A Christian camp and retreat center is ready to begin work on a lodge that’s expected to expand its outreach.

Barefoot Republic Camp, which is based in the Nashville area but operates the camp on the shores of Barren River Lake in Allen County, will break ground on the new lodge at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

Charlie Payne, the camp’s operations director, said the camp has been raising funds for the lodge for about two years. It will be a centerpiece for the camp and its mission, he said.

“It’s kind of the piece that pulls everything together for us,” he said.

The 20,000-square-foot lodge will have 16 hotel-style rooms, a 300-person cafeteria, an infirmary, classrooms and an outdoor amphitheater, Payne said.

The lodge is expected to serve as a place for campers and people on retreats to bond with one another, Payne said.

“We’re thinking the lodge is a place for community gathering and bonding to happen,” he said.

The lodge is expected to cost about $1.5 million and is being funded with matching grants from the Cal Turner Family Foundation and the Laura Goad Turner Charitable Foundation as well as money from donors, Payne said.

“Most camps build a lodge first, then build cabins. We did things backwards,” he said.

The “backwards” approach to building the camp stems largely from the difficulty camp founder Tommy Rhodes had with getting funding for the camp.

The website barefootrepublic.org said the camp is an “inter-denominational” nonprofit group that is dedicated to “addressing the basics of the Christian faith that will positively impact students from all backgrounds.”

Payne said the camp seeks to “bring people together from different social, economic and racial backgrounds in a Christ-centered environment.”

The lodge’s hotel-style rooms will offer an alternative to the camp’s existing cabins, he said, noting the camp wants more options to be available for people who may want different things.

“It will allow us to better accommodate the children we serve,” he said. “It also opens up a ton of new opportunities for our retreats by increasing our capacity.”

The lodge will enable the camp to host 500 more campers and 2,500 more people going on retreats each year, Payne said.

“We’re more catered to youth at this point, but this lodge will allow us to expand our reach,” he said.

Payne said the camp hopes to have the lodge completed by next April.

– Follow Daily News reporter Jackson French on Twitter @Jackson_French or visit bgdailynews.com.

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General assignment reporter focusing on features and regional coverage.

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