History and Mission

Friendship Center is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to inspire learning and love of the natural world.blackeyesusan

Black Eyed SusanFriendship Center was founded in 1970 by several Wisconsin reading teachers who worked with inner city intermediate level children who were far behind grade level or non readers. Most were behind because the schools were not dealing with the problems of poverty; many of them had already given up on school. Teaching materials and methods assumed they knew how to read.

Since these teachers enjoyed nature and outdoor activities, they believed that the ideal learning environment for young readers was a small, quiet, natural setting. They wanted to develop an outdoor retreat to provide a quiet, intimate environment for inner-city youth to work on their reading skills and learn first hand about the natural world. Reading camps and adult retreats were held in North Carolina and at various locations in Wisconsin until 1976.

In 1975, Friendship Center bought 28 acres in Canyon Park Creek Valley, seven miles northwest of Dodgeville Wisconsin, where Friendship Center is now located. Original funds for securing the property and erecting the main lodge were primarily donated by Isabel & Monroe Smith, founders of American Youth Hostel and Youth Argosy. The lodge and bunkhouses were built by volunteers. Friendship Center celebrated it’s 40th anniversary in 2010.

While Friendship Center has held reading and nature camps these many years, it has also evolved into a Retreat Center, offering opportunities for adults as well as youth to use the facilities for retreats, small conferences and other educational endeavors. The Center for Independence in Milwaukee, WI and Friendship Center use the camp during five weeks each summer. The rest of year, small educational, religious and mostly non-profit groups rent the facilities weekdays, weekends or for longer periods of time.

Friendship Center relies on volunteers for its maintenance and educational programs. They serve without pay except for the joy of the natural and educational experiences.