Salkehatchie wraps up 39th year of statewide servant ministry
By Jessica Brodie
It started out as a vision from God given to one man, who took that vision and ran with it. And today, as it closes its 39th year of servant ministry, Salkehatchie Summer Service stands as an example of all God can do through His people called Methodists.
“Every time we go to do this I know that miracles occur; there’s no doubt in my mind,” said Kathy Hart, chair of the board of managers of Salkehatchie. “Why would we think that in a week’s time a team of 10-13 people with 14-year-olds involved could do what we do, and yet on Friday and early Saturday, you go back and look at those houses, and it’s done. Families are safer, drier and will be warmer in the winter because of the work of Salkehatchie.”
Salkehatchie brings together high schoolers and college students with adult community leaders to work at various camps around the state to repair homes for people in need. Started in 1978 by the Rev. John Culp, during the past 39 years 63,000 Salkehatchie volunteers have repaired more than 6,000 homes. This year alone, Salkehatchie had roughly 3,000 campers working at 48 camps.
This year was especially significant, Hart said, because it was their first year operating as a limited liability company instead of under the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church. The move to become an LLC shows just how large-scale Salkehatchie has become.
“We were hopeful and faithful, and I think in general it was a wonderful year,” Hart said.
She said they have stepped up their emphasis on safety even more than before, and they had fewer injuries this year because of it.
“We had people really thinking about how to do this safely: remember to wear gloves, the goggles, the masks, all the things to keep us safe,” Hart said.
Given the large number of youth who volunteer each summer, that’s a critical element for them—that, and ensuring the youth and adults who volunteer not only work together skillfully to repair the home site but also are able to foster strong relationships with each other, with the homeowner and with the community they are helping.
“A lot of young people don’t have the opportunity to have a week’s time with an elderly person or a person who is disabled, so in the beginning of the week they’re a little uneasy, but by the end of the week they’re hugging on those homeowners like they've known them all their lives,” Hart said.
It all makes Culp beyond thankful that the vision God gave him all those years ago became not only reality but bigger than he ever imagined.
“I feel like Salkehatchie is now an institution,” Culp said. “People have taken over the leadership for the next generation, and people like Kathy and all these young leaders—who as teenagers were part of the program and now are adults in their 30s and 40s—are keeping the vision alive.”
So often you see a good program and it fades because no one came along with the passion to take it to the next generation. But for Salkehatchie, Culp said, it’s showing no signs of slowing down.
Salkehatchie is gearing up for its 40th anniversary, set for Saturday, March 10, 2018, at Union United Methodist Church, Irmo, and all past, present and future campers are invited to join the celebration.
“It’s big,” Culp said. “We’re celebrating 40 years, and people keep coming back.”
Hart said that’s what is so critical about the success of Salkehatchie. Because it is rooted in relationship—with the homeowner and the community—the volunteers develop a keen heart for the people they serve, and many keep returning to the same camp and community year after year. As they get married and start a family, they end up bringing their own children to volunteer when they get old enough (age 14) to participate.
“It’s such a good thing to celebrate—youth and adults excited about helping their fellow man in such a concrete way,” Hart said; she herself has been involved in Salkehatchie since 1993 and is also a camp director in Dillon.
Organizers are already working on plans for next year’s camp lineup; registration will be available at www.salkehatchie.org.
For more information on the 40th anniversary celebration, contact Susan Caskey at 803-463-6138 or [email protected].