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Fifty Years of a Developing Dream – Part 2

Chapter Two: A New Camp is Born – Challenges, Struggles and Victories!

On January 11, 1956 the Relocation Committee of the Free Methodist Conference, under the chairmanship of Rev. Forest Bush, made the decision to purchase the “Warm Beach Property” as the site for a new Christian Camp Center. This process took just 167 days after the Relocation Committee was created.

But it is one thing to make a major decision and quite another to do the strategic planning and accomplish the tasks to see it through. Issues of boundaries, water supply, electric power, sanitation, tide lands, and title issues were carefully reviewed with the help of legal counsel.

All of this was accomplished in a period of six weeks, following which the “Lee Bloom farm property” was ordered purchased on February 29, 1956. Adjoining parcels of property would be purchased in upcoming months as they became available, adding to the viability of the project’s ministry goals.

“Windows of encouragement” brightened the whole process. Mr. Merle Lee, a broker, brought the “Warm Beach Property” to the Search Committee. In the process of working with the Committee, he shared how he had been raised in a committed Christian home, but had strayed far from his early training. In the midst of this business deal, he found a new hunger for what he had known earlier in his life. He soon renewed vital faith in Jesus Christ, a life commitment he kept until his passing just a few years ago. How appropriate for the business transactions to result in the very purposes for which this project was being created! To the Committee this seemed a special “seal of God’s approval.”

In many ways the Committee was in “uncharted territory.” They were convinced that the denomination’s children, youth and families needed a more adequate camping/retreat facility, but there were many questions. Conversations with other church groups added to the conviction, but more solid information was needed.

Many area people with special skills and knowledge responded to help. The research led to southern California. This accounts for an interesting note in the minutes of one committee meeting. It stated that Forest Bush was allowed one-way expenses to southern California to research some established Christian Conference Centers to bring back information for the Warm Beach committee.

I wondered, weren’t they going to bring him back? The answer? He was also pastor of the Ballard Free Methodist Church, which, too, faced a building project. Ballard Church would pay one way for him to combine the trip with checking out church building plans! No padded expense accounts allowed in this endeavor!

The flurry of activities continued through the spring of 1956 – dozens of meetings and hundreds of miles traveled, with myriads of details constantly being uncovered.

A fundraising plan was developed and led by C. Dorr Demaray, enthusiastically supported by a team of ministers and laymen. Presented to every church in the Conference, it resulted in the commitment of $50,000 in just one week! The Church people were serious about this venture!

A comprehensive report given to the July, 1956, Free Methodist Annual Conference held on the Burlington Campground, indicated the far-sighted vision of the leaders. It stated, in part, “that the Warm Beach grounds be planned…to provide for children, youth and adult camps…for an old people’s home, (not a politically correct term now!) … a trailer court … picnic areas.” Later this would be expanded to include the vision of serving other churches and groups beyond the parent denomination.

That same Conference authorized a permanent “Warm Beach Camp Ground Board.” Rev. Charles Kirkpatrick was elected Board Chairman; Rev. Forest Bush was named Executive Secretary, and Rev. Burton Root, Recording Secretary.

The new Board was given authority to pursue the project “full-steam ahead.” From this point things ramped up even more intensely, if that could be possible.

Ivanelle Kirkpatrick Foreman, Charles’ widow, now remarried, told me just days ago, “We talked, ate, slept Warm Beach Camp. Sometimes the girls would ask us, ‘can’t we talk about anything but Warm Beach Camp?'”

In conversation with Forest and Idamae Bush, I got the same impression. These people were “arm-pit deep” in the fervor and mission of Warm Beach Camp’s birth.

The Board asked one of its own members to become “Development Manager” at the new Camp. At the Board’s invitation, Elmer McDowell, a business man from Centralia, sold his business and he and his wife, Eva, moved into the “Lee Bloom Farmhouse” in February, 1957. The Camp now had its first employed person on-site to serve the Board in the early development.

Provision came in surprising packages. Darleen Wiley, wife of Rev. Forrest Wiley, then the Free Methodist pastor in Burlington, was working for the Bechtel Corporation, construction contractors building the Shell Oil Refinery near Anacortes. Near the end of the project, Darleen heard discussion among staff, wondering what organization would receive the project’s huge office building when the project was completed. She passed the information on to Conference Superintendent C. W. Burbank, who visited the company officials. The 40-foot by 200-foot frame building was donated to Warm Beach, providing that it be dismantled and removed within a month’s time. Pastors and laymen rallied to the challenge. It was accomplished on time! It would provide most of the lumber for the two wings of Cedar Lodge.

The master plan was approved. Plans for the first lodging units, named Olympic View Cabins, were developed. A “demonstration” cabin for the Olympic View Cabin Cluster was proposed by a “pre-fab” company. It was purchased and set up to help raise funds.

Contractor Howard Rand, a member of the Ballard Church, looked it over and told the Board that he could save them significant dollars per cabin by making a slight change in materials and construction methods. This was approved.

Mr. Rand donated his own time, utilized volunteers, plus some of his crew, and completed the eleven additional cabins, plus two restroom buildings at a savings of many thousands of dollars. These cabins have been in use for nearly 50 years, with periodic maintenance and renovations. They are still projected for another phase of “new service life” in the years ahead.

Plans for the “dining hall,” later to be named Cedar Lodge, became the focus of determined effort. It would become the “flagship building” of the Conference Center. By spring of 1957 the landscape was being changed as excavation and actual construction commenced. A marvelous venture was actually underway!

But the story goes on. We will explore more of the marvels of God’s leading and provision in the next chapter.

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