In 1939 several pastors and lay persons of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod investigated the purchase of the 20-year old YWCA Camp on West Lake Okoboji. In 1940 their investigations paid off, and the 29-acre Camp was purchased for $15,000 in the name of the Iowa West Walther League Summer Camp Association. Now, 60 years later as we celebrate the blessings God has given us, we realize what an influence the Camp has had on the hundreds of thousands of people who have crossed its bridge.
Mr. Ted Wolfram served as the first Camp manager. His first task was to prepare the Camp for its dedication. All cabins were repaired and painted dark brown with white trim, as they remain today. Over 1,000 people turned out for the dedication on June 2, 1940.
As the Board of Governors was meeting on December 7, 1941, and discussing an administration building, a call came in to inform them of the bombing at Pearl Harbor. The meeting was immediately adjourned.
During World War II, the Board of Governors at Camp Okoboji proposed the use of the Camp as a boarding facility for the United States Army to support the pilot training program in Milford. This proposal was never activated, as other sites were utilized.
In 1951, no one showed up for the Annual Meeting-the invitation and announcement was supposed to appear in the District Pages of The Lutheran Witness, but because of the railroad strike, the magazine wasn't delivered!
In 1952, plans to proceed with the Chapel project were underway. Memorial Chapel was built at 120 feet long with a 400 person seating capacity. It was used for worship and as a gathering facility for all Camp events until its last service on August 29, 1976.
New buildings and facilities were constantly being planned and constructed, from the time of purchase until the present time as we continue to update the Camp.
In 1947, the recreation hall (basement) under the Dining Hall was constructed, with dedication in 1953. (The Dining Hall floor was raised 3 feet, with the intent to get the entire building off the slope. After it was raised, a basement was constructed under it.)
In 1952 the Crafts Building was built, and in 1955, construction of the New Store (now the Old Store cabin) cost $2,000.
Between 1958 and 1959 the dormitory Weber was built and dedicated. It was named in honor of the Reverend A.C. Weber from Hartley, who gave much preliminary direction toward the purchase of the Camp.
Memorial Hall was built in the winter of 1966-67.
Blue print plans for the new multi-purpose facility began in the early 1970s. The Christian Life Center was built from those thoughts, though not the original plans, and dedicated on June 19, 1977 under Manager Mark Wehrspann.
Breezy Point Cabin and property was purchased in 1976, and the Hansen House was moved onto Camp's property in 1982.
The new Marflow, Meyer, Immanuel and Lake View Cabins have all been built since 1990.
Camp's largest group facility, Bats Roost, was completed in 1992 and has a 96-person sleeping capacity. An original Bats Roost burned in 1968. It was replaced with a 36 bed dormitory-this section is the anchor unit for the present facility.
Camp Okoboji has been blessed with dedicated service by volunteers and staff for all of its 64 years of existence. The residence on Camp for the full-time Maintenance Position is named the Juhl House in honor of Mr. Wilbur Juhl, who served as the Camp Manager for 20 years. Mrs. Dora Seegers was honored in 1974 for her 25 years of service to Camp Okoboji as cook in the Dining Hall Kitchen. Ms. Ginny DeWall served Camp Okoboji as the Dining Hall Hostess and Head of Housekeeping, with 48 consecutive summers spent at the Camp. Ginny passed away in February of 2004. In 1996 the Dining Hall was re-dedicated as the Ginny DeWall Dining Hall in honor of her many years of service.
Many changes have taken place at Camp Okoboji since its dedication in 1940. The Camp now operates year-round, with very few weekend dates left open in the months of fall, winter and spring. Families, gatherings, congregation boards and auxiliaries, congregation groups, business meetings and weddings are just a few of the events that are held in the Camp's facilities. The winter sleeping capacity is approximately 190, using Bats Roost, Memorial Hall and seven winterized housekeeping units.
Camp Okoboji now has an 18 member Board of Directors, consisting of six Pastors and 12 laypersons. Mr. Tom Chapman serves as chairman of the Board. All other members have been elected at the Annual Meeting which is held on the first Saturday after Easter. In 1988 the spouses of the board members created the Camp Okoboji Auxiliary. The Auxiliary completes several projects each year, with their large fund raising event being the annual Quilt Auction, which began in 1994.
Past and present Camp managers/directors:
Ted Wolfram (1940-1943)
Walt Boedeker (1944-1946)
Martin Kallsen (1947-1949)
Wilbur Juhl (1949-1969)
Fred Tanner (1969-1970)
John Oatman (1970)
Mark Wehrspann (1970-1979) first full-time, year-round manager
Jim McCrea (1980-1983)
Joe Fokken (1983-1988) title changed from manager to director
Reverend James Wolfram (interim manager in 1988)
Doug Kading (1988-present)