A Sampit resident, whose home was in desperate need of repair, recently received a week’s worth of renovation through the Salkehatchie Summer Service program.
“It was in rough shape,” said Benjamin White, the homeowner. “They’ve done a little bit of everything.”
White’s home was chosen as one of several local projects for Salkehatchie this year and was transformed over the course of seven days with the help of teenagers and church leaders from across the state who worked through rain and heat last week as part of their summer camp experience.
Ben Gustaffson was the site leader for this particular camp and said a few of the repairs consisted of replacing fascia, installing new carpet, reflooring the bathroom, painting the exterior and installing a new freezer. It is his ninth year participating in Salkehatchie and his second as a site leader.
“It’s been a lot of work,” Gustaffson said. “But it’s been a lot of fun, too.”
Participants pay $250 to be part of Salkehatchie. The money covers materials used to repair the homes, Gustaffson said. The work done by the campers is extraordinary considering some of the kids have never swung a hammer.
“It is trying and incredible,” Gustaffson said. “Things get done in a week with folks with no experience.”
Camp participants said they were glad to spend part of their summer helping others.
Charlotte Sellers of Dillon explained why she chose to lay carpet and paint the exterior of a stranger’s home in the heat of June.
“I like to give back. I want to bless others,” Sellers said. “It’s really rewarding.”
Her sentiments echo that of Gustaffson, who said Salkehatchie is more than just fixing homes for people in need. In addition to addressing the issues of the home, their work also consists of addressing the spirits of the people they interact with through ministry.
“We try to love these people as best we can,” Gustafson said. “We are the literal hands and feet of Christ. That’s why we’re here.”
It is not just the campers who are part of this humanitarian effort, though. Local churches provide resources for the camp as well.
Duncan United Methodist Church serves as the regular base camp for the group every year and provides sleeping quarters in their building. Church volunteers arrive every morning at 4:30 to serve breakfast before the kids head off to work around 6:30 a.m. Their church building housed about 55 campers this year.
“It is part of our mission work,” said Rev. Dr. Dora Gafford, pastor of Duncan UMC. “We are delighted to be able to do this for the Salkehatchie team. It is a privilege to serve in this way.”
Additionally, other local churches work to provide food and service to the campers. Churches within and outside of the United Methodist Church come to Duncan United Methodist every evening to prepare and serve dinner to campers during the week-long program. Others provide lunch. Just about everything surrounding Salkehatchie Summer Service is donation based and driven by churches.
“In addition to providing housing and breakfast we certainly lift them in prayer for their safety and their work,” Rev. Gafford said. “[We’re] praying not only for the houses they will be working on and for their safety but for the hearts of those families they work for to be touched.”
The Georgetown camp that renovated White’s home was just one of several camps operating across the state simultaneously. Nearly 50 of these camps are scheduled to operate over the summer.
Sellers said this Georgetown camp is the first of two in which she plans to participate this summer. Despite working so hard that she fell asleep while cutting carpet, she said the experience is not only rewarding but also fun. She offered advice for other teens who might be interested in participating in Salkehatchie in the future.
“Know what you’re getting into,” Sellers said. “It’s a lot of work. Be prepared.”
According to their website, Salkehatchie updates about 200 homes and spends about $1 million in project supplies every summer. Since the inception of Salkehatchie in 1978, over 6,000 families have received assistance and 63,000 campers have participated in service projects.
The Salkehatchie name is taken from South Carolina’s Salkehatchie River, which flows through areas where many of the service camps take place in counties such as Allendale and Hampton.
For more information visit www.salkehatchie.org.