The Metropolis of Detroit Summer Camp (MDSC) was originally founded in 1951 by Father Nicholas Harbatis, and named the “St. Nicholas Church Camp”. Fr. Nick was the pastor of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, which was located in Detroit at that time. A campsite was located in Rose City, Michigan, and was rented from the Saginaw YWCA for the first two-week program that began that upcoming summer. The campgrounds, located in the heart of the Huron National Forest, included a large log-cabin lodge with a kitchen, dining hall and arts & crafts room. In addition, there was an infirmary cabin, four cabins for counselors and campers and a lavatory building, known as the “Suzie”. The campgrounds partially surrounded a small inland lake, which allowed for a beach area for swimming and boating.
From that first summer in 1952, through 1963, the camp was sponsored and operated by the St. Nicholas parish and its Camp Committee. In 1963, Diocese VII (later re-named the Diocese of Detroit), assumed operational jurisdiction over the camp, which then came to be know as the Diocese VII Summer Camp. The camp continued to be operated by the Camp Committee, which handled all camper registration, staff hiring and administrative functions, a model that continues to the present time with the current Board of Trustees. The Camp Board works closely with His Eminence, Metropolitan Nicholas, the Metropolis clergy, and the Metropolis Youth Director throughout the year to plan, coordinate and administer the programs and activities needed to run the camp each summer.
During the late 1960’s and 1970’s, the camp continued to grow, necessitating an extension of the camp program from two to four weeks beginning in 1970. In 1974, greater stability was gained when the all of the camp buildings and equipment were purchased from the Saginaw YWCA. While many summer camps continually lease their sites year to year, the Summer Camp was now fully owned by the Diocese. In that same year, the Committee began leasing the camp grounds from the U.S. Government on renewable 10-year leases, which further guaranteed a long-term commitment to provide a summer camp to the youth of the Diocese. In the late 1970’s, the camp program was expanded yet again, to six weeks to handle the increase of young families in the parishes of the Diocese. Major improvements to the camp were made in 1975-1976, including construction of a new “Suzie”, which included modern lavatory and shower facilities. Prior to that, campers would simply bring their ivory soap to the lake during open swim and take a bath once or twice a week. The new Suzie also included staff bathrooms and a laundry room. Improvements were made to many of the cabins and to the kitchen area during the late 1970’s in an effort to continue to modernize the camp.
The 1980’s saw continued growth and facilities expansion. In 1982, a new cabin was built in order to handle the continued increases in camper numbers. The camp became known as the Detroit Diocese Summer Camp in the mid-1980’s when the Diocese itself was renamed. The lodge was extended in 1985, which doubled the size of the dining hall and the arts & crafts room. In 1988, the outdoor chapel was restored, and a full-size black-top basketball court was installed near the activities field through the generosity of the AHEPA. Through the end of the 1980’s and mid-1990’s, all of the older cabin interiors were dry-walled, insulated and tiled. This helped moderate the climates in the cabins, and allowed flexibility for greater use outside the summer season.
During the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, camper numbers leveled out somewhat, leading the camp to reduce the program to five weeks to make greater efficiency of the facilities. But since the mid-1990’s, camper numbers have increased every year. The camp now averages approximately 70 campers a week (we are licensed for a maximum of 85 campers per week), and interest continues to grow. The camp has continued to improve and modernize its facilities since 1995. During that year, a large boat storage shed was built near the waterfront, which ended the many years of bringing the boats “up the hill” for storage at the end of each summer. A new fire alarm, security alarm, and intercom system was installed, as well as a large walk-in refrigerator/freezer. The camp undertook major facilities improvements again in 1999. Cabin 6 (the one built in 1982) was extended off each side to double its capacity. Also, a new cabin (the same size as the expanded cabin 6) was built in between Cabins 8 and 9. These expansions provided for more flexibility for camper living arrangements and helped reduce the crowding that existed in some of the older cabins. Additional improvements were made to the lodge exterior, the beach (a patio, foot-bath and new landscaping) and the Suzies (a new shower stall each was added to both the boy’s and girl’s sides).
In early 2004, the camp’s name was changed again, to the Metropolis of Detroit Summer Camp (MDSC). This change was necessitated by the Diocese of Detroit’s elevation to a Metropolis by the Patriarchate.
In 2005, the camp made the first substantial change in its programming when it added a new camp sessions to the summer. Week Zero occurs every summer prior to the start of the regular camp season and is designed for young adults ages 17-18. Since its inception, Week Zero has continued to be very popular and the week fills up quickly each summer.
In 2007, the MDSC Board approved the next steps to improve the camp for the future. Approval was given to design and begin the fundraising to build a true Orthodox chapel on the camp’s grounds. In 2008, the camp completed a full remodeling of the “Suzie”.
Throughout its 60 year history, the Metropolis of Detroit Summer Camp has provided a wonderful setting to the youth of the Metropolis to share their common faith and heritage through its many programs. Literally thousands of young people have attended the camp throughout these years, often attending all nine years as campers and then serving many years as staff members. Hundreds of young adults have donated their time to serve as counselors and mentors to our campers since 1952. Countless lifelong friendships were gained and strengthened through the Camp, and many campers and staff can attest that they met their future spouse at the Metropolis of Detroit Summer Camp. The camp is now seeing its third generation of campers attending, after having the grandparents and parents of current campers attend in the past.
As we move through the first part of the new century, the Metropolis of Detroit Summer Camp continues to see strong interest in the camp program. The Camp Board is always planning for the future, to guarantee that this “jewel” of our Metropolis is around to provide the same experiences to current and future youth that it did for their parents and grandparents.