Among the books, photos, and flotsam and jetsam that accumulate on my office shelves, one item qualifies as an automatic keepsake. It’s a framed certificate presented to “Miss Jane P. Holt” from 1962, signifying her status as a “Charter Patron” of Montreat.
Signed by Tom Belk, the original chair of the Patrons program, the certificate reminds me of Jane’s enduring commitment to Montreat, just as it represents for me the generous, faithful commitments to Patrons on the part of so many others over the last sixty years. The certificate reminds me that the true strength of our ministry lies in the legions who love and care for this special, thin place.
Patrons gifts are made to the Montreat Fund, the conference center’s annual fund which provides unrestricted revenue for our operating needs. In effect, those who support the Montreat Fund support every facet of our conference, hospitality, and recreation programming.
In recent years, the Montreat Fund has only become more important – and was vital during the worst days of the pandemic, when earned revenues fell by 85% (some five million dollars). Montreaters have responded to the need. Reaching a platform of $1 million was once the stated aspiration for annual gifts to operating. The Montreat Fund has now cleared that threshold in each of the last three fiscal years.
Throughout its 60-year history, Patrons events have been held in banquet settings and in picnic settings. Last Saturday night, nearly 300 people braved a testy family of geese to attend this year’s “Big Tent” event on Moore Center field. The evening provided bountiful food from several food trucks, plentiful beverages, and good fellowship, even as space under the tent was, at times, at a premium.
Having a crowded Patrons event is the kind of problem you want to have. As it does every year, the experience of so many happy faces and greetings gladdened my heart. Looking back on the last 30 months, I am ever more grateful for the gift of being together again, and for the gifts given by donors, volunteers, and staff that made this occasion possible. What a privilege it is to say thank you.
President, Montreat Conference Center