A month ago, dozens of individuals — across the nation and the world—made their way into the area to focus on their health.
From July 16 to July 26, Fit 4 You Retreat took over the 500 acres of property surrounding the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Pine Forge.
Forty volunteers and 60 campers, between the ages of 13 to 89, took a week off from their regular routines to attend a retreat in hopes of developing a better lifestyle.
According to V. Michelle Bernard, digital media coordinator for the Columbia Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, the Fit 4 You Retreat gives campers a jump start on a healthy lifestyle by teaching them how to prepare a plant-based diet, cutting down on stress, and lots of exercise.
The camp is run by the Seventh-day Adventist Church and is staffed by professionals who volunteer their time. These volunteers provide health checks, give health lectures, lead cardio exercise, and serve gourmet vegan meals.
The camp is organized by the Allegheny East Conference Health Ministries Department.
Director A. Leah Scott has been an active participant for past 10 years.
According to Scott, the main focus is to help people have a healthy lifestyle change—mentally, physically and socially.
“We’re not just giving information, we’re providing a process for change,” said Scott. “We give people the tools and the hope to live a life of quality and quantity. We focus on whole-body healing. Many people come to lose weight, but it is not a weight loss program. We teach them what to focus on and we’re meeting them where they are .”
According to Scott, campers and presenters come to this retreat from all over the world from areas such as Bermuda, Korea, Thailand and California. “Everyone has a different denomination, affiliations, and a different walk,” said Scott, stating that there are six levels of walking and moving that are recognized at the camp. “This group is a mixture of backgrounds and levels of education—when we walk in door, we put down all levels and credentials.”
On hand at the retreat, there is a fitness team, a massage therapist, zumba classes, music therapy, Latin dancing and a drum circle, among other things.
“We educate, educate, educate,” said Scott.
In regards to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Scott says they’re leading in education and seek to reverse the preventable through changes in lifestyle.
One theme that was emphasized at the camp: ‘faithfully fit’ of mind, body and soul.
Therefore there is a strong focus on physical activity and diet. Seventh-day Adventists embrace a plant-based diet.
When most campers come, they’re meat eaters or vegetarians.
Johnetta Frazier, a chef based out of Philadelphia specializing in vegan gourmet cooking, volunteers each year to prepare nutritious and plant-based entrees throughout the week for the Fit 4 You retreat.
Frazier is able to cater to diabetes, hypertension, food allergies, dietary restrictions, thyroid conditions and other dietary needs.
According to Frazier, the menu varies from year to year. At end of camp, campers get a cookbook full of recipes to help them continue a plant-based, nutrient-dense diet.
“I have the flexibility to change things and everything made from scratch,” said Fraizer. “I don’t like to do typical vegan foods; there are people from other countries—I try to cater to all .” She explains how she cooks dishes with a Southern flair or foods familiar to the northern states. “Cornbread is very popular. And we go through lots of produce.”
To monitor progress, campers have blood work done on the first and last day of camp, along with a full body assessment. Scott noted that it’s always exciting for campers to see the changes.
This camp has been located in Pine forge for 35 years.