Fort Mill Times

Salkehatchie Service returns to help Fort Mill area homeowners

Tim Turbeville (right) directing campers on the complete replacement of a floor.
Tim Turbeville (right) directing campers on the complete replacement of a floor.

A Christian outreach that improves the homes of people in Indian Land and Fort Mill for no cost is now accepting applications for this summer.

Salkehatchie Summer Service is run by the South Carolina United Methodist Conference. It's a decades-old program where students as young as 14-years-old have the chance to work with adults to make crucial repairs and upgrades to homes of people who can't do the work themselves for either physical or financial reasons.

“A lot of the times the homeowners are people who are elderly who can't get out and do the work or afford to have it fixed,” said Tony Carnes, director of the Catawba Salkehatchie Camp.

The Catawba camp is run out of Pleasant Hill United Methodist Church on Fort Mill Highway in Indian Land. Seventy five students and adult participants will stay at the church the week of June 18-25. Carnes has been the director there since 2006. This year he's hoping camp participants will once again be able to complete work on six different homes within Indian Land, Fort Mill and surrounding areas.

The requirements aren't complicated. The homeowner or a relative who lives in the home rent-free needs to apply. The home has to be in a safe, crime-free, drug-free and hazard-free area. Carnes said he knows there are homeowners out there that really need a helping hand, and there's a benefit to the students who participate as well.

“They learn that the people living there aren't that much different from them; that's just their reality,” Carnes said.

They'll spend the week working along skilled adults completing projects like repairing roofs, painting and plumbing. The other 51 weeks out of the year, Carnes works in the IT industry. Most adults who volunteer at the camp are similar – they aren't contractors. But each of them have a range of knowledge that allows them to not only repair the homes, but teach the students about skilled labor, which can turn into lifelong skills and experience.

The ideal home has enough work to keep the group of up to 14 people busy for an entire week. Last year a group worked at the Fort Mill home of Brenda Greene. She had a variety of projects that needed to be completed. The group made repairs to her floors, ceiling and painted walls and installed downspouts.

“I call it my makeover,” Greene said, “They did a wonderful job.”

Participants even put up a swing on her front porch. She said she felt very blessed by the whole experience.

“I felt like I was a queen sitting on the throne and they were doing all the work,” she said, “They wouldn't let me do anything. I felt like Queen Brenda.”

Some homes, like Greene's, just need basic repairs. Sometimes, the group can't finish the work in one year. Carnes said one of the Catawba Camp's most extreme worksites was the home of a man whose roof had collapsed on part of his house.

“The man living there lived under one part and the rest had caved in to the floor,” Carnes said.

That home was worked on over two separate years.

“The first year we replaced the whole roof and the next year we repaired the walls and subfloor,” Carnes said.

Another home had been in disrepair for more than two decades.

“We worked on a home two years ago that the roof had been damaged by (Hurricane) Hugo and had never been repaired adequately,” said Carnes.

Funding for the weeklong mission project comes from a variety of sources. Participants pay a registration fee to help defray the costs of materials. Some building materials are donated and participant meals are prepared for free by partner congregations within the community. Pleasant Hill United Methodist Church is also sponsoring a chili cook-off to raise funds for this year's camp.

Information about Catawba Salkehatchie Camp as well as the chili cookoff can be found at pleasanthillmethodist.org. To apply for this year's Salkehatchie program, call the church office at 803-548-4922. Carnes said the deadline to call is mid-April.

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