Nearly two weeks after massive flooding damaged several buildings at John Knox Ranch near Fisher, Texas, volunteers with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and local Presbyterian churches are making it possible for the ranch to be open for business on June 10.  The heavy rains that flooded portions of Texas caused the nearby Blanco River to spill over its banks, damaging some of the ranch’s low lying facilities.

The dining hall took the brunt of the damage along with the pool, meeting house and both bath houses. Cabins and other lodging facilities are located on higher ground and were not damaged by floodwaters.

“Right now our pool is almost functional, we are waiting on an air conditioning unit for the meeting house and demolition has been underway at the dining hall,” said Kathy Anderson, the ranch’s executive director. “A lot of demolition, power washing and cleanup of mud and dirt.”

PDA teams visited the camp shortly after the flooding and were amazed at the extent of damage.

Interior of the damaged dining hall at John Knox Ranch.

Interior of the damaged dining hall at John Knox Ranch. —Kathy Anderson

“The greatest loss was the kitchen/dining hall. All of the appliances, cabinets, utensils, pots and pans were twisted in a horrible, muddy heap,” the team reported. “It appeared as if someone had ripped out everything in the kitchen and tried to build an ugly, impassable mountain. Food from the summer delivery was scattered across a nearby field.”

The team said providing showers and a way to cook in two weeks became top priorities. PDA Team Lead Kelly Buell, working with Lutheran church leaders, connected with Orphan Grain Train’s Disaster Response Division in Norfolk, Neb., and secured the services of its 45 foot long commercial kitchen trailer. Mission Presbytery near San Antonio supplied the funds to cover the cost and it will be in place at John Knox when the first campers arrive.

Anderson credits PDA and volunteers from Mission Presbytery for quick response. Without the support, Anderson says the loss of revenue this year could have possibly closed the ranch permanently.

“We’ve received help from a number of amazing people and organizations, mainly from the Presbyterian community and Mission Presbytery,” she added. “Eighty people showed up on Memorial Day and the numbers have continued to grow to include their friends and extended friends who have connections with other churches. They’ve shown up with youth, men and women’s groups to do what needs to be done.”

Other work includes building new benches and tables, hauling away trash and debris and cleaning up the cabins.

During the summer months, the camp employs 20 young adult staff and counselors. Camp sessions average between 50 and 90 children and youth campers.

For more information about the cleanup and the need for local volunteers, please visit www.johnknoxranch.com.

Editor’s Note: The PC(USA) has two camp and conference centers with “John Knox” in their titles. John Knox Ranch, noted in this article, is near Fischer, Texas. The other, John Knox Center, is in Eastern Tennessee.


To make a donation to help in repairs and clean up at John Knox Ranch, designate gifts to DR000191 – U.S. Flooding and visit the PDA website at http://pda.pcusa.org.

Gifts can be made online and by phoning 800-872-3283 weekdays between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 pm. EDT. Checks can be mailed to Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), PO Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700.