In 1915 the Philadelphia Ethical Society purchased a small farm in the Perkiomen Valley near Arcola to use as an overnight camp for low income urban children. Prior to the purchase of this property Dr. S. Burns Weston, Leader of the Ethical Society and Head Worker at the Southwark Neighborhood House in South Philadelphia, had led efforts to fund and operate a summer camp for children from the Southwark neighborhood at a variety of sites.
In 1926 the Arcola property was sold and Samuel S. Fels purchased the 62-acre Greenwood Dell Farm - the present site of Camp Linden - and transferred title to the property to the Society. The purchase was instigated by Fels' wife Jenny, who volunteered as administrator of the Philadelphia Ethical Society. Several cabins, a dining hall, and a pool were added. Southwark Neighborhood House was responsible for running the program and maintaining the facilities.
In 1946 Southwark merged with two other settlement houses to become United Communities of South Philadelphia. An overnight camp for children was conducted throughout the summer and a Family Camp was held at the end of the summer. In 1981 when United Communities was unable to find funding to make necessary repairs and improvements, the camp was closed and responsibility was returned to the Society. The Society was unable to find another organization to operate a children's camp at the site.
For 10 years, starting in 1985, members of the Society undertook efforts to reconstruct and reopen the camp. Eleven acres of the property including the dining hall, were sold in 1987 and the receipts of the sale were used to transform the site. The new construction included a Main Cabin, with a large meeting room and caretaker residence, a bunkhouse, a bath house, and another sleeping cabin near the existing pool. A foundation was laid for a dining hall, which was never completed.
In 1988 a few children from Philadelphia were transported in members' cars to camp. In 1990, and for a few years thereafter, members paid for a bus, a lifeguard and extra food for the children. By 1993 counselors were hired to serve a few city day camps two or three days a week, with the same group returning the same weekday for the duration of the camp season.
In 1994 a development plan was approved by the West Bradford Township Council for a multi-purpose camp "for children of diverse backgrounds, and as a retreat for groups and organizations reflecting the values of Ethical Culture".
An Executive Director was hired in 1997 to raise funds, plan and run a summer day camp program for children from Philadelphia and Camden. For the next several years the number of groups served and the days the camp operated varied from year to year depending on available funding. By 2010 the program had expanded to providing services for 5 days a week with four paid staff members.
Upon the resignation of the Executive Director in 2010 management of the camp became the responsibility of the Society's Camp Linden Committee. In 2012 the program was redesigned to include hands-on gardening. The bunkhouse was converted to a Nature Center, to provide follow-up to the campers' experience in the garden. In 2012 we also contracted with Chief DePaul to provide a Native American culture program. At that time the summer staff consisted of two Lifeguard/Swimming Instructors, a Head Counselor, and four Activities Counselors, two for each of two activities groups. In 2015, because we recognized the need for counselors with a higher level of expertise, the program was refined to employ a Garden Specialist, a Nature Specialist, and a Nature Center Instructor, as well as the lifeguard/swimming instructors. We also employed four counselors to serve as "Guides" and accompany the same group of camper throughout the program, including the activities and swimming.
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