HISTORY OF FLOWER CITY OUTREACH
Mike McOrmond, who joined as Browncroft Community Church’s Director of Youth Ministries in 1980, had been praying and seeking ways to get students involved in missions for a few years. Mike was a co-founder of the Rochester area Youth worker Roundtable, a group of youth pastors and youth workers who loved God, one another, and youth. They met monthly at the different churches represented in the group.
Mike discovered work camp opportunities across the United States through GROUP magazine (a youth worker publication). He presented a service opportunity called “Urban Experience Work Camp” located in Chester, PA to the Browncroft youth group because it was relatively close to Rochester and near to the Philadelphia area where Mike grew up. Six students stepped up to serve: Barb Seebold Goehring, Bernie Heroux, Kyle Helvie, Lori Zimmerman Blank, Kelly Koehlinger Morton and Debbie Woody Wyspianski.
Following the work camp in Chester, Browncroft enrolled to serve at GROUP’s “Coal Country Work Camp” in Boone County, WV. For this work camp experience, adult leaders and students from Perinton Community Church joined with those from Browncroft. The numbers increased and warranted chartering a bus to transport the growing team.
Adult leaders and students from Westside Baptist Church (aka Journey Christian Church) joined with those from PCC and BCC for GROUP’s “Blue Ridge Mountain Work Camp” in North Carolina.
Upon returning from this third out-of-state work camp, vision casting and planning for the first ever Flower City Work Camp began in the fall of 1985. FCWC was a shared vision between Mike McOrmond of Browncroft Community Church, Kathy Hildebrand of Perinton Community Church, Dave Wagner of Westside Baptist Church (aka Journey Christian Church), Jim Walton of Latta Road Baptist Church (aka Orchard Community Church) and some others in support roles.
The very first iteration of Flower City Work Camp was held during Spring Break 1986 with a couple dozen students attending from the charter churches involved. Browncroft Community Church in Penfield, NY hosted the event, allowing students to eat, sleep, worship and deploy from their facility throughout the week. Worship and teaching was held in the gym of Browncroft Community Church as the then newly constructed sanctuary wasn’t yet available for use.
Over these years the mantle of leadership moved from youth worker to youth worker as Flower City Work Camp grew though had not yet incorporated. John Buss and his wife Judy (“Judy on Duty”) were pillars of FCWC during these years and became a fixture at Work Camp for the next 20 years. As the size of Work Camp grew not everyone was able to fit at Browncroft Community Church and Work Camp was split into two halves. East Camp continued at Browncroft Community Church and the West Camp was hosted by Hope Lutheran Church in Greece, NY.
In the fall of 2015, Flower City Work Camp incorporated as a Non-Profit Corporation called Flower City Outreach, designed to take FCWC into the future as well as leaving the door open to expand into new ministry areas. The first Board of Directors for Flower City Outreach was installed in December 2015 with Ryan T. Smith serving as the first Executive Director.
Jonathan Sigmon became the FCWC Camp Director, providing John & Judy Buss a well-deserved break after 20 years of continued service.
In addition to Flower City Work Camp being held over Spring Break, Flower City Outreach held FC Encounter, a reunion & worship event hosted by Bethel Christian Fellowship in August of that year featuring the band Venerant. The goal was to reconnect friendships forged during FCWC and to praise God for His goodness and blessing in the ministry.
Under Flower City Outreach’s leadership and Joanne Heydens’ service as FCWC Camp Director, Work Camp grew to its high water mark with 58 participating churches sending 791 students and 864 adult volunteers out into the city to serve during the week. This included 52 homes served by worksite teams, 46 Sidewalk Club sites reaching out to children in neighborhoods across the city, 2 basketball camps and 2 soccer camps hosted at recreation centers in the city, along with 70 Agency Support sites blessed with service projects.
Just a few short weeks after Camp, Browncroft Community Church hosted a reunion & worship night, and Flower City Outreach provided a full outdoor BBQ ahead of the event.
COVID-19 broke out world-wide just one month prior to FCWC 2020. Out of an abundance of caution, and direction by public health officials, FCWC was cancelled. It was the first time in 35 years that Camp would not be held since its first occurrence in 1986. FCO did its best to pivot and offered a virtual camp experience allowing the FCWC community to connect online with content provided on Facebook and Instagram.
Ryan T. Smith, who had served as Flower City Outreach’s Executive Director from its inception in 2015, left the organization in May 2020 when he and his family moved back to their original home in Portland, Oregon to care for his ailing in-laws. Mike McOrmond, who had joined the Flower City Outreach Board in 2015 and had been serving as the Board Chairman, was selected to serve as the organization’s Executive Director going forward.
The desire to serve, and the need represented in the city, was so great that in August 2020 Flower City Outreach launched a new ministry program called FCWC Weekend Edition. This program was primarily focused on adults serving on worksite teams to address critical needs of homeowners that could be accomplished inside of one day. Priority was given to homes that had been scheduled to be worked on earlier in the year that had acute needs that shouldn’t have been delayed to the following year or that represented a safety concern. By the end of 2020, FCWC Weekend Edition helped 14 homeowners and deployed many individuals into service through FCWC Weekend Edition.
Public health restrictions again prevented FCWC from being held again during the Spring of 2021, but the camp’s leadership worked to find a new opportunity to put on a program for youth during that time frame. The solution was the first ever Transform Youth Conference, focused on training up and preparing students for outreach in the city, hosted at Browncroft Community Church.
Work Camp was scheduled for and held in the warmer weather of June 2021, but was modified to a day-camp format allowing students to return home each night to shower and sleep. While the size of Work Camp was smaller, the sense of community and blessing was just as rich as ever and was deeply appreciated by all involved.
FCWC Weekend Edition continued, helping 22 more homeowners throughout the year.
Flower City Work Camp returned to its traditional format during Spring Break as a full-service, overnight camp in April 2022 with Jill Herman as Camp Director.
Flower City Outreach launched a youth mentoring program called Link Youth Mentorship with Gary Heydens as Program Director during the summer of 2022. This new ministry started with a handful of mentors beginning to work with young men in the city aged 8-18.
Rose City Work Camp, an affiliate ministry founded by former FCO Executive Director Ryan T. Smith, launched on the West Coast with a series of single-day service events patterned after FCWC with youth groups in the City of Roses – Portland, Oregon.
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