Another year of camp

1938 Fellowship Lodge. JAD

by Amy Gawry

For 80 years, Presbytery Point has been serving children and families through their camp on the shores of Lake Michigamme. As they celebrate this milestone anniversary, they reflect on their journey so far, and the road that lies ahead of them.

In 1937, the main property of the camp was purchased by the Presbytery of Lake Superior; the church district that covered the region at the time. As noted in the 2011 written history by Janet Dalquist, the effort was spearheaded by three men known as the Pioneer Trio–Rev. Elmer Gieser of Ishpeming, lawyer Michael Anuta of Menominee, and Rev. Nathaniel McConaughy of Iron Mountain.

The Presbytery had run camp programs before, but had never had its own space for it. The new camp would offer the opportunity to expand existing programs.

“We had been renting other camps before,” said current camp manager Caron Christopherson.

The lot was about 20 acres in size, and came with a few buildings on it. According to Dalquist’s history, there was a lodge, a cottage and six cabins. The majority of the property is situated on a large peninsula jutting out into Lake Michigamme, and was noted for its abundance of white birches.

Camping was becoming a very popular pastime in the 1930s, and interest in camps of this type was high when Presbytery Point opened. At its peak, the camp had 50 to 60 campers per week. Campers at Presbytery Point enjoyed swimming, boating, hiking, outdoor games, and arts & crafts, as well as Bible lessons and outdoor Vespers or worship services. Alumni each have different memories to share about their time there; from the excitement of buying a treat at the camp store during free time to giggling over trips to the outhouse they called “Little Egypt” before the bathrooms were built.

They also had week-long family camps three to four times each summer. One family would stay in each cabin, and would get to enjoy free time as a family, Vespers and evening activities together, and separated adult and child Bible lessons and activities. Families ate their meals together in the dining hall, with the cooking and clean-up taken care of by the kitchen staff.

1946 Postcard. Pan-Tree. BM

“There was one group of families that came back year after year, and it got to the point where they had to bring campers, because we didn’t have enough room to accommodate them,” said Marti Meyer, board treasurer, who spent many summers living at camp when her father was the manager. “We still have friends that we keep in touch with from family camp all those years ago.”

Presbytery Point was not just popular with the locals; it also brought in people from long distances.

“Churches from the Lower Peninsula used to send their kids up by bus,” Christopherson said.

Some things have changed over the years. The most obvious are the new buildings. A dining hall, separate from the old lodge or fellowship hall, was added in the mid-1940s, and then replaced in 2010. The camper cabins were gradually replaced in the 1960s, and a new lodge, called the Mackinaw Lodge, was completed in 1997.

Presbytery Point cabins c1954 (Al McDowell)

Christopherson said there has been a shift in the campership as well, and their numbers have decreased in recent years.

“Kids today have so many other options and choices of things to do,” Christopherson said.

The camp staff and board are continually working to adapt in light of these shifts.

“One of the hardest things to do is change, but we realize that we won’t be in existence if we don’t,”  Christopherson said.   

To open up the camp experience to those who couldn’t do a whole week, they started offering a day camp. They recruited some sponsors to help keep enrollment costs down. This year there was a spring break day camp as well.

Many churches and individual donors have created scholarship funds to ease the burden of sending kids to camp.

“It gives the kids an opportunity to be a part of that program,”  Meyer said.

The camp has opened its facility for other organizations to use when the calendar allows. This summer, it will host a combined camp with the Episcopal Diocese, and is hosting Camp New Day as well as the Superior String Alliance Orchestra Camp. Retreat rentals are also available in the off season.

1944 Deep water swim area. JAD

While there’s still interest in family camps, it’s difficult for many to commit to a whole week like they used to do. Instead of getting rid of the events, they’ve shortened them to three-day camps.

Through all the changes, the camp continues to focus on making the experience the best they can for the kids. Kids come to camp with so many anxieties, and the camp wants to help them get away from that for a little while.

“One of the things that kids at camp say is, ‘I can be myself,” Christopherson said.

The camp wants to make sure they have a strong program that combines fun and life lessons.

“I love that our program concentrates on allowing kids to be kids, and teaching them self-respect and respect for people around them,” Meyer said.

The camps often have themes, and this year’s theme is “Take a Break.” The camp feels that this is an important message for kids in such a busy, fast-paced world. They’ll be looking at the idea of resting in different areas of their lives, through the stories of Jesus.

“We’re working to help them see that it is ok to rest. Even Jesus went out and rested,” Christopherson said.

1937 Mornimg salute. Boys’ Camp. Mary Esther Mc on R. AM

Relationship building is also a big part of camp life.  Christopherson and Meyer have a number of friends they’re still in contact with from their camp days, and many others do as well.

“It’s something you hear from our alumni all the time—some of my closest friends are people that I met at camp,” Christopherson said.

Volunteers are a huge part of what keeps the camp going. Not only do they supplement the paid staff, they also shape the camp programs with their gifts.

“With our adult volunteers and staff members, we like them to bring their passion for something they love to do, and to share it and teach it,” Christopherson said.

 

Through donated boats and a volunteer instructor, they are able to offer sailing lessons to their campers.

“Some camps have challenge courses, and to me, sailing is our challenge course,” Christopherson said.

Volunteers help keep up the grounds through annual spring and fall work camps. These events have become a tradition for some. Meyer takes a vacation to attend the work camps each year.

“My mom used to do the cooking for the work camp, and after she passed away, I took that on,” Meyer said.

Volunteers have also made their building and remodeling projects possible. For the two most recent building projects, a large portion of the labor was done by volunteers.

“We had people from all over the Presbytery come and do work and lend their skills,” Meyer said.

One of them, who was able to secure a portable sawmill, helped them use the trees they had to take down for the new dining hall to make tongue and groove planks for the building.

“I went out to do my weekend check and there they were, cutting trees into boards,”  Christopherson said.

The tree usage became an object lesson for the kids that year on good stewardship of God-given resources. The object lesson ended with planting new red pine seedlings, the same species of tree that was cut down, which Earthkeepers were giving away that year.

“The kids get to watch them grow every year when they come back to camp,”  Christopherson said.

With the anniversary celebration coming up, there should be a lot of people coming back to see how things have grown and changed. The weekend of August 18 to 20, there will be a special 80th Anniversary Camp for families and alumni.

Campers wanting to stay the whole weekend will arrive on Friday evening, enjoy camp activities on Saturday and participate in a worship service and open house on Sunday. Anyone can come to the service, and everyone is welcome to drop by for the afternoon open house.

The anniversary committee is putting together a booklet of camp memories for the celebration. Committee members have been contacting alumni for their stories, and are still welcoming input from any past campers. There will also be a throwback T-shirt available, the design chosen by popular demand of the alumni they’ve been in contact with.

With a big milestone also comes anticipation for the future. The board is in the strategic planning phase right now, and part of that process is getting outside input.

“We’d like to hear from former campers and community members as to what they would like to see the camp do and be,”  Christopherson said.

They hope the camp will continue to be a welcoming place that people want to come back to, and a place that makes an impact.

“To me, it’s a really meaningful place. It’s a place of peace, and the setting couldn’t be more wonderful,” Meyer said.

Presbytery Point Camp can be found online at presbyterypoint.org. Direct questions and input to 869-0925, or ppccc@presbyterypoint.org.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email

No comments yet... Be the first to leave a reply!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.