CANBY— Financial struggles are bringing to an end a Christian camp ministry well known to many generations in this part of the Northwest. The leadership of Canby Grove Conference Center decided last month that the 82-year-old non-profit camp on the Molalla River must close its doors this October.
Ray Schnickels, executive director, said Canby Grove is falling victim to the economic downturn. Group bookings and individual attendance slumped both this year and last, donations to the camp have seen a sharp decline, and the bank has declined to extend the camp’s line of credit. The combination has prevented the camp from reducing the $1.2 million debt on its mortgage.
He said Canby Grove sought other faith-based organizations to merge with the camp or acquire it, but to no avail. Staff reacted with shock and disappointment when they were notified July 7 of the planned closure, he said.
“We have not officially put the property on the real estate market, but we plan to do so soon,” he said. “If a merger or acquisition is not possible, the bank will foreclose on the property and all assets will go to the bank.”
Canby Grove has more than 74 acres of land and some 150 buildings, including the 37-room Riverfront Lodge that opened in 1991. The camp employs 13 full-time salaried staff and 25 to 35 on full- and part-time status year-round, and dozens more part-time during the summer.
It was in 1928 that several pastors and laymen began looking for a site for an annual summer camp meeting. Rev. J.G. Minton, pastor of Salem Alliance church, located a 17-acre thickly wooded site in Canby.. The land was purchased for $1,700. A small area was cleared and a tabernacle was hurriedly built for their first camp meeting.
The camp gradually expanded over the years. It was owned by the Pacific Northwest Conference of the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church until 2000, when Canby Grove became a stand-alone organization.
Schnickels, who has been with the camp since 2005, said the entire staff will be looking for employment elsewhere. “There is no severance for anyone, myself included, available since Canby Grove will be out of cash,” he said.
Between now and October, the camp will still strive to provide excellent service to its many patrons, he added.
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