It was the providence of God and a dream of Barbara Swerdan that gave Opportunity Camp it’s beginning. Barbara while working for the County Social Services Department, got word money was available for a Christian based camp serving disadvantaged children, swiftly accessing these funds Barbara engaged Victor Rodriquez a minister at the San Leandro Church of Christ to Direct the first camp session in 1970.
In 1973 Opportunity Camp found new Leadership when the Martinez Church of Christ took over the oversight of this ministry under the direction of Earnest Hillman, then Boyce Mclain and John Swerdan joined the management team as Co-Directors.
In 1979 Opportunity Camp found new leadership once again when Ed Walters and the Walnut Creek Church of Christ took over the ministry. Ed a recent graduate of Sunset school of preaching approached friend/classmate Robert Parham with a mission opportunity for his youth and the Sunset Church of Christ youth mission team joined forces with the Walnut Creek Church of Christ youth to facilitate the staffing needs at camp and Robert became a Co-Director. The following year, Robert moved to Midland Texas and became the youth minister at the Gulf Club Rd Church of Christ, for the next ten years he continued bringing mission teams to serve through this outreach ministry. Ken Cheda joined the management team in 1982 as Director of Operations and in 1994 became the Executive Director.
The History of Opportunity Camp
In 1996 Ken built a management team of committed individuals who share the same passion of Service, Commitment and Ministry by adding Mark Baldwin, Camper Relations Coordinator, Lance Friis, Personnel Coordinator and Kevin Taylor, Camp Operations/Transportation Coordinator. In 1998 Ken Hensley became the Spiritual Development Coordinator, in 2001 Michele Johnson Camper Development Coordinator and Anna Rouse Administrative Coordinator, In 2006 Tony Simeone joined the management team as the Financial Development Coordinator. The entire staff and board of directors are unpaid volunteers. Funding for camp is provided through fundraisers, Grants and many individual donations.
Opportunity Camp has been in continuous operation for the past 37 years, offering a safe camping experience for the underprivileged children of Contra Costa County, California. The first Camp was held in 1970 and has been operating continuously ever since. Since then, this special program has spread to additional states hosting several camps. The entire staff and board of directors are unpaid volunteers. Funding for camp is provided through fundraisers, Grants and many individual donations.
Gulf club Road Church of Christ served at our camp from 1980 – 1992 then hosted its first camp in 1992. They began a non-profit organization called Unlock Ministries in 2002, Since 2009, Ben Wall has served as Executive Director of the Fort Worth camp near Merkel TX.
In 2006 The Southside Church of Christ in Mineral Wells lead by Youth Minister Jackie Qualls took a mission trip to California and participated in Opportunity Camp in Felton, California. The California Management team returned the following year to Mineral Wells and trained staff and church leaders to host a camp serving the local Mineral Wells community, thus the third Opportunity Camp was established in Whitney, Texas.
Whitney Texas Opportunity Camp is funded and run by Southside Church of Christ in Mineral Wells. It serves children (grades 3-6) of the town who want to go to camp and who are selected by their schools as being disadvantaged children with less-than satisfactory home lives. Daily camp activities included singing, swimming, tree-swinging/zip line, crafts, recreation time, nightly talent shows and forest walks. For many of these kids it is the best five days of their year.
In 2010, the Baker Heights CoC in Abilene, joined hands serving at the Whitney Texas Opportunity Camp. Camp Director Jackie Qualls stated we are happy to report "after serving for three years, Baker height's Church of Christ has decided to launch out to begin their own Op Camp starting this summer. We trained them, gave them everything they needed and sent them out after this Summer's camp with a blessing ". As they launched out we picked up another church, 4th and Elm CoC, that have the same vision and situation as Mineral Wells did in 2006. We will train them, give them everything they need to succeed and send them out on their own in a couple of years. " Qualls reported to Director Ken Cheda "It never ceases to amaze me how God has used you and many others in California to bless so many other children"!
Opportunity Camp represents a unique partnership of government, business, Church and community leaders dedicated to serving the disadvantaged children of Contra Costa County.
Contra Costa County VESTIA Program
Opportunity Camp works directly with the Contra Costa County Department of Social Services (VESTIA Program) VESTIA provides services and goods to low-income and underprivileged families, foster children, and adults when assistance is not available from other sources. Much of the work VESTIA does is focused on children and families with children.?
VESTIA works closely with Contra Costa County's Employment and Human Services Department. (Social Services) For 20 years, VESTIA has provided a conduit to focus the desire, energy, and resources of local citizens and businesses to make a positive difference in our community.?
At Opportunity Camp ~ No camper is discriminated against on the basis of race, color, age, sex, belief, national origin, or handicap.
For information regarding Central/East/West County,VESTIA please contact:
Volunteer and Emergency Services
400 Ellinwood Way
Pleasant Hill, CA 94523
Since it's founding in 1969, Opportunity Camp has worked closely with the Church of Christ. Opportunity Camp is staffed annually by over 130 volunteers, many of whom are Christians from the Church of Christ. Our volunteers come from across the United States to serve the children through this program. These churches include:
San Leandro Church of Christ, San Leandro CA.
Martinez Church of Christ, Martinez CA.
Walnut Creek Church of Christ, Walnut Creek CA.
Sunset Church of Christ, Lubbock TX
Golf Club Rd Church of Christ, Midland TX
Church of Christ, Abilene TX
Woodland West Church of Christ, Arlington TX
Broadway Church of Christ, Lubbock TX
Mineral Wells Church of Christ, Mineral Wells TX
Davis Park Church of Christ, Modesto CA.
Eastside Church of Christ, Antioch CA.
Tri Valley Church of Christ, Livermore CA.
Opportunity Camp is fortunate to receive the help and support of numerous business leaders in Contra Costa County and nationwide. The following companies made financial pledges to our program through Grants, employee match programs and employee pledge opportunities.