Camping Gives Youth a Fresh Start

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By Frances Dingman –

Each year, thousands of children throughout the West are touched by Salvation Army youth programs. In addition to boys’ and girls’ clubs, day care centers and structured youth organizations, every division in the Western Territory supports an active camping program. The Army’s work with youth–and its eventual establishment of camping programs–is longstanding, reaching back to the earliest Army days.

“While little children go hungry, I’ll fight!” said General William Booth, and his famous message shows The Salvation Army’s concern for the welfare of children from the beginning days of the Christian Mission.

At first, however, it was assumed that children would receive religious education at home. Children, though cherished, were only tolerated at meetings, and special programs for them were to come in time.

As early as November 1884, the Pacific Coast War Cry carried news from Sacramento of 38 children gathered to hear “all about Jesus.” They listened attentively, reported Lt. Warburton, and “when we wondered how many of them loved Jesus, all without exception raised their little hands, and we were saluted with a chorus of ‘I do’s.'”

Finally, in 1891, two “company meetings” per week were begun to instruct children in doctrine, singing, and the Army’s methods of evangelism. In 1894 the “Band of Love” was added, aimed at the children of non-Salvationists. It called for a pledge of good living, including being kind to animals. By 1898, more organization was thought necessary, leading to the appointment of “Young People’s Sergeant Majors” in each corps and a Corps Cadets group for those older children interested in becoming officers.

First summer camp

Most likely, the first official Salvation Army summer camp in the U.S. was the “Fresh Air Camp” pitched in 20 tents in Kansas City’s Fairmont Park in the summer of 1897, the idea of Brigadier Henry Stillwell. The Chicago Auxiliaries donated the beautiful lakeside acreage at Camp Lake, Wisconsin, in 1904, now the country’s oldest continuing Army camp.

In the pre-World War I days, the Army turned to getting city children away from the hot streets to the joys of the open air, if only for one glorious day in the year. Not merely an excursion, this took the form of an exuberant parade, with a cavalcade of borrowed cars led by the Commissioner.

The end of the farm colony provided a location for camping outside Cleveland at Fort Herrick in 1909. Weekly programs for the young people of the corps were developed through these years, with the first “Young People’s Councils” held in Chicago in 1913. These Councils offered three days of rallies and lectures for corps people responsible for youth work, with the young people attending as well.

During 1903, Major Alexander Damon interested some affluent friends in providing vacations for slum mothers and children. The first such was at the family farm of Mr. and Mrs. Francis Fowler, of Swift and Company. They had become interested in children’s camping since the death of their 10-year-old son the year before. During 1904 Mr. Fowler formed a committee of business acquaintances to find a suitable camp location at Glen Ellyn, Ill. For 15 years this camp filled a great need.

In Yankton, S. Dak., Captain Wesley Jerome, a sports enthusiast, was asked to help with the city baseball team. He soon started what probably was the first Salvation Army sports team, a baseball team among young band members.

The early 1930s were depression times, and territorial headquarters was on the verge of bankruptcy. To economize, the Youth Department was closed. Brigadier Connie Sly-Sharp, then territorial guard director, was transferred to the field with responsibility for youth programming. Not until January 1937 was the Youth Department re-established, and Sly-Sharp again became the youth secretary.

The theme for the leadership training program begun in 1937 was the “Soan-Ge-Taha” Indian program. Similar to today’s YMCA Indian Guides, the program involved special names, costumes, and inspirational meetings.

At the Children’s Home in El Paso, the War Cry reports in 1921, all the children who were large enough were taken out to a ranch, where they spent the vacation period in the open, living mostly in tents borrowed from the United States Army, and cooking and eating out of doors. There was swimming in the irrigation ditches, bringing proficiency for every boy and girl above six years of age, and many older boys made money working on the farms in the valley during the summer. Their blooming cheeks after an outdoor summer showed the health benefits of camping.

Service Corps

Inspired by the Peace Corps, The Salvation Army Service Corps was inaugurated in 1967.

A call went out for “a summer of service, of privation, change and physical labor, but mostly a summer bearing a rich opportunity for the expression of love.” The first applicants were given an intensive course designed to acquaint them with the culture, history, and people of the countries in South America they would be serving, as well as to provide them the chance to use their knowledge of Spanish. Some of the early Service Corps members were Carolyn Irby (Peacock), Sallyann Carpenter (Hood), James Hood, Robert Rudd, and Robert Johnson, all now serving as officers.

The Service Corps has expanded to many parts of the world, including countries of the former U.S.S.R. and the Pacific Islands.

Mt. Crags/Gilmore

In February 1939, a summer resort area of 170 acres known as Brent’s Mountain Crags, in Southern California, was brought to the attention of Colonel William Barker, who was deeply interested in youth activities. Purchase seemed impossible until the Fox Theater management came to the rescue. Each year they had put on a benefit for the Will Rogers Memorial Sanitarium, and one year they offered to split proceeds with The Salvation Army for work with underprivileged children. For this reason the camp was at first named the Will Rogers Memorial Camp. With this money and donations from other wealthy benefactors, the purchase went through in May 1939, and camping began that first summer.

Improvements were needed, and a long range plan was begun. In 1968 the Earl B. Gilmore Camp, also in the Malibu Mountains, was dedicated. With buildings designed to look like early American ranch houses, log cabins, or Indian teepees, the camp accommodates 176 additional boys and girls.

Redondo Beach

In 1926, Majors James and Lela Bell came to Redondo Beach, Calif., to help build a fresh air camp, a vacation spot for underprivileged mothers and children. Beginning with tents, the camp filled its original purpose, as well as serving special groups and as a popular meeting spot for retired and regular officers. In 1952, Bell recalled, “Just to see someone smiling and happy, and to watch kids wipe tears from their eyes when unexpected food and toys arrive, that is reward in itself.”

As time went on, the city engulfed the once-remote campgrounds, giving way to the present corps and Roland R. Mindeman Senior Residence.

Sierra Del Mar

While still searching actively for a suitable permanent campground, the Sierra Del Mar Division operates its programs this summer at various locations.

It started the year with a song with its first fully functional music camp at Pine Valley Bible Conference Center. From there, they went to Palomar Christian Conference Center in the Palomar Mountains, where 55 new converts were ushered into the Kingdom. From there, they moved to Green Oak Ranch and then back to Palomar Christian Conference Center again. “We are confident our Lord and Savior has a blessing waiting for us at each of these camps,” says Keith Bottjen, camp director.

Redwood Glen

Among the stately forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Golden State Division operates Redwood Glen Camp and Conference Center. Originally it was a popular resort known as Summer Home Farm, owned by George and Ida Reid. After his death in 1940, it was purchased by the Army and became a camp in 1945.

This year (1996) the first camp staff of Redwood Glen Camp held a 50th reunion. Present were Lloyd Brackett, Johanna Wiebe, Oscar Youngquist, Cassie Niswonger, Dorothy Lawton and Lucille Youngquist. Many marriages have come about between young people who met at the various divisional camps.

Oscar also served on the first music camp staff at Camp Redwood Glen when the music director was Brigadier William Broughton, and later under Erik Liedzen, Richard Holz and other famous music directors.

Oscar and Lucille married at the Richmond Corps following their third camping season. Camping and the use of leadership skills in all the activities of sports and counseling young people led them to become officers and to serving as divisional youth secretaries in each division except the Northwest and Southwest.

In retirement, the Youngquists were a part of the staff at the first season for the Sierra Del Mar summer camping program, serving on the staff at Music, Guard and Sunbeam, and Junior Soldier camps.

Many young people have been attracted to giving full time service to the Army through the summer camping programs.

Camp Homelani

With a climate permitting year-round operation, Camp Homelani Camp and Conference Center on the north shore of Oahu is the division’s only camp. Children from the neighbor islands fly into Honolulu to attend community service camps. Before its opening in 1946, other private and state camp sites were used. An addition purchased in 1991 added another 2.203 acres and two dwellings to the property. Celebrating 50 years of music camp, an Alumni Day was recently held, bringing forth happy memories. Local entertainer Danny Kalekini has always credited The Salvation Army for his interest in music. It was at the Army’s camps that he learned to read music and play an instrument.

Del Oro

Without a camp of its own, the newly formed Del Oro Division has lost no time in developing an active program, renting camps and campuses around Northern California. Among these are Capital Mountain Christian Camp, Sky Mountain Christian Camp, Lassen Pines, and the Simpson College campus. Eight weeks of camping are offered, three weeks of community service, a Salvation Army youth camp, a teen camp, a music camp and two weeks of day camp.

Named “The Summit,” the camping program is led by Captains Clay and Pam Gardner and Camp Director Barbara Harvey. This summer they expect to reach as many as 1,000 of Northern California’s youth, teaching them about God and sportsmanship while involving them in music, crafts, and other character-building activities.

“While a traveling camp is new and challenging,” says Captain Pam Gardner, “we find it has positive sides as well. We get to try several ways of feeding campers; we get to look at different camp layouts, different policies and procedures, and activities. All this should help us develop our own camp some time in the future.”

Northwest Division

Camp Arnold at Timberlake is easy to find, about 17 miles southwest of Puyallup, Wash. It sits on 600 beautiful acres, with forests, meadows, a natural lake, and magnificent views of Mount Rainier. Groups of 35 to 275 for conferences and retreats can be accommodated in A-Frame cabins and a cedar lodge.

As in all Salvation Army camping programs for children, fees depend upon the parents’ individual income. Teens enjoy a wilderness camp in the foothills of Mt. Rainier. Learning and working together is a major part of this adventurous, week-long expedition. A program called “Step Beyond” takes about eight hours and includes extras such as a high-level ropes course.

Bellingham Corps operates its own Camp Lummi for children between 7 and 13, accommodating 24 campers per week. The property was given to the Army in the late 1940s, a conditional gift based on program use and property development. Captain Elsie Hogland (Gibson) was the officer in charge at the time of the first building development, personally involved in the masonry work of the first structure, now used as the kitchen and dining hall.

Originally used for summer youth activities, it has developed through the years into a very functional summer residential camp. Eleven weeks of summer camp are offered to the residents of Whatcom County, and it hosts the annual Northwest Divisional Music conservatory.

Southwest Division

Camp O’Wood was for years the site of the Southwest camping program. Recently construction has begun on a new camp property in Heber, Ariz. When completed, it will run throughout the year and be the home camp for the summer. This year there has been a traveling camp for eight weeks, throughout the state of Arizona. Approximately 700 children attend and there are 28 staff members. Three camps have been used: one in Heber, one in Prescott, and one in Cottonwood, Ariz.

This past year, one music camp was held, three community service camps, and two SAY (S.A. Youth) camps. Most children who attend are underprivileged and come from inner-city churches and outposts.

Camp Kuratli at Trestle Glen

The site of the Cascade Division’s Camp Trestle Glen was selected in 1928, and the late Viggo Jensen and his wife, Vedna, who now resides in Southern California, were responsible for much of its development. The Jensens were the parents of Colonel Sibyl Barry and Lt. Col. Bennetta Rody.

The first camp meetings were held on the weekend of September 1, 1928, and the 50th year celebration was held in 1979. At that time, Vedna Jensen was recognized for 38 years of dedicated service. Also receiving a plaque was Mae Philipsen, Portland, who was in charge of nightly campfires for 16 years. The camp has been in continuous operation except for the years of 1980-82, when the the property had been virtually destroyed by several ice storms. The rebuilding of the camp was completed through community support with Mr. Harry Merlo, CEO of Louisiana-Pacific at that time, leading the way. A trust was set up by the late Dr. Reuben H. Kuratli, leading to the renaming, “Camp Dr. Reuben H. Kuratli at Trestle Glen.”

The camp today is a beautiful conference center which is in use year-round with many churches, schools and other non-profit organizations renting the facilities. Divisional Army programs utilize the camp for larger gatherings such as camp meetings, Young People’s Councils, leadership training courses, Cascade Music Institute and other Army youth camps. There are five community service camps and a senior citizens’ camp held during the summer months.

High Peak Camp

Nestled at the base of majestic Longs Peak near the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park, High Peak camp offers unparalleled summer camp facilities for groups of 30 to 125. Purchased by the Army in 1987, it provides opportunities for campers to deepen their understanding of God, instill leadership qualities and strengthen relationships with others.

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