Salkehatchie a ‘Godsend’

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Campers turn repairs at six homes into mission

by Denise Johnston/for Carolina Gateway
Indian Land resident Carrie Greer’s front yard was completely overgrown, her roof covered with debris, and her front porch buried in rotting firewood that she no longer needed.
Greer had back surgery two years ago and is due for a knee replacement soon, so she couldn’t do the work herself. A team of Catawba Salkehatchie campers made quick work of the chores and then moved on to painting and plumbing in her house.
Greer’s home was one of six Panhandle houses that received much-needed repairs and upgrades June 19-23, thanks to 65 committed volunteers. Four of the homes were all on the same street in Van Wyck, and the other two in Indian Land.
Volunteers, ages 14 and up from Methodist churches across the state, pay to participate in these camps that seek to show the love of Christ by reaching out to those in need and performing home repairs. The participation fees cover all the costs of the materials and the repairs are done at no cost to the homeowner. Local Methodist congregations provide meals for the campers and come together for praise and worship in the evenings.
Greer described this ministry “as a godsend; an amazing, awesome program that teaches kids how to help people who can’t help themselves.”
Or as new supervisor Jodi Livingston said, “This experience enables you to let go of yourself for the benefit of someone else.”
The theme of Catawba Salkehatchie’s 20th camp was “Broken Things,” based on a Matthew West song. Through devotions every morning with the homeowners, participants discovered the truth that “coming together brings wholeness,” said Caitlin Shuppy of Myrtle Beach.
Doug Vining, 65, also from Myrtle Beach, his face alight with joy, said he “looks forward to the camp every year. It mystifies my wife. Returning each year is like a family reunion.”
Hunter Kennedy, 22, a general contractor from St. George, agreed. “Building these family-type relationships with the other campers and homeowners in just one week can change your whole life,” he said. He enjoys teaching young campers how to use power tools and tape measures. He also loves seeing the before and after contrasts of the homes the campers worked so hard on.
“Being a difference maker” is the goal Chris Davis, assistant camp director, strives for daily. He and his team, which included his daughter Ashley, worked on a Van Wyck home owned by Teresa Bryant. Bryant was fortunate to have a group of campers work on her home in 2013 too. This time they replaced her living room floor and installed new kitchen countertops and a sink.
“I am grateful for the help and blessed by believers coming together to help each other,” she said.
First-time camper Courtney Lee, 15, of Summerville, encouraged by friends to sign up this year, was excited to learn how to use power tools. Davis was eager for his daughter Ashley to gain this type of experience as well.
“We are teaching valuable skills for these kids’ futures, helping them understand the physics and mechanics of home repair,” he said. Davis chuckled as he said these abilities “might even save Ashley some money on her own home one day.”
The camps do make a difference in the lives of both the campers and the homeowners.
“Over the past 20 years, we have helped more than 115 homeowners with repairs,” said Catawba Camp Director Tony Carnes of Belair UMC.
“The most impactful thing for me is to watch our young people grow from 14-year-old kids to strong adults,” he said. “This year, we had several campers, who started attending Salkehatchie when they were 14, assume leadership roles at the home sites where they were assigned to work.”
Jo Anna Eason, a new adult supervisor from Summerville, summed up the Salkehatchie camps this way: “You don’t have to go very far to find those struggling who can use support and assistance.
“These camps take kids out of their comfort zones, but not so far out that they can’t easily see the relationship to their own area.”