By Jessica Brodie
LANCASTER, S.C.—One Salkehatchie camp teamed up with a neighborhood improvement program to help residents get much-needed home renovations, all in the name of Jesus.
Lancaster Salkehatchie partnered with Lancaster Promise Neighborhood June 11-16 to tackle two major house projects in that community. Part of the statewide Salkehatchie Summer Service effort, Lancaster Salkehatchie was one of 30 camps this summer bringing more than 900 youth, young adult and adult volunteers together for a weeklong mission event to repair and rebuild homes for people in need, many of them living in poverty situations without the ability to fund the work on their own.
Lancaster Salkehatchie repaired two homes this year—the Twitty home and the Threatt home.
The Twitty home is located in the Promise Neighborhood zone; the Threatt home is not in the zone but nearby. Salkehatchie provided the building supplies and laborers for the effort, while Promise Neighborhood provided food and purchased everything on the homeowners’ wish list, such as new bedding, outdoor chairs and a welcome mat.
“It was a really good experience,” said Susan Hagins, Lancaster Salkehatchie co-director with her husband, David.
Coming back for the first time since the pandemic, they had to dust off their list of houses to repair, Hagins said, and they discovered a lot of people had passed away or moved from the area. But partnering with Promise Neighborhood helped them identity homes in need.
One of the homes was in an area that often experiences much crime, with a drug house within walking distance and two condemned houses across the street. But they enlisted supervision from local police, plus much prayer, and in the end, they were able to shine a light in a community that often experiences much darkness.
“We don’t know what seeds of hope we planted there,” Hagins said, noting one woman has since reached out to her for help. “People walked up and down all week, saw the name of our church on the bus, saw the name ‘Salkehatchie’ on the side of our cars.”
The Rev. Sh’Kur Francis, a United Methodist clergyperson who serves as director for Promise Neighborhood, said the experience was transformative.
“Love is the foundation of any neighborhood,” Francis said. “Partnering together and putting that love into action and literally transforming the lives of others was such a blessing.”
Holly Craig, an adult leader for the Twitty home, has been a Salkehatchie volunteer for so long she can’t remember when she started. Used to being a runner, this was the first time since high school that she has worked all week on a site, and she said her experience sparked that “Salkehatchie magic” for her once more.
She and the others on her team did a number of projects on the home, including replacing two storm doors, rescreening and reflooring the back porch, replacing window panes, painting the kitchen and some cabinetry, adding a backsplash to the counters, running piping off the back of the house and digging a trench so water could run around the house, among a number of safety measures. Volunteers also handwashed the vinyl siding on the entire home instead of pressure washing it, as the siding was so old they were afraid pressure washing might ruin it.
“It was an opportunity to serve and be his hands and feet and get down and get dirty,” Craig said. “It just fills my cup when I can do that for others.”
Craig said every Salkehatchie volunteer had the opportunity select a symbol for the week that represented Salkehatchie for them. She selected a piece of the backsplash that she worked on.
I can be a perfectionist, but we’re working with a house where the walls are not square, trying to line it all up, and several spots you had to line up were really like a puzzle.
The challenge for her, she said, was to force herself to step back and focus not on the imperfections but the whole project. The homeowner, Princess Twitty, had been born in that house and lived there all her life, and she was so grateful for the help.
“Ms. Twitty, she loved it,” Craig said. “God’s in all the details, too, but it just reminded me that it’s all about the big picture.”
Sadie Ferguson, an adult volunteer at the Threatt house, is also a longtime Salkehatchie volunteer, having served for more than 15 summers on houses. Their home involved reflooring the front living area so the homebound homeowner, Donnie Threatt, could enjoy the big picture window while he recuperated in his hospital bed, as well as renovating the guest bathroom, replacing rotted flooring and adding a working toilet and vanity for Threatt’s wife, Frances. They also painted and added vinyl siding on the gabled porch where there had been none.
Sadly, Threatt passed away just as this article was going to press, but Ferguson said he got to move his hospital bed into the new space and enjoy three weeks of sunlight, enjoying the scenery outside, instead of being cooped up in a dark back room with only a television to watch.
“He was in so much better spirits and got to sit up for the first time in six months to look out the window,” Ferguson said, noting Threatt and his wife were incredibly grateful for the repairs.
That’s exactly why she takes off work and gives her time every summer to volunteer with Salkehatchie—because of the love and hope it gives to the homeowners, many of whom feel forgotten and unloved.
“Every little tiny thing we did brought tears to her eyes because she felt like somebody cared about her,” Ferguson said. “There are so many people who feel nobody cares about them, and this is letting them know they are worth helping.”
Landon Gurley worked on the Threatt home with Ferguson and said he genuinely enjoyed the work. It was his first year as a Salkehatchie volunteer, and he says he can’t wait to return next year and continue to help.
“It was a great use of my time,” Gurley said. “I got to help somebody who really truly needed it, and I felt good doing it because I was with my friends and having fun and doing something good for someone.”
Lauren Carnes, also a first-time Salkehatchie volunteer, has the special distinction of being the fourth generation in her family to do Salkehatchie. She said it felt great to help others through this work.
“I love helping people, so this was just right up my alley,” Carnes said. “It just makes me happy to know that the work I have done gave someone a better home to live in.”
The homeowner, Princess Twitty, said she feels beyond blessed by the assistance and truly loved interacting with the volunteers, who she said were so kind and respectful.
“Oh, Lord, how I appreciate it. I’m just so happy I don’t know what to do with it,” she told the Advocate, laughing. “Sometimes I do nothing but just stand there and look at my kitchen! Those kids did a wonderful job.”
For more on Salkehatchie or to get involved, visit https://www.umcsc.org/salkehatchie.