If not for Dobbins United Methodist Church, there would probably be no Delanco Camp. The camp originated in 1898 as an outgrowth of the church (then known as Delanco Methodist Episcopal Church) and its senior pastor at the time, the Rev. George Ridout.
“When he was pastor here he attended a lot of the camp meetings that were held in Pennsylvania and Delaware, and National Park, New Jersey,” said Alice Smith, the church’s historian. “So he was always on the camp meeting circuit. And it was during his ministry that the camp started.
Under Ridout’s leadership, the camp purchased 20 acres of the grove from Fletcher and officially formed the Fletcher Grove Camp Meeting Association in 1898. T
The church has in its archives a letter sent on July 5, 1897 by Charles Fletcher to the organizers of the first camp meeting.
“(Charles Fletcher) was very thankful that that these group of men were concerned about the condition of the people in the community,” Smith said. “It’s a great letter.”
Alice Smith grew up going to Dobbins and remembers going to the camp meeting grounds with her youth group to use the pool and has a specific memory of handing out programs when the tabernacle was used for a graduation because of a fire at the local school. When the camp moved to its present location in 1965 she worked in the kitchen that first summer with the camp’s cook at the time Richard Yardumian.
Years later, all three of her children attended the camp in the summer and attended retreats her church held on the grounds.
“I’m glad that all my children were exposed to that,” she said.
Dobbins just recently welcomed a new pastor, Rev. Waleska Trinidad. The church’s first female pastor in its history dating back to 1859, Trinidad started serving the church on July 1 and quickly received a crash course in the church’s long history dating back to the early days of the Delaware River town being incorporated in the middle of the 19th century.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to be part of this great history,” Trinidad said. “It shows not only to the congregation, but I think to the town of the Delanco and all the towns near us what God is doing, how God continues to work in the community, and how we continue to change and we continue to open the doors for new people to come and be part of our town and our congregation.”
Trinidad said old photos of kids on the camp meeting grounds and the important role reaching young people with the Gospel has been for so much of the camp’s 122 years as a ministry inspires her.
“I think it’s awesome to see from history, how a lot of things can change, but the foundation is still there,” she said. “We’re still working to reach the community not just in the spiritual aspect but also for the well being of all in the community.”
Ridout ended up serving at Dobbins for just three years and made several stops throughout the rest of his career in ministry that included stints teaching at Taylor University and Asbury University, serving as YMCA Chaplain in France during World War I and time as an evangelist and missionary. He wrote several books, including The Cross and the Flag, The Power of the Holy Spirit, Amazing Grace and The Beauty of Holiness.