Camp Oliver, Changing the World, One Camper at a Time.
History of Camp Oliver
Camp Oliver is located in Descanso, California in the Cleveland National Forest at an elevation of 3,450 feet. Descanso, translated from Spanish, means “place of rest" and is aptly named. In addition to those who come to Descanso seeking a peaceful place, the area is home to wildlife including bob cats, coyotes, raccoons, rabbits, striped skunks, mule deer, wild turkeys, and many birds including ones unique to the region.
Thousands of years ago, Native Americans originating from the Hokan family in Arizona and Colorado settled in Descanso. These semi-nomadic communities traveled between the mountains and foothills harvesting acorns from the many varieties of oak trees found in the area. They are noted for their intricate and efficient tools and baskets.
In 1769, members of the military, missionaries, and other settlers moved to the valley where they became fur traders and ranchers. By 1903, Descanso was known as "a valley of thrift and plenty where every farmer looks happy and contented."
Sisters of Social Services & Camp Oliver
The Sisters of Social Service is a Catholic community founded in Hungary in 1908. They came to the United States in 1923 and set up their Motherhouse in Los Angeles in 1926. In 1938, at the request of Bishop Buddy of the Diocese of San Diego, the sisters began work at the Bayside Social Center in Little Italy. They developed programs for the children, teens, and parents in the area. Their work encompassed building family spirit, helping immigrants gain citizenship, and identifying and rectifying problems unique to these populations. After a few years, the Sisters began looking for a place outside of the city where they could take children to experience and appreciate nature.
Upon hearing of their need, in 1949, Lawrence and Mary Oliver generously gifted 15 acres along the Sweetwater River in Descanso to the Sisters. Over time, additional acreage was purchased and donated. Groundbreaking took place in 1952 (see picture below), and due to the fundraising efforts of the Juniors of the Social Service Auxiliary, construction of Camp Oliver began. Today Camp Oliver is comprised of 22 acres.
Groundbreaking in 1952, in front from left to right, Sister Frederica Horvath (Foundress of the Sisters of Social Service of Los Angeles), Lawrence Oliver, Mary Oliver, His Excellency, the Reverend Charles F. Buddy, and Sister Katherine Salter
The Sisters dedicated and opened Camp Oliver in 1954 for retreats on weekends and as a campsite in the summer months. In 1960, the Sisters held their first summer camp sessions, and the next decade saw year-round use. The Sisters’ goal was to incorporate all age levels and families. Since its foundation, Camp Oliver has been a non-denominational and all-inclusive camp. Over the years, the Social Service Auxiliary has made it possible for over 10,000 children to spend a week at camp through the Wine and Roses Charity Wine Tasting Event held annually in June.
In 1990, Camp Oliver was incorporated as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. In 1999, the Sisters hired a director to run camp year-round. The Sisters own the property, and the Camp Director manages Camp Oliver and reports to the Camp Oliver Board of Directors. For over 60 years, Camp Oliver has been a retreat for all ages who enjoy the love, warmth, laughter, friendships, and memories that last a lifetime.
Lawrence and Mary Oliver Donated land to the Sisters of Social Service and that land became...CAMP OLIVER!