Here am I, send me!

Youth, skilled adults sought for 2011 Salkehatchie

By Jessica Connor

First-timers are often shocked by what they see: sagging shacks with crumbling roofs, peeling paint and no indoor plumbing. Broken floors, rotting wood, cracked windows. No air conditioning. Maybe no electricity.

This is where people live.

This is someone’s everyday existence.

In an instant, Salkehatchie “newbies” realize deep in their core that there is another world out there–a world where Wii and laptops and shopping malls aren’t relevant, a world where basic survival is top priority.

Salkehatchie Summer Service brings together youth and adult volunteers from all over the state in a servant ministry to repair the homes of needy families. More than 50 service camps dot the state, extending into North Carolina and abroad. Their goal is to unite “the least of these” with volunteers willing to spend a week armed with hammers, paint and caulk to reach out to these families (and one another) in Christian friendship.

“It is truly giving of themselves,” said the Rev. John Culp, who founded Salkehatchie Summer Service for the S.C. Conference of the United Methodist Church in 1978 after ministering to Lowcountry people living in poverty.

Now in its 33rd year, Salkehatchie registration enters full swing, as past participants sign up for favorite camps and new participants feel the call to volunteer.

14-year-olds this year’s target

This year, Salkehatchie organizers are doing all they can to recruit the very youngest volunteers – 14-year-olds.

Culp said 14 is a critical age: a stage in life when youth are developing a spiritual consciousness of the world and dealing with social issues, possibly for the first time.

As youth become more and more electronically and technologically oriented, reaching their hearts now is key.

“We are entertaining kids to death,” Culp said. “Salkehatchie provides a framework where they can understand the call of God: what is His will? What is my vocation going to be? Where should I serve?”

He finds youth like to do something constructive and tangible, to say, “I put the roof on that house.” In fact, he has been told by college admissions personnel that on many college applications, Salkehatchie is mentioned as the most powerful experience in a student’s life.

“This is a Christian setting where they can find God,” Culp said.

Tammy Fulmer, S.C. Conference Connectional Ministries staffer, has worked with Salkehatchie for many years and said most of the young people who attend have no clue people can live day in and day out without plumbing or adequate flooring.

Fulmer said Salkehatchie is a total life-changing experience for volunteers.

“It is work – a lot of times, they’d rather do the beach or ski trips, but once they go, they’re hooked. And then they go and go and go.”

Clayton Sosebee, who attended his first Salkehatchie last year after he turned 14, said he wants to go back as many years as he can.

“When you’re working on those people’s houses, and they don’t have anything, and you’re done and you see the smiles on their faces, it’s just awesome,” he said.

In addition to 14-year-olds, Salkehatchie organizers are seeking adults with labor skills who can help youth and others less skilled.

New this year

Salkehatchie 2011 brings a few changes: First, the registration fee has increased slightly – the first increase since 2006 – because of increases in building materials, gas and other items.

Next, organizers have established a second camp exclusively for college students: the Ocean Front Camp (Edisto Beach).

Third, Salkehatchie has expanded to North Carolina, with a camp in Huntersville, and the international trip to Central America has changed from Nicaragua to El Salvador.

Register now

Organizers encourage people to register now for Salkehatchie. Registration is first-come, first-served, and though there is a registration deadline of March 31, if there is space available, people can register up until the week before the camp starts.

Registration forms can be downloaded now from and mailed in with a $215 check.

For those who cannot attend, Salkehatchie is accepting donations, both monetary and supplies.

Scholarships may also be available.

For more information, visit or call (888) 678-6272.

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