At The Lake Ministries, conceived in 2016 to serve individuals with special needs and their families, will launch in mid-summer 2018, offering fishing/boating experiences on Lake Erie aboard the vessel JoAnn M. For the latest information, visit

Supported by the Western PA Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, which purchased and will operate the vessel, the ministry is intended to be a blessing to those who often find themselves underserved in their communities in Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York.

This ministry is being created with the hope that those with special needs and their families will have opportunities to experience the beauty of God’s creation, build supportive relationships, and relax in a setting where guests feel valued and welcomed in Christ’s love. Those who will be served include children and adults with autism, Down’s syndrome, physical and developmental needs, emotional challenges, disabled veterans, and assisted living residents. The ministry is open to all people, whether or not they are affiliated with a United Methodist Church.

Charters will set sail roughly two times a week, for 20 weeks (May through September) each year. About 10-12 passengers with special-needs, along with wrap-around Therapeutic Support Staff (TSS) or close family members present to assist them, will come aboard for trips on Lake Erie or into Presque Isle Bay to fish or simply experience the wonderful natural resources the region has to offer.

Those the ministry will serve include children and adults with autism, Down’s syndrome, physical and developmental needs, emotional challenges, disabled veterans, and assisted living residents.

The vessel will provide secure enclosure for all guests, with any openings for fishing monitored by TSS or family members caring for the guests with special needs.  A quiet room, equipped with an accessible toilet facility, will be provided for guests who might need alone time in order to be calm before engaging in the fishing/lake experience once again.

Licensed captains will be employed to pilot the vessel, ensure the safety of all on board, and care for the basic maintenance of the vessel.  Deckhands will also be employed to aid the captain before, during, and after each outing. 

The vessel will be maintained in accordance with the safety standards of the U.S. Coast Guard, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, and with the Safe Sanctuary Policy of the United Methodist Church (requiring Criminal and Child Abuse background checks).  

You are invited to support this ministry through a donation. To do so, write a check to At The Lake Ministries/WPAUMC and mail directly to the United Methodist Center, 1204 Freedom Rd., PO Box 5002, Cranberry Township, PA  16066-0002 with “ATLM Support” listed on the memo line.

The 2017 Annual Conference session offered an opportunity for churches and groups to help Float the Boat. As donations come in during the Conference, water was added to a large tank with a replica vessel in the Conference display area.  Donate now by visiting the donation page.

Contact Rev. Rob Wilson, Director, at 814-657-4024 with any questions. 

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