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Salkehatchie impacts families and volunteers alike
Salkehatchie - Inside Home
Olivia Giles, a 17-year-old from Fort Mill, works on a bathroom with other volunteers during last week’s Salkehatchie Summer Service program in Kershaw County. - photo by Anna Mock
Members of the Wateree Salkehatchie team gather at Lyttleton Street United Methodist Church during their annual summer service effort to repair homes across the county last week. - photo by Photo by Johnny Deal/Bowtie Photography

Youth and adults worked together on houses last week during Salkehatchie Summer Service to help people in need free of charge.

Since 1991, Salkehatchie is a service organization partnered through the South Carolina Board of Global Ministries and designed for United Methodist Youth in SC, but welcomes all faiths and ages. Salkehatchie works on about five or six homes a year. In addition to South Carolina, volunteers come from Texas, Arkansas, North Carolina and Georgia to work at one of dozens of camps scattered around the state during the weeks of June and July. Last week, 75 campers in Camden got up at 5:45 a.m. every day to do hard work in the summer heat.

The theme of the camp this year is joy, and that’s what Dennis Turner hopes both volunteers and homeowners alike get from this week. For Noah Laye, a 16-year-old from Hanahan, joy is seeing the result of his work help others.

“Our theme this week is joy and that is something I do get out of this camp, but at the end of the week that homeowner’s face when they walk in after it’s all done, that’s what I’m in it for,” Noah said.

Several of the homes that Salkehatchie repairs are in such bad condition that without the needed repairs, they might not have a place to live. The work Salkehatchie does prevents homelessness in a way, Amy Pope said, and she finds that she gets a lot out of the work she does.

“I always get way more out of it than I put in it, though,” Pope said. “We go out to serve others and take the message of Jesus to other people and we always get a bigger blessing.”

Not only does the camp teach teenagers how to use tools and shows them the value of volunteer work, it also greatly helps people in need. Homeowners helped by Salkehatchie are given a renewed outlook on life, Turner said. Until his retirement after 21 years, homeowner Willie Thomas worked for the Kershaw County School District. His building was falling down until Salkehatchie came to help. During all of his years working at KCSD, he had never seen such hard-working kids, Thomas said.

“These people are wonderful. I had no idea there was still some good people in this world, you know what I mean? These are the hardest working young kids I’ve ever seen in my life,” Thomas said. “I’ve never seen such an industrial set of kids in my life. They are great.”

While people of any set of beliefs can come and volunteer, faith plays a vital role in the work volunteers do at Salkehatchie. Turner believes that having a purpose is a basic human need, and most people’s purpose is fulfilled when they are doing something for someone other than themselves. This fulfills the Christian belief of loving one’s neighbor as yourself.

“Christ taught us two great commandments: love your God and love your neighbor as yourself … Everything else falls secondary to those two things. I think that’s what Christ was trying to teach us. There’s a lot of different Christian denominations, but what we all are supposed to have in common is those two things,” Turner said.

Maecy Couch, a 19-year-old, travels all the way to Camden from Little Rock, Ark., every year to see “her people,” the friends she’s made through Salkehatchie, and of course to help others.

“[Salkehatchie] teaches you good work ethic and you get to see a different side of things, people who maybe have less than you, you get to see where they come from and helping others, it brings me joy,” Couch said.

Pope wants people to know that they would be shocked by the conditions of homes of people living just 5 to 10 miles away from their own homes. Pope emphasized how much Salkehatchie appreciates support from the community, local churches and businesses that give them discounts. Salkehatchie is a nonprofit and runs primarily on donations from churches. Salkehatchie is a community effort and it appreciates all the local support involved.

 “Salkehatchie is a camp that can change people’s lives. Everybody in a way is benefitted, because Mr. Willie has an impact on our lives just as much as we have an impact on his,” Couch said.