Board of Directors
Moon Beach, Pilgrim Center, and Cedar Valley are a ministry of the Wisconsin Conference United Church of Christ. Operated by an independent Board of Directors, United Church Camps, Inc. (UCCI) exists to provide program and operations expertise to support the outdoor ministry mission and program that serves all of our churches, church members, other individuals, families, and groups.
Current UCCI Board Members:
Senior VP Strategic and Regional Development
My wife Mert and I live in Green Bay, Wisconsin and have three adult daughters. We are members of First United Presbyterian Church in DePere where I currently serve as an Elder on Session. My passion for outdoor ministry is rooted in my experiences leading to the rank of Eagle Boy Scout, Outward Bound mountaineering in Colorado, a summer in Rocky Mountain National Park serving with A Christian Ministry in the National Parks as well as church family camps at Pilgrim Center. I enjoy most outdoor activities including biking, sailing, kayaking, hiking and fishing. In the winter I focus on woodworking. For the past 30+ years I have worked for HSHS St Vincent Hospital in Green Bay; serving in a variety of leadership positions.
“It is a privilege to serve on the UCCI Board as the Winnebago Presbytery representative. Part of my role is to connect the United Presbyterian Church with the UCCI camps. I have personally benefited from outdoor ministry. I believe in the benefits outdoor ministry brings to individuals & communities and want to help make this available to all who would like this experience”.
Paul F. Black
An attorney for 42 years, Paul has a solo practice in Shawano. He specializes in real estate, business and estate planning. He has served as chief financial officer in two businesses with his Masters in Business Administration degree. Paul is treasurer of UCCI. He has served on the boards of several non-profits in Wisconsin and Missouri. He has three degrees from Washington University in St. Louis, MO, where he lived until he moved to Wisconsin in 2002. Paul is currently on the advisory board of the Shawano Area Community Foundation and is a commissioner of Shawano Municipal Utilities. Paul is married to Marty who retired in 2018 after 25 years serving as a pastor, most recently as pastor of Peace UCC in Shawano for 16 years.
“I have served in numerous positions in local and wider church settings because I believe that if asked it is because someone thinks I have gifts that will benefit the organization. I am happy to be using my gifts to help UCCI’s ministry thrive and grow.”
Board President and Family Camper
Program Director for Flourishing in Ministry – a retreat series sponsored by the Center for Courage & Renewal
Former Lead Pastor at Orchard Ridge UCC
Married to Tammy, three adult children, grandfather to Alma!
“I serve on this board for many reasons, but two stand out. First, my family and my previous congregation have benefited immensely from the relationships, experiences and wonder of UCCI ministry. Children, youth and adults have been mentored, loved and shepherded into life giving careers through their contact with UCCI. It is only right that I offer my talents in service of a ministry that has meant so much to me and people I love. Secondly, I think the three sites are all helping the church look forward with new models of ministry and new ways of defining the Christian faith in today’s world. All of us in the church need to be exploring the many ways the Spirit shows up in our lives and our work, and UCCI has the flexibility and wonders of nature to help us do just that”.
Special Education Teacher, retired
Wendy earned her Bachelor and Master of Science in Education-Special Education degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. She taught at the middle /junior high school and high school levels for over 36 years in Wisconsin public schools. While teaching in New London at the middle/junior high school she was a team leader and while at the high school was the district’s key person for transition. Wendy has been the district’s new teacher mentoring program’s co-trainer and facilitator. In retirement, Wendy has conducted inservices for educational support staff and continues to substitute teach.
Wendy has been active in First Congregational UCC, New London serving several times as Council President, search committee chairperson, Sunday School teacher, Stephen Ministry seminar group facilitator, Women’s Fellowship leader, and lay service leader. Wendy completed Lay Academy in 2002. She continues to support outdoor ministry by attending/directing Grandparent and Me camps, is a Camp AweSum volunteer, and helps with local church fundraising for camp scholarships. While on the UCCI Board from 2014-2019 she was Board secretary and continues on in this important role having voice but not vote.
“I serve the UCCI Board because UCCI has been supportive of camping experiences for diverse populations. Because I believe in this ministry, I want to continue to shape camping opportunities and accessibility for all”.
Spiritual Director/Retreat Leader
Former Licensed UCC Pastor, Registered Nurse, Certified Yoga, Group Exercise and Personal Training Instructor.
My present vocation (and my passion) as a Spiritual Director is to help people “Open their Hearts to God”, through individual and group Spiritual Direction sessions and in Retreat settings. I believe we are created in God’s image to be God’s image. Living out that journey is our call.
I am volunteer coordinator for Ruby’s Pantry Distribution site in Osseo, serving about 200 people each month to receive needed food. I work with the Eau Claire County “Sleep In Heavenly Peace” project, coordinating those children needing beds with delivery teams.
“I serve on the UCCI board because I believe in care of body, mind and spirit and “camp” is a wonderful way to do that”.
In my professional life, I am an attorney. My firm is Forward Disability Attorneys. I am also a West Allis alderman. I have served as alderman for the past five years. Prior to becoming alderman I served on the West Allis Police and Fire Commission for nine years.
I grew up in the UCC and we are active members of Plymouth UCC, Milwaukee. I have previously served on the Southeast Association Church and Ministry Team.
I have been active in Scouting all my life. I am an Eagle Scout and I have served on the Three Harbors Council, Boy Scouts of America Executive Board for nine years.
I have been a family camper at Moon Beach since the ‘80’s when I was a child. My wife, Carolyn, and I are parents of 13-year-old twins: Clara and Henry. Now that we have a family of our own, we have been attending Moon Beach family camp for about 12 years. My parents and my sister and her family also attend the same week, making for a nice annual event for extended family. Our twins have attended Pilgrim Center for the past few summers.
Rev. Nick Hatch
Nick grew up in Mahomet, Illinois, the son of Rev. DiAnne Hatch and Dr. Terry Hatch. His home church was First Presbyterian of Champaign, Illinois, where his mother was called to be an associate pastor. He has many fond memories of his Presbyterian upbringing and theological training. His summers were spent in Wisconsin at the family cabin on a lake just east of Park Falls. Renovating the cabin has been a labor of love for all ages. It continues to be Nick’s favorite place in the world and a true retreat for his spirit in the midst of ministry.
Nick graduated from Eastern Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He then attended McCormick Seminary, where he was a Tomlinson Hampton Scholar. During seminary, Nick served as a youth director at Glenview Community Church UCC in Glenview, Illinois, and met his wife and best friend, Amanda, who is from Houston, Texas. They were married in 2005.
Nick’s first call was to First Presbyterian Church of Great Falls, Montana, in a general associate position for two years. In the summer of 2011, Nick was called to First Congregational UCC and his position has evolved over time in concert wit the needs of the church and hid developing skillset. Nick and Amanda have two children, Maddison and Elijah. Maddison’s interests include practicing her art and reading a lot. Elijah loves his legos and cracking jokes. Amanda is currently enjoying being a mother and at-home teacher, while taking a break from her career in nursing. Nick and Amanda both feel very blessed that God has brought them to Appleton and opened up such a unique, specialized ministry opportunity in a place they feel called to be. Nick enjoys road biking, working out, hiking, woodworking, and anything with his kids. Nick also has extensive training in wilderness and outdoor recreation through the National Outdoor Leadership School. He has backpacked, sea-kayaked, canoed, and cayoneered across the continent and greatly enjoys sharing his love of God’s creation in the outdoors with others through the church’s Wilderness Ministry.
Rev. Jim Hollister
Pastor at First Congregational Church, UCC, in Sheboygan, WI.
I am in my 2nd year as chair of the WI Conf. Board of Directors, but my heart is with outdoor ministries since I attended summer camp (Silver Lake Conf. Center in CT) for 3 years in a row as a teenager (mid 1970s) and felt God’s presence in the woods and with my peers. Many of us became ministers and leaders in our churches. Also, our son and daughter both had transformative experiences at Pilgrim Center over many years, and our son was a counselor at PC, too, and is now a social worker in the Twin Cities, working with adolescent boys.
Rev. Julie Jennings
Vice President of Ministry, Cedar Community
Julie Jennings serves as the Vice President of Ministry at Cedar Community in West Bend, WI. She has over twenty years of chaplaincy experience in health and human service ministries, including health care, transitional housing for women and children, adults with developmental disabilities, and youth in detention and residential treatment. Julie is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ with standing in the Southeast Association of the Wisconsin Conference UCC. She also writes and sings original songs about life in our times with her spouse, Susan Drake. Julie enjoys running and biking and connecting to creation.
“I serve on the UCCI Board in recognition of the relationship between UCCI and Cedar Community through the Cedar Valley site and because I value the unique ways outdoor ministries contribute to grounding and transforming the human experience.”
Holly Kirking Loomis
Acting Director, Office of Global Change U.S. Department of State
Holly Kirking Loomis is Acting Director of the U.S. State Department Office of Global Change, where she leads the 35-person team that coordinates and implements U.S. foreign policy and programs related to climate change. A career diplomat since 2004, Holly previously served in Brasilia, Tegucigalpa, and twice in Beijing. She earned her master’s degree from Tufts University Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy and graduated Summa cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota. She has served as Treasurer and Development Chair on the Board of Directors of the American School in Brasilia and also currently serves on the Board of Directors of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), a 17,000-member professional association of U.S. diplomats. Before joining the Foreign Service, Holly worked in trade finance in the Chicago. Holly and her husband Landon have three young sons, who call Wisconsin and New Orleans their home.
SVP Global Planning Solutions & Operations for 7thonline, Inc.
7thonline, Inc. specializes in merchandise planning and demand forecasting solutions for global retailers and wholesale brands in the apparel/footwear/accessories industries. Benjamin has over 25 years merchandising and planning experience in both the retail and wholesale sectors. Prior to 7thonline, he was Vice President of Merchandising for Designs, Inc. which operated the Original Levi’s and Levi’s Outlet stores. He also was Chief Operating Officer for Belly Basics, a manufacturer of high end maternity apparel and accessories sold to retailers like Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom. Benjamin also spent time in management consulting working for Arthur Anderson as the lead Project Management consultant for their Retail Merchandising practice. Benjamin is currently the President of Camp AweSum, Inc., which organizes summer camps for children on the Autism Spectrum. Benjamin received Bachelor of Science degrees in Management and Marketing from Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ.
“My participation in the UCCI Board originates with my blessed involvement with Camp AweSum. Being engaged with such an outstanding organization and knowing that UCCI shares the same mission and commitment allows me the opportunity to further realize my spiritual purpose”.
Head of Operations, Homestead Studio
Nathan Litt is Head of Operations for Homestead Studio, a startup digital growth agency, located in Appleton, WI. He has a diverse background that includes fundraising for a higher education institution, project and account management for creative/marketing agencies, helping launch and run a music festival, and working as a marketing manager for a startup coffee company. Nathan is involved with several non-profit organizations in his community including the Advisory Committee for Public Affairs at Lawrence University and the N.E.W. Professional Advisory Committee for the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center. He is an alumnus of Lawrence University in Appleton, WI. Nathan and his wife Bekka enjoy reading, music, traveling, being active outdoors, and relaxing “up north”.
”I serve on the UCCI Board because I believe in and value Outdoor Ministry and want to help position the organization for continued success as well as reach new audiences”.
Ms. Carol Merriman
Carol Merriman is a member if First Congregationl UCC in River Falls and is retired from Andersen Windows. She has been involved in many volunteer opportunities both while she worked and even more so since she retired. She has served on the Wisconsin Conference Board of Directors, the Northwest Association Executive Committee, Wider Church Ministries Committee as well as many other conference and local committees. She was also involved in her local Habitat for Humanity affiliate serving on that board for nine years, six as chair. She has also been very involved with Back Bay Mission in Biloxi, MS, serving on their board and as a church relations associate as well as many years of volunteering with their housing rehab program. Carol is the mother of two, grandmother of seven and great grandmother of two. She loves spending time with her family, helping Back Bay Mission and doing long term volunteering at Moon Beach.
“I serve on the board because I am very passionate about outdoor ministry, especially Moon Beach and Camp AweSum and the mission that is lived by.”
Rev. Ashley Nolte
(Bio coming soon!)
Rev. Franz Rigert
Conference Minister, Wisconsin Conference of the United Church of Christ
Franz Rigert grew up in Delavan, Wisconsin, where his father served the Congregational UCC church for more than 30 years. He attended UW Eau Claire and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice with a minor in religious studies. In 1989 Franz enrolled in graduate school at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. In 1991 he married his spouse Trinn, and in 1992 earned a Masters of Divinity Degree. Franz then served as Associate Minister at Kingswood United Methodist Church in Buffalo Grove, IL from 1992 to 1995. Following that, Franz was called to Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Grafton, Wisconsin, where he served for nearly 20 years. During that tenure the congregation grew significantly in membership and mission, eventually taking on a major building project that would provide a beautiful new sanctuary, seven classrooms and much needed gathering space. In fall of 2014, Franz was called by the Wisconsin Conference of the United Church of Christ, to serve as Conference Minister. Franz and Trinn make their home in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, where Trinn has taught Early Childhood Special Education for 25 years. They share three twenty-something children – Mitchell, Jordan and Marianna. Franz enjoys mounting hiking, travel, music and nature.
Rev Lance Smith (Photo coming soon!)
Pastor- Zwingli United Church of Christ, Monticello WI.
What a long strange trip it has been! I began my journey in South Eastern Ohio, worked as an Oil Field Supply labor hand, worked construction and pipeline, then drifted into Naturalist school and served as a naturalist two summers, went back to Ohio University to finish BS in Science, worked camp in NC during the summers and then moved there in the 90’s, worked seasonally and full time for Gwynn Valley. A very special place that combined a trip to Grandpa’s farm with a camping experience in the mountains of NC. We (Gwynn Valley Leadership) began a combination farm and wilderness experience for teens, three weeks of homestead activities and skills, with climbing, rafting and a four day back packing experience thrown in! A change in leadership at Gwynn Valley allowed me to stretch out to other area Enviro- Education Programs, At Earthshine met my wife Heather who shared a dream of building a camp as well.
We moved to Polk County NC, Bought a farm (14 acres) and began the River’s Edge Journey. For 14 summers we offered kids k-8, an experience of homestead life on a working farm, combined with nature and camp activities. I served my local church( Sept – May) as a Youth and Christian Education Director for many years then went into the PLD Pastoral Leadership Development program offered by the Southern Conference of the UCC. After its completion I was called back to the Tryon UCC as its Associate Pastor.
My wife, Heather, built and directed a middle school after school program for Polk County Schools in the off season and we co directed our own camp each summer. She enjoys theater, baking, Nature, Hiking Biking and swimming. We have two sons, Isaac and Ezekiel.
I enjoy life and being with people of all ages, My Hobbies include: Playing Guitar and singing, nature walk hikes and exploration, native lore and skills, 19th century farming and living skills.