Metro Roundup: The Plan to Save Camp Hargis
Aaron Knight shared his journey to the rescue of Hargis Retreat while speaking with the Chelsea Business Alliance at the January 5th meeting.
Knight’s family has a long history in Chelsea, starting with his uncle moving to Chelsea in 1936 and buying 200 acres near Hargis Retreat. Knight moved here in 1975 when she was 2 years old. His uncle helped start the Chelsea water company and also owned a shop at Old US 280, and his cousin has owned an excavation company for several years, so his family has had a business in Chelsea for nearly 100 years.
Knight recounted how he went down the wrong path as a teenager, and by the time he was 16 found himself without a home, spending his last two years at Chelsea High School in 25 different locations and going to jail eight times before that, turning 18 Year old. He graduated from Chelsea High School in 1991 and left town to start over in the Hueytown area, but continued to use and trade drugs.
When he was 30 years old, he said he felt the Holy Spirit moved him to change his life. Three months after a car accident, Knight preached in Bessemer City Jail, where he served every Sunday for about six years.
After a divorce at the age of 38, Knight moved back to Chelsea in 2010 to start over. In 2021 he met his wife Kelly and she led him back to God. She encouraged him to attend a local Bible school, and he began volunteering at a local church to keep it going. After a merger with another church failed, he was asked to work as a pastor in what is now Redemption Church. After almost six years, the church has grown from 40 to around 300.
Growing up near Hargis Retreat, it has always been a place Knight has loved. When he found out the camp was for sale in 2019 he thought it was going to be developed and was hoping to get a small piece of land to build a house, but instead God told him to save the camp instead.
“I fought it a bit at first and finally told the Lord that if you open a few doors and help me and show me you’re there, I’ll walk that thing,” he said.
He decided to email Doug Eddleman of Eddleman Properties in April 2019 but received no response. In July, he drove to his office hoping to meet with him, but could not and left dejected. He continued to go to his office every other week for the next 11 months, and Eddleman reached out to him in May 2020. After discussion, he found that the price of the camp was $ 2.2 million.
After a few more months, Knight found that a payment of $ 195,000 was required by December 31st and began reaching out to the Chelsea business owners with a handwritten letter. Donations were received, and on December 31st, Knight Eddleman picked up a check for $ 196,000, a thousand dollars over what was needed, and a day early.
“We actually raised $ 235,000 in 30 days, but that’s just the beginning,” he said. âWe’ll still have to raise $ 1 million in 2022 and $ 1 million in 2023, but I’m not in the least concerned about that. I know that God is in it and he will do it. ”
To raise the money, he plans to apply for grants and sell a large piece of land. His wife is working on summer camp plans. A fundraising campaign for 2022 called Save the Camp is about to start, along with other plans like a silent auction, a polar jump, and other things to help promote the camp.