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Camp Gifford turns 90

Eastern Washington camp dates back to the Western Territory’s early years.

By Karen Gleason

This spring, nearly 200 people gathered at The Salvation Army’s Camp Gifford in Loon Lake, Wash., to honor its 90 years of service, making it the oldest camp in Eastern Washington. Attending the weekend retreat were staff and campers from each decade from the 1950s to the present.

The weekend celebration included traditional camp activities—worship and Bible study, songs and skits at the campfire pit—and the perusal of thousands of photos organized by years plus letters submitted by those who couldn’t attend. Camp staff and volunteers from as far back as the 1930s submitted letters and photos recalling their time there. Many of Spokane’s previous corps officers also wrote down their memories.

Some shared the camp’s origin, which dates back to Commissioner Adam Gifford, the Western Territory’s first territorial commander. The camp was named “Gifford” because of his work in securing the property and in memory of one of his sons who was killed in a car accident.

The property had been called Camp Cougar, but people didn’t want to send their children to a cougar camp, and the name was changed to Camp Gifford, wrote Brigadier Pearl Lorenzen.

“I must have been one of the very first campers, in 1926 or ’27,” recalled Brigadier Eva Bawden. “We all slept in tents, had outhouses, went down to the lake for washing, then later to have a good swim, learned to row as well. I look back to Camp Gifford as the most beautiful camping spot in the Western Territory.”

Camp Director Jeff Potts issued a challenge, asking “all those who have been touched by camp in the past to continue to support it, both financially and with prayer, to ensure the camp’s bright future.”

 

Camp Gifford today

Located on 112 acres at Deer Lake, Camp Gifford serves children in Eastern Washington. The camp is an outreach of the Spokane Corps, currently led by Corps Officers Captain Kyle and Major Lisa Smith.

Nearly 1,000 children and teens, ages 5-17, attend camp every summer. Most of the kids come from low income, foster care, and homeless or single parent families.

Over its 90 years, the camp has stayed true to its mission: to give as many children as possible the opportunity to experience a week of fun at camp and teach them about the love God has for them. One offers a memorable experience; the other provides hope and purpose.

Currently underway is the Send a Kid to Camp Campaign. For $300, local businesses and individuals can sponsor a child for an entire week of camp. To participate in the campaign, contact Heather Byrd at 509-329-2732 or at heather.byrd@usw.salvationarmy.org.

Heather Byrd and Jeff Potts contributed to this article.

 

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