Camp Cherith is a name licensed through Pioneer Clubs. There are associated camps throughout the United States and Canada. The name Cherith (pronounced CARE-ith), comes from 1 Kings 17. God told Elijah to go the brook called Cherith during a drought. God then sent ravens to bring food to Elijah so that he could be nourished. In the same way, at Camp Cherith, children are fed the Word of God by carefully chosen Christian adults who love the Lord. These adults are known at camp by names derived from birds and other animals to symbolize the role they play in a camper's life: feeding them spiritual food.
Camp Cherith of Western New York started in 1946 with a one-week girls' camp program costing only $11. Wonderful women with names like Sky, Duck, Buzz, Cleoroa Handel, Dove, Mouse, Chip, and Platypus had the vision and drive to move the Camp Cherith ministry forward. In 1959, after twelve years of moving from north to southwest to central New York, Camp Cherith of Western New York “settled in” at Camp Hickory Hill in Johnsonburg, NY. Phyllis “Wing” Morgan became the next director.
As a field representative for Pioneer Girls, Wing impacted the Western New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Kentucky areas with a special ability to organize and inspire people to work together. She became our leader, motivator, organizer, spiritual strength and discipline; we were “Morganized!” During the off-season, she traveled throughout the area developing Pioneer Girls Clubs, promoting Camp Cherith, and recruiting and training leaders and counselors. Camp received accreditation from the American Camping Association and the Christian Camping Association. Programming was developed with a deep spiritual basis and challenging themes, activities promoted skills, lasting friendships were formed, and purposeful living became reality. Wing frequently reminded people, "Know who you are and what you represent, and what you are and Who you represent."
Camper registrations increased between 1965 and 1970 and the process of finding our own site was in full swing. Many sites were explored and considered. In November, 1970, Wing cut out an item in the newspaper: “For Sale: Letchworth State Park area, to settle estate—130 year old restored Colonial home on 83 acres adjacent to state park, with trout stream and large pond. Suitable for camp. Short Tract Rd., Hunt, NY.” Board members went to Hunt, walked the land, noted the boundaries, and went out on the frozen pond. They gathered at the lower corner of Oak Meadow and remembered the words of Board President, Lester Martin: “When we find the place God wants us to have, we will not have to convince each other that it is the right place.” With one accord, they knew this was Camp Cherith’s home. With heads bowed, they thanked God and committed themselves to uphold Him and establish a camp to His glory. The search was completed. The Board walked up the hill to the giant oak tree, and named the spot Sunset Point. A contract was signed with Mrs. Lillian Shores, and on May 20, 1971, the purchase was finalized. The land was deeded to Camp Cherith of WNY.
Now the work began—raising funds, recruiting workers, purchasing additional woodlands, and preparing for construction. Cabins, tent sites, the Orchard, the Meadows, the Idaway, archery shelter, riflery range, corral, shower houses, Skyview Lodge, Dippy, health center, tuck shop, activity building, pool, and tree houses were built. The first campfire was held at Sunset Point. Camp was developed to meet our growing needs.
In 1992, after a 5-day retirement, Wing graduated into God’s presence. In 2007 a pavilion was constructed in her honor, named Wing’s Shelter.
In 1993, Nancy “Butz” Hanson, become Camp Director. For many years Camp Cherith did well as a girls’ only camp but in the late 1990’s, Butz had a vision to add boys to our program. Her vision was to add the boys program to our existing program and make it a parallel camp rather than a co-ed camp. This meant that although the boys were in camp at the same time as the girls, the boys and girls ran on a parallel schedule each having their own activities, free time, etc.
The first boys’ camp became a reality in 2000. John Wulf was the first director. The camp began with just a few boys for 1 week during that summer. Orville "Fisher" White and his 3 sons were a part of that first camp in 2000. Orville has helped with boys’ camp every year since it started, as a counselor, fishing and NRA instructor, and doing whatever is needed to help boys’ camp run smoothly. In 2004, the first Boys’ CILT graduates were Aaron Resch and Joshua White. By 2005, it had grown enough to be offered for 2 weeks and now rivals the girls camp in attendance during parallel weeks. Other directors have been Steve "Marsh" Matteson, Ron "Duck" Duttweiler, Jeff "Cranie" Lyons and currently the Boys’ Director is Jeff "Barny" Thompson.
In 2005, Butz became our Camp Administrator and Evie “Rufous” White became our Girls’ Summer Director. When Nancy retired in 2008, Evie became the year-round Camp Director. We’ve continued to add new programs and activities such as GaGa ball, 9 square, Outdoor Adventure Camp, and Adventure Tree Climbing.
Debbie “Willow” Betts joined our staff in 2019 and will be the full-time Camp Director starting in the 2020 camp season. She looks forward to carrying on the legacy that has been passed down.
We praise God for His wondrous provision and faithful blessings over the years and look forward to being a part of His work in the future.