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Camp Katharine Parsons Restoration Project

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Restoring History

Camp Katharine Parsons Historical
Camp Parsons, 1990s

For more than 40 years, generations of Northside youth spent summers at Phyllis Wheatley Community Center's Camp Katharine Parsons, a natural oasis and a unique piece of Minneapolis’ cultural heritage.

At Camp Katharine Parsons, kids and teens from our North Minneapolis neighborhoods learned valuable life skills that prepared them for success as adults. At Phyllis Wheatley's historic youth camp, African American youth, often for the first time, had the opportunity to spend time outdoors, away from the city, immersed in the majesty of nature. At Camp Katharine Parsons, youth were able to gain a greater understanding of the healing powers of the outdoors and expand their worldviews, be inspired to dream big, and work toward their goals. 

At the camp, youth found the mentorship and guidance, stability, safety, and structure they needed to grow into strong citizens and leaders in the community. 

 

Opening in 1956, thanks to a generous donation of the property in Carver County to Phyllis Wheatley, staff and volunteers spent nearly 50 summers busing youth to the property about 30 miles from our Northside community. In the early 2000's, the camp's infrastructure began to fall into disrepair. PWCC closed the summer day camp out of concern for safety, the organization's financial insolvency, and pressing needs in need of attention and resources arising in the city. 

 

Now, Camp Katharine Parsons, which sits on a peninsula jutting into Oak Lake in Carver County, has lain almost completely dormant for more than 20 years, reverted by nature back to an oasis for birds and other wildlife —  a conservation site in the midst of the suburbs.

 

Despite the organization's precarious financial outlook and several opportunities to sell the property, Phyllis Wheatley retained ownership of Camp Katharine Parsons, with board members, staff, and former campers holding on to the hope of seeing its revival and return to serving its donor's intended purpose — to give underprivileged urban youth the chance to experience Minnesota summer camp.

Today, 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. Fundraising has begun, and architects from Snow-Kreilich and 4rmula are drawing up the plans for the restoration as they wrap up pre-design for the property in hopes of breaking ground on the first phase in the spring of 2025! 

 

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.

Join the legacy of Camp Katharine Parsons by 
supporting its restoration!

Support the restoration of Phyllis Wheatley's majestic respite for our Northside youth by making a gift to our designated fund for the restoration of Camp Katharine Parsons at The Minneapolis Foundation.

 

To learn about other ways you can get involved in this historic effort, or if you're a former PWCC Camp Katharine Parsons alum, or want more information on the project please contact:

 

Aaron Raivo-Lynch

Director of Camp Operations AaronRL@phylliswheatley.org

Questions about donating? Contact:

Katy Nelson

Senior Director of Development & Communications

KatyN@phylliswheatley.org

Media

Watch our panel discussion on Camp Parsons, the importance of outdoor experiences for youth development, and fond memories of those who attended from our October 2023 event! 

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Join us in bringing back a legacy. Donate today. 

Make a gift to the Camp Katharine Parsons restoration and be a part of the reclamation outdoor spaces for African American kids, where they can experience the outdoor adventures that helped shape the lives of generations before them.

Phyllis Wheatley Community Center is committed to empowering the youth of North Minneapolis. With the restoration of Camp Katharine Parsons, a youth day camp for Northside kids that was donated to the organization in 1956 and ran for 50 years,  where programming will focus on development, mentorship, and raising great citizens, through outdoor adventures, environmental education, and individualized support and mentorship. Help us give the next generation of Northside kids the inspiration they need to dream big, and find hope for better futures, for themselves and their community.

A Storymap History of Camp Parsons
Created by Caitlin Cook-Isaacson and the Minnesota Historical Society

We want to hear your stories 

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. 

Thanks to our Camp Katharine Supporters 

Fredrikson and Byron logo
SnowKreilich Architects logo
ASK
Minnesota Historical Society logo
Cultural Wellness Center logo
Mortenson Family Foudation
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