Lake Junaluska employees receive profit sharing checks
LAKE JUNALUSKA — Several years ago, leaders at Lake Junaluska Assembly were facing a daunting challenge — to operate the conference and retreat center historically supported by the Southeast Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church without subsidies.
The conference had provided Lake Junaluska about $1 million annually for improvements and facility operations, but that number was phased out during a four-year period ending in 2012.
The transition lead to a far more entrepreneurial philosophy at the assembly where the conference center expanded offerings, welcomed groups other than the traditional Methodist base that had long supported the center and looked for ways to increase revenue.
The efforts paid off, and for the fifth year in a row, Lake Junaluska Assembly has ended the year in the black.
Of the $200,000 profit from 2016, $50,000 was distributed, in the form of profit sharing, back to all current staff who worked in 2016, along with an across-the-board 1 percent pay increase for all current staff in 2017.
“As we continue to refine and implement our plans for improvements to our facilities, grounds and programs, we are also continuing to solidify our commitment to one of our most important assets, our staff,” said Jack Ewing, executive director of Lake Junaluska. “We are committed to our employees and continue to uphold the promise I made when I came on the staff — when Lake Junaluska makes money, the staff makes more money.”
Ewing said when he joined the staff at the beginning in 2011, staffers hadn’t had a salary increase in a decade.
His first announcement to the staff was that once the assembly began making money, full-time employees would receive a profit-sharing check.
At the end of 2012, the Assembly earned a $200,000 profit, which resulted a $1,000 profit-sharing check being given to each employee still on staff, regardless of their hourly salary or position. Those who worked, for instance, 80 percent on a full-time position, received a profit-sharing check at 80 percent of the set value.
“It was my way of saying, ‘If you work hard, you will benefit from that financially,’” Ewing said.
Since then, the five years of profits have ranged from just $5,000 in 2014 to a high of $250,000.
Profit-sharing checks have been presented four times in the past five years, with a total of $450,000 being divided among the employees who work tirelessly to make the operation successful, Ewing said.
Last week, Lake Junaluska employees again received a $500 profit-sharing check.
It wasn’t that the Assembly was making less money, Ewing said, but with pressing needs facing the organization, it was time to invest in the future.
“We’ve been giving almost all our profit back to our staff,” Ewing said, “and we’ve got to invest in other things.”
Ewing said Lake Junaluska Assembly continues to appreciate the support of the church in a variety of ways, even though it is not through subsidizing the operation.
“One of the things I’ve said many times is that the church gave us a gift when they said, ‘You figure out how to do this on your own,’ because we were highly motivated to figure out how to optimize revenue and control expenses,” Ewing said.
The remainder of the profit from 2016, as well as the charitable contributions, will be used for a wide array of capital improvements to the Lake Junaluska facilities. Upcoming improvements include renovations to the Harrell Center, landscaping of The Terrace driveway, new playground equipment and enhancements to the golf course, rose walk, walking trail and prayer labyrinth.
Lake Junaluska’s lakeside hotel, The Terrace, has been consistently ranked among the top ten hotels in Western North Carolina on TripAdvisor, alongside properties like the Inn on Biltmore Estate and Grove Park Inn. The organization is also working diligently to refine and improve existing programming for youth and adults and continually seek to implement new innovative programs that align with its mission.