SCRANTON — To some, it was known as a second home. Others nicknamed it “The Beautiful City.” And many knew it simply by its title: Camp Saint Andrew.
But the future of the 387-acre site in Tunkhannock is now in the hands of the Scranton Diocese and Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, who announced the camp’s permanent closing following the completion of the 2015 summer camp season.
“Camp St. Andrew has served our area youth well throughout the course of its 75-year history and I know many area residents have fond memories of spending the summer at Camp St. Andrew,” Bambera said in a statement on the diocese website. “Times have changed, however, and the interest in participating in summer camp programs has appreciably declined in recent years.”
“I am grateful to the many Diocesan priests, seminarians and staff who have served at Camp St. Andrew over the years and especially to Monsignor Joseph Kelly, who has directed the summer camp program at Camp St. Andrew for the past 40 years,” he added.
In his published statement, the bishop cited declining numbers as the reason for the closure.
For many who hold the camp dear to their hearts, however, these words do little to soften the sudden blow.
Megan Wood, of White Haven, a camper for the past six years, completed her counselor in training (CIT) this past summer and was ready to apply to be a counselor next summer.
“Camp gives that feeling of maturity and gives you a sense of independence, regardless of the countless staff members,” she wrote in an email expressing what the camp meant to her. “This program really helped me discover myself and gave me the social skills I’ll need for the rest of my life. Camp is more than just a place, it’s home, to more people than just me. I wish I could’ve continued my camp experiences and helped other girls experience what I did my first year at camp. It’s a magical thing to be a part of, and will be deeply missed.”
Shelly Kostoff, of Moosic also mourns the loss of the camp. Although she never attended as a camper, she was first hired as a basketball coach in 1990, the summer before her senior year in high school.
“I immediately fell in love with the place,” she said. “I stayed for another week and became a resident camp counselor as well. I came back for several years to coach basketball camp. The people I have met through the years have left a lasting impression on me. The camp is nicknamed ‘The Beautiful City,’ and that is just what it is. An absolutely beautiful landscape with beautiful people who are passionate about camp working there.”
Kostoff has a 10-year-old daughter who was twice a camper there and was looking forward to attending again for basketball camp.
“I am so disappointed that she will not be able to go back and my eight-year-old son will never have the opportunity to experience Camp St. Andrew,” she said.
Formed in 1940
The camp, according to the diocese statement, was formed in 1940 as a boys and Boy Scout camp staffed by seminarians and priests. Over the next 20 years, it grew to include a schedule of eight weeks of boys camp, eight weeks of basketball camp and six weeks of boy scout camp, attendance totaling more than 1,600.
When in 1971 Monsignor Joseph Kelly was appointed to serve as director o the camp, he established it as the site for Project Hope, a summer camp for low-income families in Lackawanna County. Project Hope began the previous year at St. Pius X Seminary in Dalton by Kelly and Sister Adrian Barrett, I.H.M, who died earlier this week. About 300 Project Hope day campers attended that first year at Camp Saint Andrew, and in the ’70s and ’80s that number grew to 500.
During this past summer, 250 children participated in the four-week Project Hope day camp, which is now operated by United Neighborhood Centers (UNC) of NEPA.
According to the statement, diocese representatives met with the staff at UNC to offer assistance in determining an alternative option to continue the Project Hope day camp.
Patricia Wood, Megan’s mother, said she hopes if there is truly nothing that can be done to save Camp Saint Andrew, the diocese will at least consider reopening the camp for a closing ceremony to give the staff and campers a chance to bid a final farewell.