Salkehatchie volunteers build friendships while repairing houses

cwest@heraldonline.comJuly 17, 2013 

— This week the yard of a house on West Black Street in Rock Hill is bustling with energetic young workers who shovel debris, cut wood and hammer nails.

The house is getting a new roof, a new kitchen floor, and, if there’s time, a repaired porch.

It’s one of six construction sites around Rock Hill where volunteers with Salkehatchie Summer Service aim to improve housing and build friendships.

Salkehatchie camps consist primarily of young people from the South Carolina United Methodist Conference. There are more than 50 camps like the one in Rock Hill held throughout the state this summer.

Teens from across the state arrived in Rock Hill on Saturday. They are spending nights and eating meals at India Hook Methodist Church. Each morning, they wake up at 5:30, have a quick breakfast and head off to their sites to work.

During their week, they are making big improvements for a lot of people in need.

“Some people don’t realize. They think we’re just kids, we’re really not going to do anything, and it really surprises them what we do,” said Megan Maney, 18, who is participating in Salkehatchie for the fifth time.

The campers’ week began and will end with a tour of all the worksites.

“The first day we do a tour of all the homes,” Maney said. “Everybody loads up in buses and cars and rides around. On the last day, we do the exact same thing to see what all improvements have been made.”

It’s seeing the transformations of the homes and the reactions of the people who live in them that makes the week of hard work and early mornings worth it, Maney said.

“You see the expressions on the people’s faces. I’ve had people crying they were so happy,” she said.

John Fanning, 14, who is participating in Salkehatchie for the first time is looking forward to Saturday’s final tour as well, especially since he has seen volunteers from other worksites covered in paint in the evenings.

“I definitely think there are probably going to be a lot of changes,” he said.

“I think it’s pretty fun because we’re helping people,” Fanning said. “I want to come back next year.”

Volunteers know Salkehatchie helps people in more ways than just the home improvement.

“It’s about working on homes, but it’s not all about working on homes,” said Chuck Hailey, director of the Rock Hill camp.

When the teens leave after their final tour Saturday, they’ll take with them not only the joy of having positively impacted people who needed help, but also lessons learned and new friendships with their fellow volunteers.

“If I didn’t have my friends here, we’d all be in really bad shape,” Maney said. “You really need people here.”

She said before Salkehatchie she never wanted help from anybody. She had a “just back off and let me do it” kind of attitude.

“You can’t do that here,” she said. “The heat alone will get to you. You really have to depend on people.”

“It’s a friendship that stays.”

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Chandler West •  803-329-4033

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