Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Remove Images

Camp pays mortgage, goes for tax-exempt status

by Chris Schultz

September 22, 2011

LYONS — Almost a year ago, Rustic Falls Camp at 5537 Cranberry Road opened its doors to a group of children from West Chicago.

With that, Eric Lentz and his wife, Deanna Hallagan, saw their dreams come true. In fact, the couple and their two children, had been working since 2006 to repair, renovate and restore an abandoned dairy farm and fieldstone farm house into a special retreat for people in need.

But hanging over their heads this past year was a $110,000 mortgage on the property that had to be paid off by October 2011.

On Aug. 23, Lentz paid off the $110,000 debt. Ownership of the property was transferred to the nonprofit Frank Lentz Foundation.

The Frank Lentz Foundation is named after Eric's late father who was a child psychologist for the Dundee School District and Barrington High School in Illinois.

He was also a scout master in the Elgin, Ill., area.

Eric Lentz was at the Lyons Town Board on Monday to announce that he had filed paperwork to grant the property tax exempt status starting in 2012.

The visit was a courtesy call. No Town Board action was required.

Owner of a pool maintenance company, Lentz, of Skokie, Ill., has a degree in special education. Hallagan is a social worker.

They had long planned to open a camp to provide outdoor experiences for at-risk youth, cancer survivors and physically and mentally challenged children and adults.

According to information provided by Lentz, during the past two years, the Frank Lentz Foundation has raised about $270,000 for the renovation of the old farmhouse and for the mortgage.

The down payment for the property was $25,000, the renovations about $140,000 and the mortgage was $110,000.

Lentz credited two fundraising events with helping reach the goal of $110,000, nearly two months earlier than the loan was due.

The first event was the Rustic Fair at Falls on June 12 at the Rustic Falls Camp which is just five miles east of Lake Geneva.

The second was a golf outing at the Golf Club of Illinois. Most of the funds, however, came $25 at a time from large numbers of people who just felt the need to contribute, Lentz said.

Lentz said he hopes he can continue both events as fundraisers for Rustic Falls.

Although the immediate debt is paid off, Lentz said he believes the foundation will have to raise about $100,000 a year to keep the camp operating.

A long-term goal is to renovate the old barn on the property into an activity center, including a pool, art rooms, stage and extra sleeping space for the camp.

Rustic Falls itself sits on about five acres that straddles Cranberry Road.

The center of the camp is the two-story fieldstone farm house which has been renovated and restored with mostly volunteer effort to sleep up to eight.

Surrounding Rustic Falls is 87 acres of the old Drumlin farm now owned by the Seno Woodland Education Center. Seno and Rustic Falls have a mutual use agreement, so guests of Rustic Falls can hike the Seno grounds, and occasional guests of Seno can use the facilities at Rustic Falls.

Lentz said Rustic Falls has two to three groups visit every month. The Frank Lentz Foundation has established connections with several social and medical service agencies in Illinois and Wisconsin.

Rustic Falls Nature Camp is a customized camp experience for small groups.

The goal of the camp is to create unique outdoor experiences for at-risk youth, cancer survivors and physically and mentally challenged children and adults. Each camp is tailored to the special needs of each group.

Camps can be customized to include activities such as horseback riding, nature walks, fishing, archery, basketball, swimming, sledding, ice skating, crafts and cooking.