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Camp Katharine Parsons Restoration Project

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"Fifty years from now, I want the Wheatley to still be the advocate, the fighter, the counselor, and the helper of people over here."

- Cozelle Breedlove, former Executive Director,

Phyllis Wheatley Community Center

at the PWCC 50-year anniversary celebration in 1974

For more than 40 years, generations of North Side youth spent summers at Phyllis Wheatley Community Center's Camp Katharine Parsons, a natural oasis and a unique piece of Minneapolis’ cultural heritage. There, kids and teens from our neighborhoods learned valuable life skills that prepared them for success as adults; they experienced nature and all of its benefits for the mind and body; and they found mentorship and guidance, stability, safety, and structure in an all too often unpredictable world.

 

Due to a lack of funds to keep the camp updated and maintained, the camp began to fall into disrepair in the early 2000s, and PWCC ended the summer sessions out of precaution for the kids' safety. Mounting costs and reduced financial support rendered PWCC unable to continue to sustain the beautiful 100-acre piece of property and its buildings. Though the camp, which sits on a peninsula jutting into Oak Lake in Carver County, has lain mostly dormant for 20 years, PWCC retained ownership of the donated property despite the organization's precarious financial outlook.
 

Today, under new leadership committed to making the organization a central resource in our North Minneapolis area once again, Phyllis Wheatley intends to see the camp fully restored and able to provide the important services it once offered to youth and families in our community.

 

To learn more about Camp Katharine Parsons and how you can get involved, read on below. We will continue to update our neighbors and supporters as we learn more about the history of the camp, and of PWCC. To see updates, please check here back soon.

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The Past

Camp Katharine Parsons is named for a member of the Phyllis Wheatley Community Center's Board of Directors who was instrumental in the creation and development of the camp. 

Ms. Parsons wished to see the beautiful plot of land on Oak Lake in Carver County become a place of respite and enrichment for youth in our North Minneapolis neighborhoods. And to that end, the camp was opened and served its purpose for 40 years before falling into disrepair at the beginning of this century. 

Now, PWCC intends to revitalize the historic property and reinstate the legacy of Katharine Parsons and her dream of giving our kids a piece of the nature that she so deeply appreciated. In 2019, PWCC entered into a $1 million agreement with the Minnesota Land Trust to ensure that 90% of the property remains a conservation area. The funds from this agreement have been earmarked to pay for revitalization efforts. 

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The Future

With the help of our community, Phyllis Wheatley will now undertake the revitalization of the camp, a $5.5 million project that will rebuild infrastructure, renew wildlife, and once again welcome our neighborhood kids on hot summer days. 

PWCC is already well on the way to meeting fundraising goals, provided the state legislature passes a generous budget allocation of $4 million proposed by Governor Walz. If passed, PWCC will raise the remainder of funds needed to complete renovations.

Our goal: Camp Katharine Parsons will be fully operational and open to our kids in 2024, coinciding with the 100-year celebration of the opening of Phyllis Wheatley Community Center! 

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You Can Help

You can assist in securing the governor's recommended allocation of $4 million to the Camp Katharine Parsons restoration project by urging your representative to vote for HF-3663, the House bill advocating for funding the camp, in upcoming legislative sessions. Find out who represents you and find contact information here.

Or, donate now to our fundraising effort that, together with the state's allocation, will move Camp Katharine Parsons into the construction phase of the project and, eventually, to its full restoration. 

To volunteer, donate services in-kind, or for other ways you can become a Camp Katharine stakeholder, contact katyn@phylliswheatley.org.

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Do you have memories of summers spent at Camp Katharine Parsons when you were a youth? We want to hear from you! Your stories can help us as we work to piece together our organization's nearly 100-year history as an advocate for African Americans in Minneapolis. 

Please contact Katy Nelson, Development and Communications Director at PWCC, at katyn@phylliswheatley.org to tell your story, reconnect with Phyllis Wheatley, and help us better understand our rich history in the community we share.