In the last 100 years, it has served as a place to help Wichita babies get healthy, also, a camp for Girl Scout sleep-over.
Now, a dedicated group of volunteers from the Friends of the Historic Fresh Air Baby Camp have spent the last seven years on a crusade to restore the building to its former glory.
Claire Willenberg and her fellow volunteers are trying to finish the building. They call it an homage to Wichita’s past.
“But, that’s really what hooked me. It’s a tribute to the history of volunteering in Wichita and concerned public spiritedness,” said Willenberg.
To understand why these volunteers are so dedicated, you have to go back to to 1920 when the building was a place to improve the health of local babies.
“It was also an educational experience for the parents of babies. The families were encouraged to come to learn more about sanitation, pasteurize milk, keep the flies out of the house,” said Willenberg.
Then, in 1926 the Girl Scouts took over the building after the baby camp was moved to Wesley Hospital. It became the Girl Scout little house.
In the 1950’s, volunteer Janice Bailey camped out in the building in her sleeping bag roasting smores with friends. That’s why the project is important to her.
“That’s why I got involved with it because, I had such wonderful memories of being here as a Girl Scout. We believe that we need to preserve our architectural history as well as other types of history and this was a building worth saving,” said Bailey.
Windows, floors, doors, and more need to be fixed up inside and outside the house. Fortunately, volunteer Barbara Hammond says local organizations have donated a ton of supplies and labor.
“We’ve put so much time and energy into it. A lot of people have helped us and we want to see it finished. So, it can be used again,” said Hammond.
The building is recognized as an historic spot. The group isn’t sure how long it will take to finish the project. Regardless, volunteers like Claire Willenberg say they won’t quit until the job is done.
“Just a tremendous group of volunteers. It’s not me it’s a whole group,” said Willenberg.
The group hopes one day the Fresh Air Baby Camp building will be used as a public venue for weddings, parties, and other social gatherings.
If you know of a Hometown Hero, we would love to hear about them. Send you nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.