BROOKSVILLE — Supporting Lakewood Retreat is so important to Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame inductee Archie Watkins that he and his quartet have given concerts for the Christian camp's benefit several times over the past two years.
"It's all about glorifying God," a jovial Watkins said in a phone interview.
He is looking forward to a benefit concert Feb. 1 at Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church, he said.
Watkins, whose family formed the well-known Inspirations gospel singing group when he was 15, has performed Southern gospel music for most of his 64 years. He now tours the country alongside a quartet that goes by the name Archie Watkins and Smoky Mountain Reunion.
Bud Goodwin, the director at Lakewood, south of Spring Lake, is hoping the concert, which will include information about the retreat, will serve as an introduction to it benefits.
"I hope that many in Brooksville would become more aware and supportive of Lakewood as an asset to local ministry," Goodwin said.
Watkins said he and his quartet "weave fun stories and inspirational thoughts among gospel favorites."
Reared in a family with a deep love of gospel music, Watkins relates on his website — archiewatkins.com — how he and his family would get together regularly to play musical instruments and sing:
"This led to friends and family organizing the Inspirations in 1964. … Shortly after, the songs Jesus Is Coming Soon and Touring That City led the Inspirations to becoming a household name in professional gospel music."
The Inspirations made regular appearances on television, where they were viewed by millions weekly. They placed more songs on the Singing News radio charts than any other singing group, the site claims.
Watkins won many Singing News fan awards himself, including Favorite Male Singer three times and Favorite Tenor on four occasions. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007.
This will be Watkins' second fundraiser concert in Brooksville. He has also given concerts for the retreat in Sarasota and at churches in the Tampa Bay area.
The Spring Lake Praise Band will kick off the concert. The local contemporary Christian worship band has been together for four years, performing every Sunday at Spring Lake United Methodist Church and conducting outreach ministries throughout the community. It is led by Tanya Yungmann and has five lead singers, along with keyboards, two lead guitarists, electric bass, drums, two violins and other percussion instruments.
"The concert is a fun, family event," said Annie Baker, marketing representative for Lakewood Retreat.
Baker would like people to support Lakewood Retreat's summer camp even before the concert, using the camp's sponsorship program. Sponsors who sign up by Jan. 25 will be recognized in a slideshow presentation that will run before the concert and during the concert prelude.
Sponsorship recognition levels range from $20 to $200.
"Lakewood Retreat is a Christian camp offering a setting like no other," Baker said. "It provides a Christ-honoring environment for church groups, families and others for Christian education and development, worship and community in a fun and natural setting."
Lakewood's summer camp program is special to her.
"It's been the personal highlight of my year working at Lakewood," Baker said. "There is something about getting away from electronics and school studies, the cares of the world. … The simplicity and purpose of Lakewood allows folks young and old to have their heart open and available to begin and/or strengthen their relationship with the Lord."
Funds raised at the concert will help with camp costs and allow the camp to offer scholarships to families who may not otherwise be able to attend. The program this year will run from July 14 to 19 and will teach the Bible and life applications, and give children opportunities to meet new friends, play games and enjoy all the activities available at Lakewood.