lake Junaluska Apartments, the Hillside and Mountainview Lodges, Shackford Hall, and the youth dining hall.

"Gathering around the table has always been central to the Christian faith," said the Rev. Mitzi Johnson, Lake Junaluska director of programming. "With the gifts to the revitalization of youth ministry, we’ll be able to ensure young people have a place to meet with each other and connect to Christ through food, faith and fellowship for generations to come."

To learn more about youth and young adult events at Lake Junaluska, visit lakejunaluska.com/youth.

To learn more about charitable giving opportunities at Lake Junaluska, visit lakejunaluska.com/support.

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