Summer Camps of Faith Communities
Camp Gifford celebrates 100th year of camps
The Salvation Army Spokane is welcoming the public for the 100th anniversary of Camp Gifford from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, June 11, at Camp Gifford, 3846 N. Deer Lake Rd. in Loon Lake.
The event includes inflatable rides, games, music and animals, plus food at a nominal cost.
The Salvation Army Corps, which owns Camp Gifford, is recruiting 100 volunteers to help with parking, food, trash, games and more. One bus will transport volunteers at 6 a.m. and another at noon from the front of the Salvation Army on Nora St. in Spokane for those who sign up at makingspokanebetter.org.
The Salvation Army Corps purchased property that is now Camp Gifford in the early 1920s when there was only access by logging roads to a few cabins. First called Camp Cougar, it had tents and meals were cooked on an open fire. It was renamed Camp Gifford after Major Edward Gifford, a commander, died in a car crash.
"It was a fresh-air camp for children from inner city Spokane and from Montana and Idaho, where mining smelters polluted the air," said Major Ken Perrine. "Then, about 60 came each week in the summer. Now, with a staff of 60, up to 120 children ages seven to 17 come—many on scholarships—to the main camp, 20 to wilderness camp and 20 to sailing camp each week from June 27 to Aug. 5."
The rest of the year, other churches and groups rent the camp. The rent and fundraising cover the cost for children from Spokane's church, after-school program, community center, foster care, shelter and community children from other communities in Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Western Montana.
"At camp, children encounter God and creation, explore their personal boundaries to overcome fears and make lasting friendships," Ken said. "They learn about nature and themselves. It's a Christian camp, so they learn about Jesus and how to live a holy and righteous life personally and in the community."
Over 40 years, the camp grew, adding first canvas-roof, wood clapboard cabins, a dining hall and a boathouse. In the 1970s, A-frame cabins and a central bath facility were built.
More A-frames and bathrooms were built, making space for 120 children for 10 weeks. By the mid-1990s, the cost of running 10 weeks of programs was more than the Salvation Army Corps in Spokane could afford, so it opened to retreat groups. There is now a year-round camp administrator, as well as a caretaker.
In 1995 and 1996, improvements were made so the camp could operate all winter. Letters invited local churches, nonprofits and businesses to rent. There were five groups in 1995 and in recent years, 40 to 50 groups.
In 1997, with help from AmeriCorps with Educational Services District 101, Major David Bowler, then Spokane's city coordinator, and Ray Anton, AmeriCorps director, had a group of young men and women do construction. They added bathrooms on the A-frames and two homes for permanent camp staff.
In 1998, the Spokane Salvation Army Corps purchased nearly 120 acres adjacent to Camp Gifford's 20 acres, adding hills, a small lake and land for a wilderness camp for teens.
The Salvation Army Women's Auxiliary helped fund many projects. Those included a larger dining hall, waterfront renovations, plus a 45-foot, three-sided climbing tower in 2000, and a dining hall and composting toilets at the wilderness camp in 2003.
Over the years, the auxiliary provided funds to install the pavilion, a mini-golf course, high ropes and low-ropes areas, and to provide paddle boats, canoes and platform tents, to provide camperships, furnishings and other recreational equipment.
In 2005, the old shop became two semi-private housing units. Funds from The Salvation Army Northwest Divisional Headquarters were used to build a new infirmary and office. In 2010, a family provided funds to upgrade furniture and provide diagnostic equipment for the infirmary.
In 2012, Camp Gifford added a camper cabin with handicap-accessible bathrooms and showers.
Ken said COVID was hard on the camp, which relies on rentals, but it operated at half capacity for the children's and teen camps last year. The camp, which will be fully open with protocols this year, is still recruiting staff.
For information, call 329-2721 or visit campgifford.org.