In 2003, CHRIS FRYE was 15 and at loose ends in New Castle, PA. Recovering from a serious back injury that left him unable to play sports or “do anything constructive,” he was being drawn to the negative lifestyle choices available in his neighborhood. That is when his grandparents told him about a counselor’s job at Camp Bennett.
Chris was hired in a leadership position as a Camp Bennett counselor. Chris reminisces on that time stating “we had Bible study, the ropes course, recreation in the gym, the dining hall with family-style seating, trails, swimming, frog hunting, all types of things. Not having had my own camp experience, being a Camp Bennett Counselor served me a dual purpose for me.
More Than a Job
Chris expected to be outdoors, running around with kids and teaching the word of God, however, what transformed him was a “great family” of other counselors and camp staff, who lived and fellowshipped together during that summer. He had come to understand that “we transferred all the communication and love we received from one another back to the kids at camp.”
The “camp family” is what drew Chris back to Camp Bennett for three more summers. His experience as a counselor gave him new and unexpected focus. Upon graduation from high school, Chris decided to major in social work at Gannon University in Erie, PA. His first college internship was to help run a summer camp for at-risk youth. After recieving his masters of social work degree in Community Organizing and Social Administration from the University of Pittsburgh, Chris became a therapist and neighborhood development at Cray Youth and Family Services in New Castle, PA. Chris now serves as community support coordinator for Lawrence County Community Action Partnership, where he works with youth on juvenile probation.
Campaigning for the Future
Chris credits Camp Bennett for igniting his leadership and communications skills. Currently, Chris is running for the office of mayor in his hometown. New Castle, PA, a city of 20,000 which some describe as an economically distressed city with a serious drug and crime problem. Chris states”I thank God every day because I could have gone down a completely different path if I had not been immersed in the Christian values and connected to the supportive people of Central Union Mission and Camp Bennett.”
Chris’ underprivileged background, his Camp Bennett experience and social work training have helped him become the man he is today. Chris emphasized, “I’m living proof of what the ministry of Central Union Mission and a camp that teaches Christian values can do. Just think of what opportunities Camp Bennett will create for every camper’s future!”
December 2, 2019
Chris Frye made history on election day by being elected the first black mayor of New Castle, Pennsylvania.