New life at Camp Woodworth sparks community opportunities

Colleen Slater Judy and Mike Sherman at Camp Woodworth’s Chapel by the Bay. Photo by Colleen Slater, KP News

Camp Woodworth, on the east side of the Key Peninsula, celebrates 70 years of existence this year. It was created in 1945 as a summer camp for youth, starting with young men mainly from Tacoma.

Harold Woodworth of Woodworth Sand and Gravel, whose company did work for the first two Tacoma Narrows Bridges, donated the acreage with more than 400 feet of waterfront.

Early campers used tents, but now cabins that hold 12 to14 campers each are available.

Campers have included girls, adults and families for many years now.

Boats, kayaks, archery and basketball are all available at the camp, plus some wide open spaces for group activities.

There is a large dining hall with an industrial kitchen, as well as cooking and picnic space near the beach.

The Chapel by the Bay is being used Sunday evenings for services this summer.

Music, shared testimonies and prayers, similar to evening church services of 50 years past, are the basic plan, with special presentations included, too.

“Country Lovin’ Ministries will present a patriotic evening with puppets, music and a message from God's word on Sunday, July 5, 6 to 7 p.m.,” said Judy Sherman, co-director with husband Mike.

Child Evangelism Fellowship of Pierce County will present a five-day club at the camp, July 6 through 10, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. for those going into grades first through grade six. This is a free event, but organizers recommend calling to register your children.

“All teachers and helpers have been trained and screened to ensure your child's protection,” Judy Sherman said. Parents are welcome to attend. To see an actual schedule and activities, visit

Jeff Olive, a former teacher at Burley Christian School and Lighthouse Christian School will be the guest speaker on July 12, at 6 p.m.

“He is and was a pastor in this area before moving to Tacoma,” Sherman added.

For future speakers and events, visit the Woodworth Facebook page.

Mike Sherman was on the camp board and became president four years ago. He said they had “no money, but bills.”

The camp was empty, needed a caretaker, and as one board member said, needed “a presence.

They prayed for someone who was passionate about the camp to appear.

Judy Sherman was school manager for New Hope Christian School in Graham for 21 years when she said God called them to sell their home and move out to Camp Woodworth.

Their son, who'd been asking when he could buy their home, was said to be delighted with their decision.

The Shermans live on the property as unpaid staff, and other volunteers join them to do repair and maintenance work as time allows. There are Saturday volunteer work parties.

Mike Sherman takes care of the mowing, but has a full-time job off the peninsula. He's worked Fred Meyer since 1976.

The cabins need updating and improvement, and the gymnasium –– although quite useable –– is undergoing some changes for more efficient use.

Money, lumber and supplies seem to always be needed, and as the word goes out some provisions arrive.

The camp is an independent organization, so income is strictly from facility rentals and donations. “There’s no money owed on the camp now,” Judy said. “It’s freeing to not worry about repair bills. They've been the recipients of “rich blessings” she added.

There have been no overnight youth camps for four years, but next summer they plan to hold regular summer camps. Churches with youth groups, women and men's retreats, pastor conferences are all on the planning schedule.

Judy Sherman said she greatly loves the peace and quiet of the location.

“Of course with 100 kids, it won't be quiet,” she said, but that's not a daily situation.

Staff alumni will enjoy a picnic in August to share memories and note the changes over the years.

Mike and Judy look forward to sharing the gospel and their affordable facilities with families and church organizations who share the similar visions.

For programs, call (253) 686-6029. For general information on the camp, call (253) 691-3535