Traveling along a narrow dirt road just northeast of the St. James city limits, you will come upon a faded wooden sign that reads "Camp Brim Shire - Est. 1980."
Upon entering the property, time stands still for adults who remember the ritual of "going to camp," before YouTube killed the campfire story.
But this isn't your typical camp in the traditional sense.
"We are a full-blown, ADA-certified, overnight camp," said Richard Hashagen, the camp’s executive director and president. "We host about 4,000 a year, not counting our veterans and seniors.
"We've been blessed. We are a non-profit camp, so nobody here makes a dime,” he said.
The 40-acre property includes a fully stocked fishing pond, a swimming pool, a walkway in and around the property — which is a blind therapy and exercise trail — a picnic area, playground, handicapped accessible bunking areas, a recreation center, a mess hall, a learning center and a small clinic.
Also on the property is an apartment to serve the community called Angel Wing, which is used for temporary housing for people who are traveling with loved ones who are sick and injured.
For Hashagen, this isn't a job – this is living and working for a purpose.
"Seeing children achieve things they never could have like catching a fish, walking a trail, either sight-impaired or blind-folded, or taking a birdhouse home to mom and dad to put up in the backyard is why I do this," Hashagen said. "But I can’t stress enough that this is a volunteer operation. My wife, Sherry, is a volunteer, This is a 100 percent tax-deductible, giving organization.
"There are many, camps, but ours is unique in that we only do groups and agencies, and we are the only camp that only charges $2 per day."
The camp began in July of 1980 with a group of Boy Scouts from north St. Louis. Ironically, the same troop still visits three times per year.
In 1980, Richard and Sherry had the idea for the camp when they heard the news about budget cuts that would affect certain programs.
"We were in a restaurant in St. Louis, and the federal government had cut all kinds of programs for special needs children," he said. "We were sitting next to a group of residents and they were reading the paper, and that's when Sherry and I decided we were going to do something for special needs kids
"On that first trip, there was nothing here at all... we were really, really primitive," he continued. "We started the organization with an idea and a $100 bill.
"At that time, when we started talking with people in the camp industry, they said forget it – that it will never work.
Page 2 of 2 - “We wanted to make a free camp, and we did it from 1980 until 1988. And today, our veterans and our seniors are still totally free – 60 to 70 percent of our kids are still free."
Now, 33 years later, Camp Brim Shire continues to operate with a meager $10,000 budget, and a lot of community support.
A number of local businesses and individuals, such as Wal-Mart Distribution Center – which has been the biggest local supporter – have supported the camp for a number of years.
"Our budget is really hard to get, but God is still with us, and we're still blessed," Hashagen said.
Mayor Dennis Wilson who has known the family for a number of years, said he supports the camp in its mission.
"They are very community-oriented and strong supporters of St. James," Wilson said. "The best part of their mission is they serve the groups that don't have the facilities readily available.
“It's very much an asset to the community, but more than that, it's an asset to the state as a whole for the various groups that they entertain out there."