Courtesy Winshape Foundation
Published December 09, 2016
Winshape is not just a name; it’s a philosophy centered on “shaping winners.”
When S. Truett Cathy, the founder of the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain, began the Winshape foundation, it was a program to help youth succeed. In 2003, that led to the creation of the Winshape Retreat Center, which welcomes groups of all types seeking spiritual and personal growth.
Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in northwestern Georgia, the Winshape Retreat Center provides the opportunity to disconnect from the modern hustle and bustle and, instead, reconnect with creation. The center is easily accessed from Interstate 75, about halfway between Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Atlanta.
The buildings and grounds that make up Winshape were once the Berry College dairy farm, which operated on the campus for about 70 years. Originally built by Martha Berry, the founder of Berry College, the structures mimic the architectural designs of the Normandy countryside. When the property was converted to a retreat center, the interiors were renovated, but the French-influenced facades remained intact. Today, the guest check-in is in the old calf barn, the Hay Barn houses most of the meeting space, and the milking barn is the main dining area. Touches like the dramatic vaulted ceilings in second-floor rooms of the former dairy barn have also been preserved. Overnight guests have the option of staying in the smaller Normandy Inn, also on-site.
As part of the larger Berry College campus, the Winshape Retreat Center is located on 26,000 acres of wildlife preserve. Deer and wild turkeys are common sights around campus, and visitors often enjoy getting out and exploring the miles of trails that wind through the property. Winshape also promotes an “unplugged” experience so couples and teams can focus on each other and their personal transformation without being distracted by the outside world. However, Wi-Fi is available in meeting areas.
The core of Winshape’s programming is to “create experiences that transform,” according to Betty Bergen, the senior sales manager for the center. This translates to experiences designed for both spiritual and personal growth and attention to detail that even affects things like dinner and fellowship around the table.
Weekends at Winshape are reserved for marriage retreats. Couples can take part in retreats led by the center’s staff 12 weekends of the year. There are many options for couples, such as Successful Stepfamilies, Couples in Crisis and Keeping the Dream Alive: Passion After Parenting. One of the hidden gems at Winshape is a surprise you’ll see in the closets of the rooms at the Normandy Inn. Couples leave encouraging notes and their own stories for future couples on the walls of the closets.
Winshape is also known for its leadership programs. Cathy believed that growing and cultivating good leaders was an important endeavor and wrote several books on the topic. His legacy of teaching future leaders and helping those already in the position to continue to grow lives at the foundation of Winshape leadership retreats. These workshops can be targeted toward corporate leaders or church leadership. One program, Dive Deep, helps leadership teams develop management strategies, mission statements and plans of action for their organizations.
Groups can take part in shared activities in addition to the activities planned as part of the leadership or marriage-building programs. Extra activities can include a pottery-throwing class, historical tours, and hopping on a tandem bike and enjoying the paved trails across the Berry College campus. The Winshape staff often incorporates these programs into retreats and workshops. For example, a team-building program may include a personality test to identify the strengths of each participant, followed by a breakout activity where members of the group will work together to escape a locked room as an exercise to recognize how all their strengths work together. Other activities, such as outdoor dining, fireside breaks and making s’mores can be added to a group’s retreat experience and must be scheduled ahead of time.
A Personal Touch
In all their endeavors, the Winshape staff strive to “create an environment that makes groups feel as if they are truly cared for,” said Bergen. The staff comes together each week to pray as a team for the groups coming to the center. “We pray that God will enrich their stay and bring them transformative experiences, either as individuals or as a group.”
Winshape Retreat Center
Location: Berry College campus, Mount Berry, Georgia
Size: 11 meeting rooms; auditorium seats up to 180 people
Capacity: 80 rooms