EDITOR'S NOTE: In addition to this column, it should be noted that under the leadership of Retreat Center Board President Bill J. Vranas and his outstanding Director and Board Members of the St. Iakovos Retreat Center they recently restructured the mortgage on the facility so that no outside assets are held as collateral, turning the facility completely self-sufficient. Furthermore, just ten short years after purchasing the facility, the net value of the facility has more than doubled from $2,300,000 to $5,500,000 and keeps increasing each year.
TAKEN FROM myracinecounty.com
By Jennifer Eisenbart
In the Greek Orthodox – or really, the Orthodox – religion, the importance of “retreating” is an important part of life.
“Retreating is a big part of our faith,” explained Chrysanthy Tiggas, the director of the St. Iakovos Retreat Center. “There’s this image of going away with your friends, not only to connect with God, but connect with your friends.”
Tiggas, who has a Masters in Divinity from Holy Cross Seminary, finds evidence of God in the visitors – the guests and the campers who visit the retreat center year-round.
“Community is a very large part of our faith and tradition,” Tiggas said. “The image of the Trinity in which we were made means we are not meant to be singular, isolated beings.”
The retreat center, at 920 224th Ave., Kansasville, was the dream of Metropolitan Iakovos, the spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago.
“The vision’s been a long time,” said Bill Vranas, the president of the retreat center’s board. He said the Metropolitan wanted not only a retreat center, but a place that would be home to the Metropolis’ summer FANARI camps.
The Metropolis, which consists of 34 parishes in Illinois, with another 24 parishes in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, northern Indiana, and eastern and central Missouri, had been using facilities in other places, including Conference Point in Lake Geneva.
“We did that for over 25 years,” Vranas said, adding that the group spent another five to 10 years at Green Lake.
For more than 30 years, though, the vision was searching for a home. The Metropolis found it in the 137-acre property, which is 30 minutes south of Milwaukee and 90 minutes north of Chicago.
The main lodge butts up against Friendship Lake, and has woods, agricultural land and a variety of lodging options for guests. It is also ADA accessible.
The church on the property is a former garage, remodeled by volunteers. It is often staffed by special needs employees through the Kenosha Achievement Charities.
“It works out very well,” Vranas said.
There are 26 rooms at the main lodge, available for rent to not only Metropolis members but the public as well. In addition, there are cottages and smaller lodges.
The space is open for everything from the youth FANARI camps to parish councils, baptisms and weddings, non-profits and educational organizations and corporate events.
“It’s wonderful,” Vranas said. “I describe it as the Metropolitan’s dream became reality. When we found the property, it was like God sent it to us.”
Added John Ackerman, the Director of Media Relations for the Metropolis, “The facility has really developed its own life.”
Tiggas, meanwhile, finds the job fulfilling, even if having to deal with hundreds of visitors’ needs “like herding cats.”
“Silence and quiet are not always comforting,” she said. “However, it is in the moments of peace and quiet I find the opportunity to reflect on the daily miracles I witness through my work.
“When these rare moments happen, I am filled, to the point of overflowing, with a pure joy that brings a smile to my face,” she added.