Gave needy women and children of Chicago a chance for relaxation Provided free meals, shelter, and activities on Evanston’s lake shore Had a nurse care for children and teach mothers about hygiene Held practical classes and a kindergarten
From 1900 to 1917, Evanston’s Camp Good Will provided a brief summer retreat for Chicago mothers and children. The camp was an opportunity for the needy to get away to the Evanston lake shore, where they were provided free meals, shelter, activities, and lessons about hygiene and childcare. Each session lasted one week, and eventually Camp Good Will housed 1200 people over a total of 8 weeks.
In 1900, Charles F. Weller, the Superintendent of the West Side District of the Bureau of Associated Charities of Chicago, came to Evanston’s Young Men’s Christian Association to speak about Oak Park’s three year old Camp Good Will, which was already a great success at providing a respite for Chicago’s needy women and kids. Members of the YMCA, along with representatives from each of Evanston’s churches, met to discuss the creation of Evanston’s own Camp Good Will, which, unlike Oak Park’s, would have the benefit of being on the lake. It was decided that each church would run the camp for a few days at a time over the course of 5 weeks, and in July 1900 Evanston’s Camp Good Will opened, housing 100 women and children every week. The Bureau of Associated Charities in Chicago found families who were deemed “guaranteed poor.” Eventually, the camp ended up catering to 1200 people over 8 weeks. While many organizations and local businesses donated money and supplies to the camp, including ice, cots, mattresses, gas, electric lights, a telephone, and tents, the women of the Evanston churches deserve much credit due to all of the time and energy they gave to the camp. In 1915, over 1000 Evanstonians contributed in some way to the camp, showing how it truly took a community to make the camp run for almost two decades. Sherman Kingsley of the United Charities of Chicago said in 1910 that “the people of Evanston need it quite as much as do those who benefit by its existence.” The camp brought together people of all backgrounds and living situations into a relaxing summer atmosphere. Beginning in 1910, a nurse on duty at the camp cared for sick and needy children, and she also taught mothers about hygiene and care for their families. In 1915, hot and cold water baths were available at the camp, and for many of the Chicago women, this was the first time they had ever been in a bath tub. Even though Camp Good Will was run by churches, it was a nonreligious institution, and no religious activities were ever required or even recommended for the campers to attend. The camp also provided kindergarten classes and nightly entertainments. In 1918, Judge H.S. Towle of Oak Park, who had loaned the area the camp had been using (the plot bound by Sheridan, Central, Orrington, and Milburn), decided to sell his land. The camp’s board was unable to find any other suitable place in Evanston, so Camp Good Will sold its assets and ended after many influential years.