This summer once again youth associated with the United Methodist Church descended upon Fairfield County to repair homes as part of camp Salkehatchie.
The 230 Salkehatchie campers and the adult leaders have made this into one of, if not the largest, Salkehatchie Camps in South Carolina.
All the youth receive safety training prior to working on the camp site. They are made familiar with ladder safety and power tools safety. There are college-aged and adult staff at every site to supervise, but the majority of the work is done by the youth who volunteer this week of their summer vacation.
The goal is to make the home safe, warm and dry. If time permits on a job site, the volunteers may to painting indoors as well, but often at these homes they wind up leaving painting supplies for homeowners to do that at a later time.
The one requirement for Salkehatchie to help a home is that the person own their home.
This is the second year that Frank Gravely and his wife, Dee, have served as camp directors. Long time director Bill Brown, a 25-year veteran of Salkehatchie, decided that God was calling him to develop more camps throughout the state. When he stepped aside to perform that ministry, the Gravely’s stepped up to continue the camp that had grown from around 40 campers to the 230 campers they have today.
This year 17 sites were selected from a pool of 52 sites. The sites were chosen using a need-based system.
Providing a hand up to willing workers, Mary Daniels learned of Salkehatchie from neighbors.
The group worked extra hard to make sure she, her husband who is disabled and her daughter and three children could continue living in their home while it was being rebuilt.
The crew blocked off doors that led to rooms where a floor had been ripped out and also put in temporary plywood sub-flooring for the family to live on between their work sessions. Daniels was concerned about the safety of her home, particularly for her grandchildren’s sake.
Since she retired from the Department of Mental Health in 2006, she has lived on a fixed income that did not allow her to repair her house.
“I am doing what I have to do (for my husband who retired on disability in 1992) thank the Lord. I thank the Lord for Salkehatchie,” she said. “These people do a wonderful job and without them I probably never would have gotten my house fixed.It is a blessing to have people care about other people.”
She was raised in this home and returned to live here in 2008 after her father passed away.
Assisting an octogenarian, Sam Walker was born and raised in Fairfield County. He retired several years ago and now works at the county recycling center.
At his age of 81, his house got to be too much for him to keep up with, particularly repairs involving the roof.
A 60 year worker at the Winnsboro Plywood Company, Walker was thankful that the Salkehatchie workers could spend time applying plywood, paint, and roofing to his home. The home needed repairs to its bathroom, kitchen, plumbing and doors as well as a new tin roof section.
Lending a hand to a grandmother on a fixed income at Marion Bowick’s house, the Salkehatchie volunteers received a lot of family support. Her husband, Kenny, worked side by side with them, as did her brother. Marion Bowick learned of Salkehatchie from a friend who had them work on her Fairfield Street home a year earlier.
When Bowick realized the quality of the craftsmanship and the loving interaction that the volunteers brought with them to the sites, she contacted Bobby Rutland and her home was added to a potential list.
The tough economy meant she and her husband were unable to keep up with repairs on the home that she has lived in 35 years.
It needed repairs to the siding, roof, kitchen, bathroom and hallway.
Bowick has eight grandchildren, six of whom still live in Fairfield County and she has lived 59 years in Winnsboro.
“I have so enjoyed having them here, she said. I have wanted for years to get this house fixed up. Thank the Lord they came by to work on my house,” Marion Bowick said.
This home shows that the sites chosen often are people who are hard working and want a hand up rather a hand out.
“We have gotten huge support from the family here. Everyone has pulled their weight and the crew has been really resourceful. The residents are pitching in rather than wanting a handout. Bowick’s grandchildren also ran errands on the job site,” said site leader David Leeke. “I think the Salkehatchie choice of home often is someone who wants to do for themselves but just needs a little extra help.”
He said the relationship becomes like a family on site, something of a challenge for a site with workers from North Carolina, Michigan, Georgia and South Carolina.
Yet he said they have learned together and been willing to help each other. Everyone at camp wears Salkehatchie and is thankful for Fairfield Central High School opening its facility to provide housing for the youth.
Many of the youth come back year after year to Fairfield’s Salkehatchie camp.
Alyssa Morren has worked the camp since 2003. She comes from Fort Mill and makes sure to sign up for the Fairfield camp each year.
“It’s like a family. I look forward to seeing these people all year,” Morren said.
Teens said they loved the food that is prepared by areas churches and civic groups.
According to coordinator Dee Gravely, one year the volunteers learned that a teen who worked at the camp lived in a home that was in need of help. The camp leaders arranged for a surprise crew to go to that youth’s home and make repairs while he or she was away working on other houses.
“This is God’s camp. He is the center of it all day every day and that is one big reason for the success we have had here,” said co-camp director Dee Gravely.
She remarked how well the community supported the camp, including the work of the police and school resource officers to provide not only security but help carry water to sites and make themselves available for logistical support.
Dee Gravely said that people see a need for the camp and they just step up and fill it, something that is rare for a volunteer organization and a tribute to the Fairfield community.
“As Christians we are all supposed to see a need and fill it no matter how big or small,” she said.