Fort Mill Times

Salkehatchie volunteers sing praises with hammers, nails

For Rozetta Douglas, it was a miracle.

Her mobile home on Fairmont Street in Clover was badly in need of repairs. The particle board flooring was rotted and falling in, and there were holes in some of the walls. Her washing machine and a sink had almost fallen through the floor.

Enter a dozen youth and adult volunteers with Salkehatchie, a summer youth ministry of the South Carolina United Methodist Church. They spent a week in Douglas’ home last week, fixing the problems to make the home habitable.

“It’s going to make me feel better about my life and my health,” said Douglas, 60. “I had given up on everything, my life, until I met these wonderful people here.”

In Salkehatchie, high school and college-age youths with adult leaders spend one week at a camp away from their homes, upgrading housing for needy families and reaching out with friendship and spirituality to the families and one another.

The Clover Salkehatchie group was sponsored for the fifth year by Clover’s First United Methodist Church, where volunteers stay for the week.

Jarred Sareault, 15, of Spartanburg County, one of several first-year volunteers with the Clover project, said it has given him a new perspective.

“I’ve learned to be thankful for what I have and to be content with what I have,” he said.

Maria Blanchette, 17, of Irmo, was another first-timer. Blanchette, who said she wants to become a pediatrician missionary, views the mission as a life-changing experience.

“How many times do you get to stop for a week and pour out your heart to something you know will help a person that really needs it?” she asked. “And be able to do it with people you love.”

Donnie Hipp of Saluda, site manager for the Clover project, has worked with Salkehatchie for 13 years. He said the group visited 13 houses in the Clover area to choose one for this year’s project.

“It’s hard to pick the houses,” said Hipp, who noted that all 13 homes needed work such as roofing, electrical repairs and plumbing. “Just the humbleness of this lady made us pick this house.”

In the past, he said, the Clover project has done two homes, but it had fewer volunteers this year because a Lancaster group that has participated in the past did not attend this year.

Hipp said the group planned to replace all the damaged particle board flooring with plywood, add a new kitchen sink and some new kitchen cabinets and build a deck and ramp for Douglas’ cancer-stricken mother, so she can visit the home. They also planned to put a sealant on the roof, he said, and paint interior walls.

Kaitlyn Pless, a 19-year-old from Calhoun Falls who has been participating in the project since she was 14, said this year’s project has a lot of first-timers, but they’re all pitching in to work.

“It’s so worth it,” Pless said of the mission. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s all about perspective. It changes your vision on so many different aspects of your life.”

First-timer Madison Barrett, 16, said she decided to attend this year because her mother, Pam Inman, was a volunteer last year.

“She was so blessed and happy, and she couldn’t stop talking about it, and I wanted to be like that,” said Barrett. This year, both Inman and her daughter are volunteers.

Barrett said she had been reluctant to volunteer last year, but her experience has changed that. Now, Barrett said she’s eager to participate in an overseas mission.

“When you realize what a blessing it is to the homeowner, it lessens the work,” she said.