It all started in 1951 when a group of men from Rochester, NY—Mel Northrop, Colin Caldwell, and Stephen Smith— shared a vision to start a summer Bible camp for children. They prayed and waited faithfully on the Lord and His timing, and in 1952 they held their first committee meeting at the proposed campsite, Allegany State Park Camp No. 11. Over 100 people from the Rochester and Buffalo area attended to support the goal. Despite the fact that the men had never attended a camp before, Colin and Mel were chosen to lead the mission to found camp because of their passion for the ministry. They started meeting weekly to research and gather information about how camps run, what they would need, and how to put a schedule together. Some weeks, Colin and Mel would stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning working to prepare for camp!
In March 1953 the newly-formed corporation chose the name Camp Li-Lo-Li as the official name, submitted by 11-year-old Betty Carol Northrop in a name competition. Pronounced “Lie-Low-Lie,” this name stands for Life-Love-Light, all attributes of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
After the first successful year of camp in Allegany State Park, the corporation decided to start looking for their own permanent location. After two more years at Camp No. 11 and dozens of inquiries, visits, and offers to possible properties, on Memorial Day, 1955, Mel Northrop and program director Vernon Larter visited a site that they knew was the one. After overcoming many obstacles, in the fall of 1955, Camp Li-Lo-Li purchased the land where we now hold camp every summer.
1956 was the first summer camp was held on the new property. Only having time to build the lodge and one cabin, campers stayed in tents and the lodge was used as a dining hall, chapel, store, and sleeping quarters for the cooks! It was a very rainy and tiring two weeks for campers and staff, but the Lord was faithful in his work that first year—bringing many souls to salvation.
Years 1957-1962 saw many construction projects by countless volunteers that transformed Li-Lo-Li into more of the camp you picture today as well as an expansion of the sessions offered.
The ‘60s saw the addition of the chapel building and camp’s first phone line, the ‘80s ushered in a new store building, a new sewer system and the first time mail was delivered to camp (before then, it was all sent to a P.O. box), and the ‘90s saw the addition of the pool.
Since then, camp has added: Fort Seneca, the Climbing Tower, the Zip Line, a new Craft Cabin, and the Pavilion to name a few!
Camp Li-Lo-Li is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporation that is governed by local churches that are affiliated with the Plymouth Brethren churches. Each church that joins as one of the governing churches appoints up to three representatives from their local church to participate as a member of the Camp Corporation. The members of the corporation represent their churches in the governance of camp.
The churches that are currently part of the Camp Corporation are: