...To have an updated, accurate record of events in history is important
to those who walk on the trails made by those who have preceded us. In
1990 a booklet titled Early Beginnings. History of light and Life Camp
was published. This historical record was written by the late Mrs. Frances
Roggenbaum and was published by Mr. Larry Fink and Or. Warren McMullen.
Since the time of that publication, considerable effort has been given
to researching the minutes of the Florida Conference of the Free Methodist
Church and the minutes of Florida Light and life Camp Board. Several important
events and facts were inadvertently omitted in the 1990 publication. Furthermore
a number of things have occurred since that time that seem to justify
a revised, updated record of the camp history.
So it is with appreciation to those who prepared the 1990 historical record,
but also to those who have assisted in filling in some of the record which
makes the story more complete that we present this publication. THE
RECORD OF FLORIDA LIGHT AND LIFE CAMP
The Florida Conference of the Free Methodist Church of North America
came into being in 1951 when the Georgia-Florida Conference voted to
become two separate conferences. (The Georgia-Florida Conference begun
in 1915 as a district of the Pittsburgh Conference.) The Florida Conference
campground was located at Kissimmee from 1938 until 1958 when the property
was sold. After this property was sold, various sites were used for
summer camps and annual conference. These included Bible Town, USA,
at Boca Raton, 1959-1962; a Baptist camp at Tampa. 1963 ; and Fenway
Academy in Dunedin, 1964. Several churches in the conference hosted
the annual conference sessions including Lakeland, First; St. Petersburg,
First; and Sunshine Gardens, Orlando.
At the annual conference of 1964 a decision was made to search for a
site for a new campground. Pastor Gordon Smith of Lakeland, First and
Florida Conference Superintendent Elmer Hood located a forty acre site
at the west end of Deeson Road in Hillsborough County. In February,
1965, the conference "Camp Meeting Committee" met at Lakeland,
First Church and considered a proposal for purchase of the property.
The decision was made to recommend to the annual conference to purchase
the property at a cost of $30,000. During the annual conference in June
in Lakeland the delegates drove to the site and walked through the wooded
land. In addition to much brush, there were fences for controlling the
grazing cattle and a barn which still remains. with some improvements.
Also, there was an old farm house just to the west of the present location
of the Motel. A Camp Development Committee was formed and soon work
was begun. Fences were taken down, brush was removed and grading done
for the construction of the dining hall, the first building (now known
as Elmer J. Hood Hall). Also, a rest room and shower building was completed
just southwest of the dining hall and a water well was drilled. Youth
camp, family camp and annual conference sittings were all held at the
campground in summer, 1966. Cars which were parked in the area now occupied
by the "Motel" were mired in mud. The services and annual
conference were held in the new dining hall. Campers and delegates stayed
in tents, travel trailers and the few cottages which had been constructed,
and in homes of members of Lakeland, First Church. Bishop Edward C.
John had the first house built. Followed by the Reverend Asa Hockaday
and Mr. Ora Knappins, the latter one not quite finished by camp time.
Soon to follow were cottages by Mr. Byford Bush, Conference Superintendent
Elmer Hood and Mr. Floyd Pierce. Summer family camp services and annual
conference in 1967 and 1968 were conducted in a large tent erected west
of the old farm house. (The next year that building was moved south
near Blackwater Creek to be used as a youth center. Later it was used
for storage and finally was torn down.) The summer camps were well attended
by families from across the Florida conference. The mid-winter camp
meeting program was begun in January of 1967 with services in a large
tent. A roaring gas fired heater was used to take away the January chill.
The next year the mid-winter camp meeting was held in the new WMS chapel.
This chapel was planned by the conference WMS (Woman' s Missionary Society)
as a place for housing missionary families and for missionary meetings.
During the first few years following purchase of the grounds, in response
to appeals from the Camp Meeting Committee, persons from Florida and
from several states and provinces in the north leased property which
had been subdivided. There were two general areas: the trailer section
and the cottage section. Later, when larger trailers (called mobile
homes) began to make their appearance, another area was developed for
travel trailers. This was built under the supervision of Mr. Clarence
Chambers, a resident, and other residents who, with Mr. Chambers, volunteered
their services. A shower restroom facility was constructed by a contractor.
The trailer park was then expanded in 1978 under the direction of Mr.
Chambers to a total of seventy-two spaces. Some of the early lease owners
, in addition to those previously named, was the Reverend Willard Schiele.
Mr. Gerald Burgess and Mrs. Emma Jones. The number of residents was
beginning to grow. During the year following the first Camp meeting,
in 1966-67, just to the north of the dining hall a twelve-unit efficiency
apartment building (called the Motel) was constructed. It has served
well in providing housing during camps, for winter residents and for
FACILITIES SOFT BALL--The recreational aspect of light and
life Camp was considered to be important for the youth of the conference
in summer camps as well as for the residents. The first ball diamond
was located south of the creek on the site of "Project 14".
Later it was moved nearer the center of activity in the area where the
travel trailer park is situated. then the travel trailer park was expanded,
the ball diamond was again moved, this time to the present site on five
acres of a ten-acre acquisition to the property on the east boundary
of the original forty acres. In the mid-1970's this was purchased along
with twenty acres along the south boundary.
SWIMMING POOL-- In 1967 an above-ground swimming pool
(owned by the Reverend Byron Shaw, a Florida Conference pastor), was
installed in the woods where the travel trailer park is now located
(approximately in the middle of what is now Ebenezer Avenue). In 1968
the youth of the conference decided that a permanent pool was needed.
They set about to raise funds for this and in 1972 the swimming pool
was completed at a cost of less than $11,000. In 1988 the pool was damaged
by a flood and the repairs cost $25 ,000 .
SHUFFLEBOARD-- What would a residential community in
Florida be without a shuffleboard court? In early 1970 's the residents
set out to raise money to build eight courts. Later two more courts
were added and the original protective shelters on either side of the
courts were rebuilt to provide an adequate facility for those who love
to spend recreational time in this way.
TENNIS, VOLLEYBALL, AND BASKETBALL-- In 1980 the men
of the camp took on the project of constructing a combined tennis, volleyball
and basketball court . The entire project was completed with volunteer
donations and labor. A sand volleyball court was made in 1993 just to
the east of the tennis court.
GOLF COURSE-- Could Light and Life Camp have its own
golf course? Why not? Resident Claude Church and others considered the
possibilities and also the difficulties and then determined to layout
a seven hole course, using for greens an Astroturf type carpet. realizing
that maintaining grass would be too difficult and costly. This golf
course was built in the area where "Project 14" i s now located.
The men relocated the golf course to its present site when "Project
14" was planned and expanded it to nine holes. The new golf course
was built with the help of many residents, but headed up by Mr. Joseph
Roggenbaum, for whom the course was named following his death.
MINIATURE GOLF AND HORSE SHOES-- Development of recreational
facilities took a step further in 1986 when Mr. Richard Roggenbaum initiated
the construction of a miniature golf course with eighteen holes. The
entire cost of the course was covered by residents, with all of the
work: being done by volunteers. including the pouring of more than fifty
yards of concrete. Just to the east of the miniature golf are two sets
of horseshoe pits.
CERAMICS-- Many people have enjoyed making crafts at
the ceramics and crafts building. (This building was constructed in
1968 by Mr. Gerald Burgess of North Palm Beach for a dwelling and was
later sold to the camp . ) Under the leadership of Vern and Martha Swain,
residents, the ceramics have been fired. In the 1993-94 season Al and
Mary Sanders headed up the ceramics. The ceramics building was not used
in 1994-95 due to the illness of Al.
MANAGERS AND DIRECTOR
The history of Light and Life Camp would not be complete without a record
of the caretakers, managers and director. The first years there were
caretakers on a part-time basis, then gradually more and more responsibility
was placed on a person in that position. Superintendent Elmer Hood filled
the place of leadership for the early years, with the assistance of
the camp meeting committee-Pastors John Hoyt, John Hendricks, Gordon
Smith, Don Cleveland, and Willard Schiele, and laymen Gerald Burgess,
Wesley Grantham, Ethan Smout and Robert Everling were some of the early
members of the committee. Mr. Ora Knappins, a camp resident, was employed
as caretaker for two years. Elmer Hood was also full-time care taker
for a time after retiring as Conference Superintendent. Following this
there were several persons who filled the position: Floyd Pierce, Byford
Bush, Robert De Long, Carl Patton and Leonard Ainscough. In 1975 Mr.
Vernon (Chip) Tjepkema was hired as full-time manager and he was in
this capacity faithfully until he took retirement and moved to Arizona
in 1978, At that time the camp board hired Donald J. Cleveland as full
time manager and Berdaline (Berdie) Cleveland as office manager and
treasurer . Don and Berdie came back to Florida where they had served
previously as pastor and had been involved in the early development
of the camp. The duties and responsibilities for leadership and the
development of the camp were continually growing, and some of the residents,
such as Leonard Ainscough and others, were becoming limited in their
activity. Therefore , Mr. Edward (Eddie) Boshears from Indiana was employed
as assistant to the manager in 1984. Then Mr. Kenneth Walter, Jr. of
West Virginia was employed for this position when Eddie returned to
Indiana in 1987. When the Cleveland's decided to retire from the management
in 1988 , Ken Walter, Jr. was employed as full-time manager and Mrs.
Walter, Carole, was hired as office manager. Mr. Mike lower was then
employed as assistant to the manager. In the fall of 1994 Ken and Carole
Walter elected to retire and, following a search for replacement, Mr.
Craig DeJonge was hired to a new position as Director in December 1994.
Craig's wife. Karen, was hired as Office Manager and Mike lower was
given the title of Manager (of grounds and equipment). As of this writing
these three are providing excellent leadership.
Those who have served as caretakers and managers through the years would
agree that the task could not have been done without the thousands of
hours of donated labor by the residents of light and life Camp. The
list cannot be complete here, but several of those who have given tremendous
help have been named earlier and others will be named. Florida Conference
superintendents have al so played an important role in the success of
Light and life Camp. Elmer Hood was followed by the Reverends Alfred
Hill, David Jefford, James Diddle, Raymond Ellis and Floyd Stryker.
(Pastors John Hendricks, John Hoyt and Carl Beatty served as stationed
superintendents for one year). Each of these gave leadership in seeing
the camp become an important part of the Free Methodist Church in the
State of Florida.
HOME AND OFFICE
By the year 1973, when those on the board recognized that Light and
life Camp was going to need a full-time manager, plans were made for
a home. In 1974 a 24'X 56' double wide mobile home was placed near the
front gate. Chip and Vera Tjepkema moved into the new home. One bedroom.
which had a double sliding door , was converted for use as camp office.
In 1982 the motel room nearest the manager's home became the camp office.
Still Later, the other east end motel room was converted as a second
office room for the computer and for committee meetings. In 1986 a double
wide mobile home on Bethel drive was purchased from Lewis and Louverne
Stephens and Grace Claussen as a home for the assistant to the manager.
The manager's home was replaced in December of 1994 with an updated
manufactured home 28 ' x 60' with three bedrooms and baths. The new
director and family. Craig and Karen DeJonge with son, Cory and daughter,
Megan moved into this home in January. 1995.
AND LIFE FREE METHODIST CHURCH
The Reverend Howard C. Duncan was the first pastor appointed to the
Light and Life Free Methodist Church at the camp. The church structure
was built beginning in 1971 and first used in 1972. For seven years
Howard Duncan was pastor of the church , in which time air conditioning.
new pews , carpeting and other improvements were made. The church was
used for a regular schedule of services September through June these
seven years. The summer camp pro9ram made use of the church in the months
of July. August, and September. This plan continued for another two
years while the Reverend James C. Hecocks was pastor. A fine parsonage
was constructed in 1981 under the supervision of Mr. Bill Gilroy, a
resident and retired contractor. Plans were made for a year around pastor
and the Reverend Glenn E. Hughes was appointed by the Florida Conference.
During the six years of Glenn Hughes' ministry, James Hecocks served
as assistant pastor during the winter months and spent the summers in
Michigan. In 1985 there was an addition built on the east side of Light
and Life Church. This "annex" includes a secretary's office,
two rest rooms and additional seating for approximately one hundred
fifty persons. At this time also a steeple was added-to the south peak
of the church, given by Mrs. Marian O'Brien in memory of her late husband,
Mr. John O'Brien. Following the retirement of Glenn Hughes in 1987.
Bishop Emeritus Paul N. Ell is was appointed as interim pastor and James
Hecocks continued as part-time assistant. Then, having failed to secure
a full-time replacement as senior pastor in the summer of 1988, Pastor
Ellis agreed to continue for one more year and Don Cleveland was appointed
as full-time assistant. A new organ was purchased by the church in 1988
from gifts given by members and friends also, a new grand piano was
given to the congregation by Paul and Naomi Ellis . At the 1989 Florida
Annual Conference, the Reverend C. Wesley King was appointed senior
pastor and Don Cleveland was appointed Minister of Visitation and Music.
Both of these pastors continued in their respective positions until
May of 1994 . At that time Pastor King took retirement and the Reverend
John E. Hendricks was appointed by the Florida Conference. Don Cleveland,
since taking retirement, serves as assistant November through April
when the number of residents is at its greatest.
Sensing the need for an office at the church to accommodate the pastor
a larger office for the church secretary. and enlarged space for the
choir, both for assembly and for seating on the platform, plans were
begun 1n 1994 for an addition to the church structure. Construction
began, following several months of negotiations with contractors and
with Hillsborough County, on January 4, 1995.
An apartment complex became the dream of Mr. Eugene Maxwell and others
and in 1981 planning was begun. Mr. Bert Gensch drew up the original
plans. After a long process, Hillsborough County granted rezoning so
that the project could go ahead. By March 1983 the first six of the
twenty-four units were sold and completed. The remaining apartments
and the central building with fully equipped kitchen, dining hall and
an office for the Villa Association were soon finished. Les and Lora
Thomas have cooked for the Villa since its beginning. They are retiring
in April 1995. The Villa residents and other camp residents and visiting
friend s have found this to be a pleasant place for fellowship and excellent
In the early 1980's a Resident Fellowship was organized and a Constitution
was drawn up. An executive committee is composed of president, two vice
presidents, secretary, treasurer and four members of the Camp Board
elected by the Fellowship. The objectives of the Fellowship include,
according to the Constitution: "Promoting fellowship and unity".
"Cooperating with the . . Camp Board. . .", " and to
encourage participation in actives." The Fellowship "studies
and recommends improvements." These stated goals of the Resident
Fellowship have been successfully carried out through the years of the
organization. The officers and the several committees have aided in
making it possible for many residents to participate in camp activities
Fourteen acres of the land which had been included in the rezoning to
"Community Unit" for clearing the way for the Villa project
was, in 1984, considered for an addition to the mobile home park. Procedure
was begun by the camp board and Mr. Jon Carlton, a resident, approached
the Hillsborough County Zoning Board. Again, a long story could be written
concerning the many trips made to Tampa by Jon Carlton. Charles Smout
and Don Cleveland, the manager , working through the many boards and
departments. After much hassle, the Board of County Commissioners voted
to give the go-ahead for constructing the sites for fourteen double
wide mobile homes (manufactured homes). The first manufactured home
was placed on Canaan Avenue in 1987 by Dr. Walter Johnson. Soon all
fourteen lots were filled and it has become a fine addition to the community.
....ELMER J. HOOD HALL ADDITION
Elmer J. Hood Hall, was no longer large enough to accommodate the activities
of the residents and the church. In 1989 the Resident Fellowship As
sociation and the light and life Free Methodist. under the leadership
of Eugene Maxwell, began to develop plans for enlarging the building.
Included in the expansion were two restrooms , storage room, WMI storage
closets and tables and chairs to seat an additional two hundred people.
Money for the project was raised with cash and subscriptions from residents
amounting to $91.000. This included a $24.000 pledge from the church.
The size of the building was doubled and has served well for the church,
the Association, the conference and other groups who use it.
The kitchen in Hood hall was considerably improved following a time
of planning and research by a committee from the Resident Fellowship
Association. This committee was headed up by Glenn and Helen Carey and
Walter and Virginia Brannon. Several men from the camp gave of their
time and the residents supplied the money for the project.
..OTHER ITEMS OF INTEREST WASTE WATER TREATMENT PLANT
Hillsborough County ordered, in 1972, that a waste water treatment plant
must be constructed . The account of how this came into being is a story
in itself. However, under the direction of the camp board and in particular,
Clarence Chambers, plans were prepared, contractors were hired, assessments
were made to the lessees, and the huge task was completed at a cost
in excess of $100.000. Then, in the late 1970's. the camp was again
ordered by Hillsborough County to construct a percolation pond for the
waste water treatment system. It was at this time that the twenty acres
across the south boundary of the property was purchased . Still later,
in the early 1980's, it was learned that a spray field could be constructed
that would assist in taking care of the effluent coming from the waste
water treatment plant. This project was completed on the acreage where
"Project 14" is now located. Where "Project 14"
became a reality, both the original golf course and the spray field
on the site were relocated to the south of the property on newly acquired
acreage. This new property, consisting of forty-three acres across the
south boundary and running east fifty feet beyond the Polk County line,
was approved for purchase at an adjourned sitting of annual conference
in 1982. The cost was $125,000. The property was purchased for the purpose
of developing a conference lodge and retreat center for people of all
ages. At this writing the project has not been started by the conference.
The waste water treatment plant was expanded in 1990, increasing the
capacity from 25,000 gallons to 45,000 gallons, sufficient to handle
possible future growth.
Ten youth cabins were built over a period of several years, beginning
in 1967. They were built from funds raised by several of the Free Methodist
churches of the Florida Conference. Volunteers from the conference churches
and residents of the camp constructed the cabins. Youth camps, children's
camps and family camps from the conference and from other churches and
para-church groups have benefited from the facilities. In 1988 four
of the cabins were equipped with air conditioning and the ceilings were
built in and insulated, under the direction of Mr. Duane Hall. The remaining
cabins were air conditioned in the next three years.
A group of men saw the need for landscaping and other improvements in
t he appearance of the grounds. Headed up by Willet Justice and Dale
Wise, several persons have been active in planting trees and shrubbery,
watering and pruning. In winter 1994-95 this committee constructed a
very nice gazebo at the "alligator pond" which adds to the
landscaping they had done there.
ARTICLES OF AGREEMENT AND DEEDS-- Beginning in the
early 1970 ' s the minutes of the Camp Board show that there was action
taken to revise the "Articles of Agreement" (the lease agreement)
which each person who decides to build at the camp must negotiate. The
basic substance of the lease agreement was not to be changed, but it
was felt that it needed to be presented in a more clear, legible form.
With the assistance of a Plant City attorney, the task, was undertaken
and, in 1981 , the document was adopted. Soon after the beginning of
Light and Life Camp development a provision was made for Florida residents
to secure homestead exemption on their leased property. This was done
by changing the original twenty-five year lease agreement to ninety-nine
as the county required. In 1984 the county decided that those with new
leases could no longer claim homestead exemption; only those with deeds
could do so. The Florida Conference then gave permission to grant deeds
to those desiring to claim homestead exemption. Mr. Charles Smout, a
resident, undertook this task of preparing deeds, with the assistance
of an attorney. Mr. Smout did this along with many other volunteer tasks
which he performs for the conference and the camp. He continues to work
with deed transactions; however, the new director, Craig DeJonge, is
assuming this task.
STREETS--- The first graded streets at the camp were
a big improvement over the original trails . But , in 1972, the first
paved streets were completed and since that time every street has been
paved and many repaved. A budgeted item each year is for resurfacing
streets as needed . All streets, except for Hebron, Ebenezer and Canaan
were named by Elmer Hood at the beginning of camp development.
WATER WELLS--- One of the very first projects when
development of the camp was begun was to drill a water well. In 1974
that first shallow well was supplemented by a forty-foot well. Then
a 40B-foot well was drilled in 1975, providing a good, safe, adequate
supply of water for the more than five hundred residents.
PAVILION--- In the early 1980's a need was felt for
a covered pavilion. Mr. Clarence Dietz, a camp resident, and the manager
drew up plans for a 24' X 40 ' shelter to be built to the south of the
tennis and basketball court. This project was funded by 9ifts from several
persons, but a major portion was given by Mr. and Mrs. Harold Funk,
camp residents, in memory of Mrs. Funk's brother, Mr. Sheldon Spencer,
who had been a resident until his death in 1970. Tables were made possible
by a gift from Mrs. Vera Becker, a resident, in memory of her late mother,
Mrs. Violet Priestley, a former resident .
HISTORICAL CENTER--- Over several years a number of
long time Florida residents felt the need for a conference historical
center at Florida Light and Life Camp. Then, in 1990, the conference
gave permission to convert the original rest room for this purpose.
Under the direction of the Florida Conference Historical Committee,
composed of Mrs. Mae Beatty (widow of the late Reverend Carl Beatty,
a former pastor in the conference). Elmer Hood, Don Cleveland and Russell
Cullum, the old building was completely remodeled. The original flat
roof was replaced with a gable roof and air conditioning was installed,
the work, being done by volunteers. Several residents also made voluntary
monetary contributions. The building now stands as a place for displaying
artifacts and memorabilia for future generations to observe what men
and women of the past have done to build the Free Methodist Church in
the State of Florida. "
. Lest we forget. . . . "
INTERMEDIATE AND NURSING CARE--- Through the years
of Light and Life Camp many have dreamed of having a nursing care facility
on the site. So, a series of studies was made and the question was explored
in various ways. It was found that, due to zoning restrictions and other
barriers, a nursing facility was seemingly out of the question . However,
Eugene Maxwell envisioned at least an intermediate care facility and
worked toward that end until his death in 1991. At the time of this
writing it appears that Hillsborough County will not allow this.
Abundant thanks and appreciation go to every person who has given so
unselfishly in financial contributions--amounting to hundreds of thousands
of dollars--and manual labor. Many thousands of dollars have also come
from estates which have considered Light and life Camp in their planning.
May Light and life Camp continue to be a blessing to the many who come
here, both from the North and from across the Florida Conference, to
enjoy what the Lord has helped us to develop.