CAMP: Central Area Motivation Program (Seattle)

  • By Mary T. Henry
  • Posted 12/13/2009
  • Essay 9243
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Seattle's Central Area Motivation Program (CAMP) is the oldest surviving independent agency originating during the War on Poverty era (in 1964) and was the first community inspired program in the country to receive funding.  Its mission has been to reduce the impact of poverty with all of its related problems. Through many programs and services, CAMP still (2009) assists in improving the lot of the poor by providing food and shelter; offering education for at-risk students;   employment and training for the unemployed and underemployed; and  providing heat for homes during the colder months.

The Beginning
As a social service agency, it is unique because of its origins. President Lyndon Johnson launched the War on Poverty in 1965, but long before that, a group of citizens organized as the Central Area Community Council concerned themselves with the problems of poverty and racism in Seattle's Central Area.  They formed a committee to begin developing a comprehensive anti-poverty proposal in April 1964 and by September 1964, after many meetings, the final proposal  was written by the chair of the committee, Carol Richman, a Madrona resident, who according to CAMP historian Ivan King is "the mother of CAMP." 
In August 1965, the project, co-sponsored by the Central Area Community Council and the Seattle Urban League, received funding from the War on Poverty.  It was administered by the Central Area Citizens Committee composed of the following members: 

  • Rev. John Adams (b. 1927)
  • Rev. Otis Brown
  • David Gearin
  • Mrs. E. M. Hines
  • Laura Lambert
  • Lewis Martin
  • Ed Banks
  • Henry Caldwell
  • Mrs. Russell Gideon
  • Edna Jones
  • Rev. Gil Lloyd
  • Rev. Samuel McKinney (1926-2018)
  • Eunice Palmer
  • Carol Richman,
  • Ed Pratt (1930-1969)
  • Rex Jones 

It was Mrs. Gideon who proposed the name Central Area Motivation Project.
The First Two Years: Excitement and Energy
Recognizing that communication and organization would be essential to the success of the program, a coordinator was hired to conduct orientation and training of block workers. These block workers went from door to door explaining the program and gathering information about the needs of the residents. They canvassed the Horace Mann, T.T. Minor, and Madrona neighborhoods and later on the Leschi, Harrison, Summit, and Gatzert neighborhoods.  

Through information gathered, neighborhood action councils were formed and residents became organized. Those first two years were heady with excitement and energy as power was given to the powerless.  Residents of the community were involved in every phase of the program as tutors, block workers, aides, day care teachers, bus drivers, administrators, and as members of the directing board.
In addition to the communication by block workers, area residents were informed through The Trumpet, a monthly newsletter keeping residents up to date about programs and people and edited one year by Constance Achalono (b. 1945), who later became the wife of Mayor Norm Rice (b. 1943).  Roberta Byrd Barr (1919-1993) moderated the TV program Face to Face on Channel 9, which allowed citizens in the area to describe their plight and put a face on poverty.
During that first year, to help the youth in the area, Study Centers with supervised after-school programs were available in 10 locations  and drew 600 students. There was the Afro-American Heritage project, which drew 7,000 youth and adults for motivation and action education. Job Counseling, Creative Arts,  Day Care Centers, Community Beautification, Housing, and Recreation were added to assist residents in finding a better quality of life.  
The Fire, the War, and Creative Financing
By the summer of 1967 CAMP had 300 employees and hundreds of volunteers, but already there were signs of diminishing funding because of the Vietnam War and other social issues. As early as that spring the Economic Opportunity Act had severely cut back funding. Thus began CAMP's creative maneuvering to seek funding and not allow the program to fade away.
In addition to funding problems, the building CAMP occupied at 1139 17th Avenue was torched on February 20, 1968, causing $14,000 in damage. The building had been leased from Seattle University. Other fires caused damage at Mount Zion Church and the Central Area Youth Association (CAYA).  

Fortunately CAMP was forced to move permanently to the old firehouse at 722 18th Avenue, which the city remodeled and still maintains.  Leon Bridges was the architect involved in the remodeling.  The building was built in 1909, and on December 13, 1976, the Seattle City Council designated the firehouse a Seattle Landmark because of its significance to the heritage of the community, its distinctive architectural style, and its familiarity as a visual feature in the neighborhood. It is also on the National Register of Historic Places.
Model Cities

In 1966, the Model City Program and Concentrated Employment Program (CEP) became the federal government's vehicle for poverty programs.
Numbers of people involved in CAMP were major players in the civil rights movement.  Rev. John Adams, Rev. Samuel McKinney, and Walter Hundley (1929-2002) were members of the Central Area Civil Rights Committee, which determined the local civil rights agenda;  Roberta Byrd Barr (1919-1993) acted as principal of the Freedom School during the 1968 boycott of Seattle Schools; Ivan King was an author of the Urban League's Triad Plan to desegregate Seattle Schools,  to name a few.
Some of these same people who initiated CAMP in 1964 urged city officials to start planning in 1966 for the Seattle Model City Program (SMCP) and Seattle became the first city in the nation to get its program operational.  Walter Hundley, who had been CAMP's Executive Director, was selected as Model Cities Executive Director in December 1967. 
During the next few years there was an intermingling of CAMP and  SMCP staff and focus.  Some of their more impressive accomplishments include the support of Contract Compliance and Unionization Projects which eventually led to Judge Lindberg's decision forcing open construction trades and sub-contracting opportunities for minorities;  operation of one of the largest Head Start Programs in the state; continuation of Black Arts /West with its dance, music, and dramatic performances; opening of the new health station named for Odessa Brown (1920-1969), a CAMP outreach worker. The Odessa Brown Clinic continues today. 

In the 1970s CAMP opened an annex and extended its services into Southeast Seattle as the black population expanded in that area.     
Emphasis on employment, housing, youth involvement, emergency services, community organization, and outreach continued  for the next decades even as funding became harder to achieve.  From more than 300 staff size in 1967 to around 40 in 1980, the change was dramatic, but CAMP's mission remained strong.
CAMP Today
Headed by its second female director, Andrea Caupin, the agency is funded by the Department of Commerce, Department of Health, Education and Welfare, King County, City of Seattle, and private donors. With a staff of 25 it provides social and health services at satellites in Ballard, Lake City Way, West Seattle, and South Seattle.
In its more than 40 years of existence there have been a number of executive directors with Walter Hundley being the first and Larry Gossett holding the longest term from 1979 until 1991. Other executive directors include Harold Whitehead, Charles Hodges, Roz Woodhouse, Eddie Rye, Leon Brown, Hayward Evans, Rick Dupree, and Tony Orange.  


Hilda Bryant, "Central Area Aid Program Ready," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 5, 1967; "CAMP Center Damaged by Fire," The Seattle Times, February 21, 1968; "CAMP is Black History," The Medium, February 1, 1972; "Camp Torch is Passed, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 8, 1994; Marjorie Jones, "Churches Become Day Care Centers," The Seattle Times, April 4, 1968; W. Ivan King Northwest Black History Collection 1955-1995, University of Washington Libraries Special Collections;  Ivan King, The Central Area Motivation Program, a Brief History of a Community in Action (Seattle: CAMP, 1990); Maribeth Morris, "Poverty War Touches 8400," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 27, 1966; Charles Michener, "Snafu on the Poverty Front," Seattle Magazine, May 1966;  S. Reed, "The War on Poverty," Seattle Post-Intelligencer,  November 21, 1965;  Susan Ellen Stern, A Descriptive Analysis of the Communications Operation of the CAMP, Master of Social Work, University of Washington, 1968; Mary T. Henry interviews with Ivan King, Carol Richman, and Eddie Rye, Seattle, Summer 2009. See Also the CAMP website (

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