The Young Lodge at Mount Sequoyah Retreat and Conference Center in Fayetteville will undergo major renovations after the first of the year thanks to a $140,000 donation made Thursday (Dec. 13) by its primary user — Springdale-based Tyson Foods.
“The partnership between Tyson Foods and Mount Sequoyah has existed since January 2012, when the first supervisors and managers stepped foot on campus,” said Jess Schload, executive director of the nonprofit Mount Sequoyah. “This gift is evidence of the strength of that partnership and commitment by Tyson Foods that it will continue for years to come.”
Schload said the Young Lodge was built in 1922 and it was an original farmhouse for Robert E. Young, who served as superintendent for Mount Sequoyah from 1990 to 1995. Other superintendents occupied the home from the 1920s to 1993. He said Tyson Foods is the primary user of the facility today as the meat giant holds training sessions and boot camps there for its managers and supervisors from around the country.
Tyson Foods said the proximity of Mount Sequoyah to the company’s headquarters in Springdale makes it an ideal location to host training.
“Mount Sequoyah offers a great environment for our groups to learn,” said Morris Mayers, complex training manager with Tyson Foods. “It’s good to have everything from housing to meeting rooms to dining all in one location.”
Mayers said Tyson Foods uses the facility around 40 weeks of the year. He said about 190 employees from Tyson Foods’ U.S. workforce attend meetings and training at the facility annually. Since Tyson Foods began partnering with Mount Sequoyah in 2012, he said more than 850 Tyson employees have trained at the facility.
The renovations will include an exterior facelift, window replacements and the enclosure of a carport to create more storage area. The interior remodel will include a complete kitchen update and interior overhaul. The Young Lodge is the second investment Tyson Foods has made to update buildings on the premise. Two years ago, the company gave $40,000 to do an interior remodel of the adjacent Yancey Lodge, which is used by Tyson Foods and other groups by reservation.
“Taking part in the upgrades gives our team members a sense of pride and ownership in Mount Sequoyah,” Mayers said.
He said the boot camps held by Tyson Foods at the Young Lodge are nine weeks long. They involve an in-depth journey into the company’s integrated operation from the live chick to the plate. He said the groups come from various levels and locations and they stay on the premises. Some go home on the weekends if they are within driving distance. Senior managers also get training there and the building has also been used for international training by the global meat supplier.
Tyson Foods groups will use other buildings at Mount Sequoyah when renovation begins. Schload the center is also welcoming a new full-time chef to the staff in January — Justus Moll, from the River Grille in Bentonville. The nonprofit is already planning new opportunities for more dining events at the center in the coming months.
Mount Sequoyah Retreat and Conference Center has been part of Fayetteville’s historical fabric since 1922 when the Methodist Episcopal Church constructed the camp as a summer retreat, spiritual center and faith-based training facility for the southern region of the religious group.
Today, Mount Sequoyah operates as a nonprofit and leases the cottages, bunkhouses and meeting halls to the public and corporations. They also operate summer camps on the premises. It’s also a popular venue for weddings and private parties.