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After his first trip on a Salkehatchie summer mission trip three years ago, Logan Plyler began to understand why so many volunteers want to go back year after year.
“You’re kind of like a family,” said the 16-year-old Lancaster youth, who last week participated in a Salkehatchie mission for the third year. “Once you go, you’re kind of addicted to it. You can’t just do it once.”
Logan was one of about 35 youth and adults who worked on two Western York County Salkehatchie mission sites last week — one in rural York and a second in Sharon. The local project was sponsored for the third year by First United Methodist Church in Clover.
Salkehatchie is a summer ministry of the South Carolina United Methodist Church. High school and college-age youths and adult leaders spend a week at a camp site away from their homes, upgrading housing for needy families and reaching out to the families and one another in friendship and spiritual growth.
Madison Harper, 16, of Lancaster, said this is her first year on a Salkehatchie mission, and she has enjoyed it a lot. “I get to do things I’ve never done before, like shingling a roof,” she said.
Like most of the first-timers, she didn’t have any construction or repair experience, but she learned quickly. “They showed me,” she said about adult leaders, “and I’d kind of catch on.”
Lancaster resident Matthew Barnes, 17, another first-timer at Salkehatchie, agreed. “I”ve done a lot of things for the first time. I put up insulation today. Yesterday, I wired an outlet,” he said.
Cathey Tate, 59, who owns the ranch home on Dr. Nichols Road near York where one group of Salkehatchie volunteers was working, said her parents built the home and passed it on to her when they died. But she hasn’t been able to afford upkeep the last few years.
Tate, who has been living in York with her daughter, said she wanted to move back into the home, but the condition of the house had badly deteriorated and it needed a lot of work.
“I”ve taken care of everybody else in my lifetime,” said Tate, who served as a caregiver for her mother, who died in 2006. “When it come my time, I didn’t have anything left.”
Tate said she is greatly appreciative for the help of volunteers.
She said God “sent his angels out to see about me. It means the world to me. It’s just like new doors opening up. My faith has been broadened, knowing that God will, and can.”
During the week, volunteers replaced the roof and remodeled one of the bathrooms. They’ve torn out walls and put in insulation and sheetrock. New siding is also part of the project.
“The day it’s done, I will be moving in,” Tate said.
Evelyn Cameron, director of the Clover-area camp, said she got started with Salkehatchie in 1996, when she went on the first mission trip with her daughter to a camp site in the Camden area.
She’s been involved every year since then except one, when she had a family wedding, she said.
“The Salkehatchie bug bit me,” Cameron said. “I went and I went, and I thought, I have got people in my own backyard that need help, and yet I’m going elsewhere. It really weighted heavy.”
Cameron said she asked her church, Clover’s First United Methodist, to host a Clover-area Salkehatchie camp and the church agreed. After three years, she said, the project is gaining momentum.
Groups with more skilled volunteers can take on more complex projects, she said, because the aim is for adult leaders to teach youth how to do the work. “The more skilled your adult volunteers are, the more skills the youth can learn. And it is about the youth.”
Cameron said the host church finds work sites in the area for volunteers to rehabilitate. The sites must be owner-occupied homes, not rentals, she said. The host church also provides accomodations and food for volunteers.
Jay Robinson, 21, of Lancaster, who is on his second Salkehatchie mission trip, said he started going because friends were involved. “I decided it was fun, helping people learn how to fix up places.”
Logan said many Salkehatchie volunteers find that one mission experience is not enough. “You just get closer to God, and you’re learning and you’re having fun, all at the same time.”
For more about Salkehatchie, call First United Methodist Church in Clover at 803-222-3496.