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Camp Salkiehatchie shows love through hard work

Posted: July 9, 2018 4:45 p.m.
Updated: July 10, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Jim Tatum/C-I

Volunteers work to repair the porch on a house near the Antioch community in Kershaw County. Besides the porch, the volunteers would paint, replace windows and siding, repair plumbing, roofing, and kitchen and bathroom floors. The volunteers spent a week working on five houses located throughout Kershaw County.

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Lyttleton Street United Methodist Church’s Salkiehatchie-Wateree Camp returned this summer for another week of fun, fellowship and community service.

Around 60 youth volunteers and their adult supervisors recently worked doing major repairs on homes around Kershaw County. Repairs were intensive -- floor and roof repairs and replacement, shoring up timbers, frames and joists, replacing windows, even in-depth electrical and plumbing projects were all on the punch list. While many of the volunteers have never so much as held a hammer in their lives, they are teamed with more experienced people and are supervised by experienced adults. For some of the more complicated projects, community volunteers such as Chuck Horton, owner of Red’s Electric, step in to do those projects that require a licensed contractor to complete as well as ensure less complicated aspects of the work is properly and safely done.

The volunteers range in age from early teens to 80s and in construction experience from zero to career occupation.  For example, Jake Cooper, who started volunteering with the program when he was 15 years old, says he became a contractor because of his experience in Camp Salkiehatchie. Now nearly 20 years later, he not only owns a successful contracting firm, but serves every year as an adult site supervisor.

Another site supervisor noted how he is continually impressed by the work ethic, engagement, and sheer enthusiasm of the volunteers.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a more interested and enthusiastic group,” he said. “It’s incredible the way they come together to get these jobs done.”

For those who participate in the camp, the week spent doing construction work -- often during some of the hottest days of the South Carolina summer -- is about far more than just physical labor and sweat. It’s a way to connect with each other, with the community, with the better sides of themselves, and with the love of God, program volunteer and co-director Dennis Turner said.

In many ways, the whole Salkiehatchie group becomes a family, he noted.

“In some cases, we literally have family participants  -- people who get involved because a sibling or a cousin or a parent was involved. But the whole experience brings everyone together with a truly unique and special bond.”

Salkiehatchie-Wateree camp was founded in 1990 in Kershaw County by Richard and Sarah Hagin, is part of the statewide Salkiehatchie annual summer service mission coordinated through the S.C. United Methodist Church.

Salkiehatchie-Wateree, which serves the Kershaw County area, is coordinated through Lyttleton Street United Methodist Church. The church organizes volunteers, many of whom are youth from other parts of the state -- and the country -- to do the work. The volunteers undergo thorough training classes on safety as well as tools and techniques before they ever arrive on a work site and like any other job, they take on more responsibility and perform more complicated work as they gain experience. There are at minimum two adult volunteers at each job site; most of the work crews consist of between 15-20 youth volunteers and their adult mentors.

The ministry is also supported by the communities in which it is conducted, Salkiehatchie coordinators noted. Here in Camden, the community has been very supportive, from businesses such as Haier, Camden Builders Supply, Duke Power, and Lowes to area churches, organizations and individuals who provide meals and other services, to individuals who donate, according to camp leaders.

Richard Hagin retired as the chair of the Kershaw County Salkiehatchie Camp in 2015; this year the effort was led by Turner, Amy Pope, Ellen Smith and Hagin.

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