Camp Sumatanga, a United Methodist camp in Gallant, recently announced a partnership with The Red Barn, in Leeds, to establish an equine ministry for its summer camps.

Lee Padgett, the new executive director, said it was "a no-brainer."

"We thought long and hard about starting some horse camps," Padgett said. "When I found The Red Barn and found how organized they are and how successful they are, it seemed like a no-brainer. We decided to try it. All our staff was totally excited about it, and so many people have commented about how excited they are."

Located on Bailey Road just off Ala. 119, The Red Barn offers a variety of equine related ministries. Executive Director Joy O’Neal says they have helped a number of similar ministries in their startup, as well.

"A large part of what we do is work with other agencies that want to do the same ministries we do," she said. "Working with Sumatanga would be probably one of the bigger projects we’ve ever undertaken."

The equine ministry will be a new one for the camp, which has existed as "a place of rest and vision" at the foot of Chandler Mountain since it was founded in 1948. As part of the new ministry, the camp will be accepting donations of work, unused tack and money, as it begins the process this spring.

"We are refurbishing an old barn, and going to start rebuilding fences," he said. "We’ve even partnered with our neighbors … they have some property that’s flat, and I approached them and asked, and they said they’d love it. We’re going to fence off some of their land and use it, and all they wanted was access to our internet.

"We had just signed a contract to create wider, more capacity wifi all over the camp – they were already installing it. So they’ve got internet and we’re paying for it, and in exchange we get to fence off some of their property."

In addition, Padgett said members of the staff will undergo training and he hopes to hire someone to serve as full-time director of the program.

"We’re going to offer 5 horse camps this summer – two elementary, two middle school and one senior high," he said. "They will certainly do some creative things with the horses, but they will also learn to groom, tack and ride. Hopefully we can partner with a trail club and maybe get some trails improved.

"The camps will only have 24 kids in them, but that will be an opportunity for 24 kids we’ve never had. Then once we get established we can offer activities for retreat groups, also. That’s our goal for next fall."

O’Neal said she is happy to help with another faith-based organization.

"We are not a church," she said. "We have no faith requirement.

"Our faith is important to sustain us. We hope people see God’s love in our staff; it’s the whole reason we do what we do, is to share God’s love."

Sumatanga is now accepting donations for its equine ministry. Anyone who wishes to be a may volunteer to help, donate items or send your tax exempt financial donation to camp marked "Horse Fund."