Dayspring director thinks outside the camp

EAST MANATEE — Carla Odell was hired as bookkeeper at the 92-acre Dayspring Episcopal Conference Center on the Manatee River in Parrish in 2003 partly because of a prodigious talent she possesses for organization.

But Odell was appointed director of Dayspring on June 1 because besides being organized, she is also an open thinker who is creative and innovative, said Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida officials.

“She is versatile in her thinking and not confined to any one paradigm,” said Michael Kline, chairman of the Dayspring Development and Steering Committee, which is charged with helping the center attract more guests while protecting its deep spiritual roots.

“This is a different kind of business where you have to deal with both children and adults,” Kline added. “You have to be innovative with new and better ideas.”

Odell, a Nebraska native, was the first choice of interim director Charles Wallace to take over from him.

She is not afraid to be different, which is a needed ingredient in her line of work, Kline said.

She loves to go on motorcycle trips, Scott Odell said of his wife, who thrills to ride with her arms around him.

“She likes to go fast,” Scott Odell said.

The couple ride a Kawasaki Concours 14, one of the world’s fastest sport touring bikes with nearly 1400 cc’s of power.

Last year, Scott and Carla Odell rode a motorcycle all over Norway. The year before that they rode a motorcycle through five European countries, including Germany, Austria and Italy.

This year they plan to ride their Kawasaki through the Smoky Mountains, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee.

Located on the north bank of the Manatee River, a short drive down 80th Street off U.S. 301 North, Dayspring opened in 1983 as a place where people could be spiritually renewed or educationally motivated in a wooded, camp-like and tranquil atmosphere.

Over the years, Dayspring has been a popular place for groups and individuals, but a large percentage of Episcopalians have never been there, diocese officials have said.

Carla Odell said her mission will be to find a way to increase the visibility of Dayspring among Episcopalians.

Odell supported a diocese decision to move its main offices from a condo in a Lakewood Ranch business park to a soon-to-be constructed new building in the extreme northeast corner of the Dayspring property.

The diocese is taking bids from architects for the structure, which would have offices and a conference room that would seat up to 25, said Jim Dela, a diocese spokesman.

“We are shooting to be in the new building by next September,” Dela said.

“I think the move will help us all excel,” Odell said. “Our goal is to work with the diocese closer than we have in years. Working closer will prompt whole new beginnings.”

Odell says she will market Dayspring with passion.

“I love it here,” Odell added. “It’s quiet. There are many animals. There is solitude, which is getting hard to find.”