Volunteer group gathers at HLGU to ‘Bring Back a Legacy’ as renovation work begins on residential halls


Member of Camper on Missions Dale Winemiller, of Rolla, Mo., paints the hall at Crouch Hall on Thursday morning. Behind him is Gary Thomas of Seligman, Mo. Photo by Megan Duncan

HANNIBAL, Mo. — “God is good! All the time!” The chant rang out in the makeshift dining room at the Carroll Science Center at Hannibal LaGrange University.

The chanters were some of the 84 members of the missionary group, Campers on Mission, who spent the week working on repairs and updates at two residence halls, Crouch Hall and Pulliam Hall. 

Campers on Mission is a national fellowship of Christian campers and RVers who share the gospel. The Missouri Chapter serves by traveling the state to help with construction, maintenance and repair projects.

It was full circle for the group when they arrived on the HLGU campus, as the Missouri Chapter was started in 1973 by Dr. L. A. Foster, who was president at Hannibal LaGrange College for 20 years.

Although a strong and experienced workforce on campus, the group shared much more than work during their week at HLGU. 

As a group of the campers made cracks at one another while laughing over plates of various sweet breads for a morning snack, it was obvious they shared a family bond. In the room beside them were chairs in front of a podium, where the group worshiped together at the beginning and end of each day – giving God the glory for the accomplishments of their hands.

In the evenings, they ate dinner together which was provided by local churches and a Hannibal home school group.

The campers provide both general labor and professional work. Jim Rawlings, president of the Missouri Campers on Mission group, said the campers have a variety of specialities.

“We have people from all skill levels. We have guys who want to do the construction, guys who want to do the electric or plumbing, you just name it,” Rawlings said. “We even have our own in-house mechanics that come and work on our campers while we’re here. They come and if there’s something a camper needs, they fix it.”

Rawlings said the Missouri chapter often crosses state lines. He spent the winter helping in a church in Florida.

He also explained that the group is self-supported and does not rely on donations or hold fundraisers. Although they accept donations toward projects, they remain independent in funding.

Dr. Ray Carty, vice president of institutional advancement at HLGU, oversaw their work. Carty said the group’s labor would have cost HLGU around $160,000.

“I think that even that might be a conservative number because of all the work that they are doing and the skills they have. We would have to pay that if we were paying people to do that,” he said.

The updates are part of HLGU’s “Bring Back the Legacy” initiative, which brings back the two residence halls. With an expected increase in enrollment coming in the fall, the two dorms will add needed space to student living quarters and accommodate summer camps.

Pulliam Hall, built in 1929, was among the first three buildings on campus. It was used for temporary housing in 2020 when students were required to quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure. Last August, a water leak on the second floor ruined areas of the first floor.

Pulliam is undergoing a complete renovation of the first floor including flooring, ceiling, upgraded electrical, replacement entry doors, and refinishing the antique woodwork.

Crouch Hall was added in 1956. The building upgrades include new ceilings with acoustic tiles, new paint and plaster work, and new flooring in some areas.

The enrollment increase and the updates to the school was something Carty was happy to report after a few hard years for HLGU.

On March 3, 2022, the financial forecast for the University showed the institution was 27 days away from exhausting its $1 million line of credit while having outstanding bills of nearly $900,000.

Carty said hard work has paid off in their financial situation.

“We have started to gain strength back–not where we want to be yet–but we are stable. We are committed to a black budget, which is a challenge sometimes but that’s what we’re about,” he said. “Dr. Matz, our president, has done a lot of work to make that happen. He and I have worked well together, but he’s done a lot of the leadership on that.”

The university fundraised more than $95,000 for materials. Carty said Hannibal Lowes has also partnered with them to provide the “very best deals” they can and discounted prices on materials for the project. Tri-County Electric Cooperative in New London, Mo. has also helped with the project.

The Campers on Mission will move on next week to help with projects at Camp Inlow in Philadelphia, Mo. They will then spend six weeks in Canton, Mo. finishing the inside of a church.

A few of the campers will stay behind to finish up parts of the project, but it won’t be completely done. Carty said HLGU maintenance department along with another, smaller, group called Gasconade Valley Baptist Associates will help complete the work.

They hope to have students living in the facilities by the fall.

Carty said the contribution of the campers and all who are helping on the project is a great service to them.

“We believe that the power of God expressed through a willing servant is a mighty thing,” he said. “And they are mighty.”

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