Circle Pines Center

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Circle Pines Center

Circle Pines Center is a member-owned and run non-profit cooperative organization. We run a children's summer camp and year round retreat and conference center with programs for families, children and adults. The co-op owns 294 acres of land with rolling hills, hardwood and pine forests, meadows and frontage on Stewart Lake. We have miles of trails for hiking and cross-country skiing, diverse wildlife and an organic garden and orchard.

The mission of Circle Pines is to teach peace, social justice, environmental stewardship and cooperation. The Center aims to demonstrate cooperative alternatives for economic and social issues and to teach cooperation as a way of life.

Circle Pines Center is located in Southwest Michigan, about halfway between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, in Barry County.[1]


The History of Circle Pines Center began with the Central States Cooperative League, which met at the Ashland Folk School (1882-1938) of Grant, Michigan. The school offered a meeting place for people to attend conferences, retreats, and institutes on economic reform, peace education, and the growing cooperative movement. The summer school program at Ashland drew people from all cooperative sectors, who shared vital information about "strengthening their co-ops, building the movement, and creating a better world. Families also went there, to play together and to find joy and purpose in cooperative recreation."

In 1938 the state Fire Marshall condemned the folk school building, so Chief Noonday Camp was rented to continue the programs. The Central States Cooperative League took over the operation of the summer school when the move was made, and the group set about looking for a permanent site for the new cooperative. They wanted to ensure that there would always be a place for cooperators to gather. In 1940 the Stewart Farm was purchased.

A Quaker work camp helped to ready the site that first summer, and the next year people were able to gather at their own cooperatively-governed Center. The purpose they constructed there; to become a center for cooperative culture to carry out education through demonstration, hasn't changed. The mission today is what it was then, to show the "superior advantages of cooperation as a way of life."

In the 40's and 50's, Circle Pines flourished as a folk school and family camp. Blues musician, Big Bill Broonzy, was on summer staff when Pete Seeger came to visit in 1957. Soon there was the turbulence of the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam era anti-nuclear peace movement in the 60's and 70's. CPC'ers were involved, some as activists, some as observers, some even as veterans, but all were concerned. The following period has seen an acceleration of the ongoing interest of the CPC community in the environment while strengthening links with the movement for natural foods and organic gardening.

As the twin pines surrounded by a circle represent the ever-lasting, enduring qualities of mutual cooperation, so does Circle Pines Center endure and thrive despite all obstacles.

People of different ideologies and religious beliefs are able to find common ground and work together for their mutual benefit in a non-judgmental environment where the dignity and worth of each individual is respected and valued. Today's Circle Piners are active in many social, educational and political activities and are still creating the history of the Center.[2]


2010-2011 board;[3]

DSA connection

In 2007 the Greater Detroit Democratic Socialists of America offered a free two-week campership to Circle Pines Center. The recipients of the campership must be son, daughter, grandson or granddaughter of a Michigan family involved in the movement for peace, ecology or social justice. The campership is given in honor of Maryann Mahaffey, a beloved member of the Detroit City Council, who was a member of DSA.[4]

Circle Pines Center is a non-profit cooperative summer camp and recreation center in western Michigan (25 miles north of Kalamazoo). Since the late 1930s, this center has attracted people looking for a place that reflects their values and commitments to movement for civil rights, peace, ecology, and social justice. This is also a great place for kids to have fun and learn. This summer CPC is offering Ecology Camp from June 24 to July 7, Peace Camp from July 8-July 21 and Arts Camp from July 22 to August 4 for ages 7-18.

Greater Detroit Democratic Socialists of America member Dick Olson was involved with the Center.