At the beginning of 2023, Kent and Sussex Industries (KSI) took over the former Camp Lenape, located on Midstate Road in Felton. The first camp was held at the location in July after a massive effort to clean up the site.
Employees and a large group of volunteers worked to bring the camp to the level it needed in order to meet the needs of campers. This included renovations, repainting, cleaning, landscaping as well as program development, creating a new and improved “Kamp Lenape.” They began with Shawn Bowman and Andrew Billings assessing what needed to be done with the first big project the roof. Brendon Warfel Construction donated structural fortification and support work for that project.
On June 3, 56 volunteers, including State Senator Eric Buckson, arrived at the camp to fix and paint picnic tables and benches, remove roots, edge and plant flower beds, clean the rooms and do many other tasks that needed to be done in time for the July 5 opening.
Once campers arrived, the days were filled with projects, including swimming, sports, a magic show, ceramic painting with Go Paint Ceramics, bowling at Milford Lanes plus many more activities. There were 19 children who attended the first year of the camp while Integrity Nursing made sure everyone was safe and healthy. On the final day of camp, August 11, there was a catered lunch provided by Kay’s Kitchen, bouncy house and a water slide. Delmarva Popcorn provided bags of popcorn and Mike Baker brought the Shasta Shutterbug for fun photos.
Word that KSI had taken over Kamp Lenape reached the community, including Paige Howell of Paige’s Kindness Project. Paige, who created her non-profit in order to bring “kindness to everyone,” donated $200 to the project.
“I saw KSI was taking over Camp Lenape and I wanted to know what I could do,” Howell said.
Diagnosed with autism and medical complications, Howell began the project when barriers to work had her wanting to help others. Howell and her mother, Lillian, collect donations and supplies for multiple projects throughout Milford, touching many throughout the Milford Community. Nick Clauges of Milford’s Wireless Zone applies for funds from the company every year for Howell’s many projects.
In addition to Paige’s Kindness Project, Gregg and Stephanie Knutsen learned of KSI’s new project. Hosting the popular KSI Monster Ball each year at their farm venue, the Kutsens’ wanted to what they could to make this vision come to life. Because some of the campers who would use the facilities would require a quiet space at times, the Knutsen’s put out a call for toys and furniture for a sensory room for those children. They also decided to start a series of free line dancing lessons in order to encourage others to donate to KSI’s mission.
The funds raised from the lesson participants helped purchase everything necessary for the new sensory room, which they donated in memory of their good friend, the late Ann Haggerty, who served as Vice President of Mission Advancement for KSI at the time of her death.
“A good chunk of this is being funded by the generous donations that folks have been bringing when they come to the farm for the free line dance lessons,” Mrs. Knutsen said.
Originally, the building located on the property of then Camp Lenape was a Union School, one of 90 schoolhouses built in the early 20th century to help resolve educational inequities related to African American children. From the 1890s to the 1920s, there was a movement to reform public education in underserved communities. Pierre S. duPont, who was then the president of the duPont Company, saw that public schools in Delaware were still segregated into the 1960s.
In 1917, duPont joined the state board of education and enlisted the assistance of the Rockefeller Foundation, asking them to conduct a survey of education in the state. This survey uncovered significant deficiencies in schools designed to educate African American students. duPont spent more than $6,000,000 between the years of 1919 and 1940, the equivalent of more than $120,000,000 today, of his own money to rehabilitate schools serving children of color.
Those funds went to build and staff more than 90 schools throughout the state, including the Union School on Midstate Road in Felton, which was built in 1921 using a signature model with specific dimensions a portico and windowed walls on one side. Schools were equipped with a state-of-the-art heating system, indoor restrooms and other upgrades to historical buildings that provided education to children of color. In addition, every school was required to have at least two acres of land in order to provide outdoor physical education space.
African American students attended the Union School up until the 1960s when schools in Delaware were desegregated. The building was purchased in the 1970s by United Cerebral Palsy of Delaware and turned into Camp Lenape, offering recreational activities for children with and without disabilities. The camp usage dwindled over the years to just a week or so a year. In late 2022, KSI made the decision to purchase the camp and they took over in early 2023 with plans to use the camp for multiple events.
Anyone interested in donating to KSI and Kamp Lenape can do so with a new toll-free number via call or text. The number, 866-868-1258, also allows those who want to support KSI to sign up for events, sponsorships or respond to invitations. Any questions can be directed to Michelle Cain at 302-422-4014, Ext. 3009 or via email at [email protected].
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