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It’s 10:15 a.m. June 20 and the heat is already dancing restless above the roof of Angie Smith’s doublewide home in Indian Land.
Inside, where it’s still hot even with both front and back doors open, a group of teens and a few adults are busy painting walls, sweat pouring off their foreheads, while others busy themselves outside with other projects.
In the three days the group’s been there, they’ve already shored up the front porch and stairs, spot-patched the floors and walls, fixed trim and water damage to the ceiling, secured the underpinning and refurbished a storage building.
They’ll have finished the rest of the list by Friday.
While others are enjoying the first day of summer chilling out in swimming pools or on vacation somewhere else, these folks are actually enjoying all the hot, hard work.
Because they’re participants in Catawba Salkehatchie Summer Service, a ministry of the S.C. United Methodist Conference – and they’re doing house repairs for the Lord.
“It gives me something useful to do,” said second-year Salkehatchie veteran Jacob Crews, 15, of Yanceyville, N.C. “And it gives you a chance to come and meet people like Mrs. Angie here, who’s had some trouble.
“I knew it would be hot some, but worth it,” he said. “It gives you a chance to help; gives them some hope and let’s the Lord’s light shine on them.”
Now in its 35th year, the Salkehatchie ministry recruits thousands of teens and adult volunteer/mentors statewide each summer who pay for the privilege of helping repair the homes of those in need.
Based out of Pleasant Hill United Methodist Church in Indian Land, the Catawba Salkehatchie Camp has been doing the same in Lancaster County for 15 years.
Forty-five teens and 34 adults are working on seven homes in Lancaster and York counties this year, four of them in the Panhandle – Smith’s home on Lancaster Estate Road, a home on Van Wyck Road, one on Witherspoon Trail and another on Louis Springs Road.
While the campers, who pay more than $200 apiece to attend, are housed at Pleasant Hill, other local United Methodist churches also provide financial support for materials and feed the campers throughout the week.
The ministry gets the names of those it helps from a variety of sources ranging from word of mouth to programs like Meals on Wheels, the school system to notices run in the newspaper.
The group found out about Smith’s needs through one of the notices.
Smith said she and her daughter, Jennifer, have had a hard time since her husband, Bobby Smith, died on Father’s Day last year in 2011. Beset with severe back problems, arthritis and chronic pain, Smith said she never could get caught up with “all the little things” that needed repair around the house. And so they piled up.
She’d heard about Salkehatchie in the past, and saw the ads earlier this year, she said, but she’d never asked for anything from anybody before, and didn’t plan on it this year until her daughter insisted.
“She said, ‘Mama, you’re never going to be able to do all this,’ so I called them,” Smith said. “They took my information and what all needed to be done. And later they called back and said, ‘OK. We’ll do it.’ They said God led them to this home.”
Carol Ilderton of St. George has worked with Salkehatchie 11 years. Her daughter, Sarah, 19, and Daniel, 15, have been coming with her since they were old enough to attend.
Ilderton said participants in the program become like a second family. She also appreciates the way it teaches teens skills they can use for a lifetime.
She said it’s a good way to get renewed spiritually, to reaffirm their faith by action.
“It’s walking the walk, not just talking the talk,” she said. “I think when the homeowners see the kids, they see God in all they do.”
Brianna Brannigan, 17, of Columbia, agreed. She said when they get back to the church after working all day, she and the others have devotions and then talk about how the day affected them. She said what touches her the most is how the homeowners react.
“It makes you smile,” Brianna said. “It makes you want to sit there and talk to them and see their faces change to a smile.”
Mac McDowell, a Presbyterian minister also from Yanceyville, said the ministry provides an opportunity to show Christ’s love in the communities where it operates.
“What Salkehatchie is is the church connecting with the community in a loving and caring way,” McDowell said. “If we can meet their practical needs, then we have earned the opportunity to help them meet their spiritual needs.”
Smith said she’s amazed by how hard the teens are working, how they just “keep going and going.”
She said you can tell their hearts are in it and that touches her heart.
Smith said Catawba Salkehatchie’s help means she now has peace of mind about her house, knowing that she’ll be able to keep the one she has instead of buying a new one.
“The only way I know how to say it is that I feel blessed,” she said.