Camp Dewolfe’s Amazing Past And Bright Future
By Susan LeDoux
In 1942, the FBI rented a house in Wading, New York, to be the headquarters for “Operation Bodyguard,” a disinformation campaign that helped the successful Normandy invasion of 1944. As the agents fed the German high command false data from this house on a bluff overlooking Long Island Sound, the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island called the Rt. Rev. James P. Wolfe to become its fourth Bishop.
A few years later the house that served America in 1942, and the Bishop consecrated that same year, were to play a role in the creation of a fully functional Diocesan Camp. With Mary Benson’s $50,000 bequest ($800,000 in today’s dollars) to the Diocese, the Bishop was able to acquire the house and 72 acres of woodland on the bluff overlooking the Sound.
Current Executive Director of Camp DeWolfe, Matt Tees, spoke with The Good News about the acres of camp property that provide a perfect setting for retreats, getaways, family summer camps, individual solitude, and more. Matt and his wife, Emma, brought years of experience in camp ministry when they took over the helm at Camp DeWolfe ten years ago.
Despite Covid restrictions, the camp continues to function under all CDC mandates. While its website, https://campdewolfe.org/ provides much more information, Tees added details for The Good News.
“The Adventure Challenge Program offers fun activities, on the high and low ropes course, that foster communication, teamwork, and learning.” He added, “Participants come together as a group through the process of problem solving and experiential learning.”
With space galore for weddings, Camp DeWolfe provides a variety of choices, be it St. Luke’s Chapel, ground space for an outdoor ceremony, or a camp-themed wedding. DeWolfe Hall provides a reception venue and guests may rent rooms on the campus to stay for a few days. (The website offers virtual tours of the rooms.)
Besides wedding and outdoor events, the camp’s plentiful acreage is a natural laboratory to study the environment.
“Past storms eroded many areas of the bluff, and we have recently restored it in an environmentally sustainable way, in cooperation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation …Summer campers are taught lessons on erosion protection, sustainability, and the preservation of the native species that live on the bluff.”
The Summer Camp program offers a leadership program for youth of all ages. The younger campers learn to keep their camps clean, help by setting up dining tables, and perhaps most importantly, learn to care for each other. Older campers may wish to become counselors in training, or serve at local churches and ministries, even serving food and cleaning up.
Last summer, virtual camping offered by the camp helped campers “push through Covid” with online resources and mailed activities.
Clergy and trained staff facilitate a Christian Formation program with camp activities that promote spiritual growth.
Reflecting on 2020, Tees said when they were able to re-open in July, small group retreats booked quickly. “People who never heard of camp were looking for a safe place to be outdoors and have some fun.”
The camp plans to continue the family camp model, available to people of all ages. Currently, the camp is completing a renovation project to make more family friendly accommodations across the facility. And with year-round use of the rental facilities, Camp DeWolfe will, no doubt become the place to visit.
Matt Tees sees Camp DeWolfe growing while staying true to their God-given mission. Its vision is to “enable Christian Formation in the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island; by providing a natural setting for people to engage in community and empower them to live out an outward and visible expression of the love and grace of Christ” (from the website).
Asked what his message to The Good News readers would be, Tees said, “We welcome every denomination to our location in Wading River. It is a place of welcome for all people as we strive to serve the greater mission of the global church.”