Camp Gifford links youth with corps
by Amy Reardon, captain –
Beautiful Camp Gifford sits on the shores of Deer Lake, 35 miles north of Spokane. Though the camp is owned and operated by the Spokane Corps, its facilities and camper attendance rival that of any divisional camp.
The Army has operated the camp since 1917; it serves over 1,000 campers each summer. Any visitor, however, might think the camp is brand new. Over the past three years, the camp has built a new dining hall, office, nurse’s station, and pavilion. These highly functional, attractive buildings stand in stark contrast to the rustic Wilderness Camp that is part of the Gifford program. Wilderness Camp, for teens, is a back-to-nature experience that runs concurrently with community service camps, for younger children.
Camp Gifford not only services its own Spokane Corps, but also other corps from the eastern side of the Northwest Division. Envoy Ralph Guthrie, of Havre, Montana, reports that parents are more willing to send their children on a nine-hour trek to Gifford than on the two-day journey to the divisional camp.
Six staff members have been or are students at the Australian Territory’s School for Youth Leadership; their time at Camp Gifford fulfills a practicum requirement. Camp Program Director Brad Nelson is a former student of the school. Nelson says that many students choose Camp Gifford because it is reputed to have a profound effect on the spiritual lives of the staff, as well as the campers. Year-round camp director Jeff Potts and his wife Lisa are credited with setting that spiritual tone.
Camp Gifford has done an outstanding job of drawing its campers, volunteers, and staff to the Spokane Corps. Corps Youth Director, Michael Blumenstock, who himself came to the Spokane Corps via Gifford, estimates that 80% of the young people at the corps are connected with camp. “Children get to know the leaders at camp,” says Nelson, “and when they come to the corps, the children already feel comfortable and have made a connection.”