Bethany Village is an expansion of Camp McDowell, a private retreat and camp that primarily serves people with disabilities and low-income persons. The development and opening of Bethany Village added to facilities that were already in existence where people of all faiths and backgrounds utilize the opportunity and meeting spaces to play, grow, worship and learn. This all comes together under the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Alabama, serving the northwest area of the state since 1948. The creation of Bethany Village incorporates the following amenities and lodgings: a fully accessible summer-camp style complex that serves youth and adults of all abilities, a host site for youth events coordinated/offered by Camp McDowell and through the Diocese of Alabama, offers rental facilities for many organizations, businesses, and groups not affiliated with the Episcopal Church that hold retreats, reunions, weddings, conferences, and meetings there, a farm and farm school that teaches how to manage land and produce food locally and economically, as well as housing a folk school with dedicated studio spaces, multi-purpose workrooms and a dance/music hall. The intention of the project was to create additional job opportunities for residents in the region with different abilities which it has continued to do since Bethany Village was completed and opened.
UDF provided loans to this project totaling $9.1 million. Subordinate pricing was also provided by UDF for this project with advantageous terms including interest-only for the 7 year terms, below-market interest rates and lower-than standard origination fees. Without the NMTC the project was unable to fill a funding gap in order to complete construction. The financing from UDF filled the funding void with their financing at terms that were unavailable from other lenders.
Bethany Village is located in a very distressed rural census tract. Building the Village created over 150 construction jobs for local contractors as well as 25 full time jobs. The permanent job positions pay $30,000 to $65,000 a year and include generous benefits including health insurance, retirement benefits and housing for residential staff. As a whole, the Camp is a significant economic engine for the area in general on the town of Navoo (population 215) in particular. Most of the students and campers receive scholarships from Camp McDowell to lower the cost of its programs for low-income persons.
Each year Camp McDowell is now able to host 1500 campers during 10 summer sessions, more than 300 groups at its conference center and almost 8500 students and teachers at its environmental learning center.
- The Alabama Folk School is housed on the grounds there and is founded on the mission of providing the opportunity for renewal and inspiration in a supportive community while learning from and experiencing master artists, artisans and musicians at their craft. Lives are enriched as people are reconnecting to music, art and one another while working creatively with hands, minds, and spirits which help preserve Alabama’s cultural heritage. The school offers classes and workshops in traditional folk arts ranging from sacred harp singing, blacksmithing, dancing, storytelling, banjo, fiddle, quilting, cooking, a range of art media, music and more. The low tuition cost and generous scholarship fund ensures that these opportunities are open to people of all ages and across multiple income levels, no matter where their interests lie.
- The McDowell Farm School grows and provides seasonal crops ready for harvest throughout the year and works to put as much local, sustainably grown and healthy food onto the tables at Camp McDowell. Bethany Village became the permanent home of Mark Farm upon construction completion and with the help of students and the whole camp community, two barns were raised, a greenhouse was reassembled, an expansive chicken coop was erected with multiple chicken yards, and over four acres in crop production has been established. As the farm continues to grow and future plans are set the aim to stay true to roots by producing food and managing land using sustainable practices is always kept foremost in sight. This helps to accomplish the goal of having a farm that produces alternative energy, zero waste and great food.
- The village as a whole is using alternative and renewable energy sources, recycling and composting with a goal of zero-waste and massive reduction of energy consumption.