Pay $200, toil a week in the hot sun and take home a T-shirt.
That may not sound like such a good deal until you consider the changes Salkehatchie Summer Service makes in your mind and heart, workers with the program say.
“I love to see the transition in the kids from when they first come here until when they leave,” said Andrew Diggins of West Columbia, a member of Mt. Hebron United Methodist Church and a volunteer with Salkehatchie for eight years. “They understand people a lot better and don't assign their values anymore to what they perceive the house we are working on should be.”
Salkehatchie Summer Service was founded by Union native the Rev. John Culp in 1979. It is a program for high school and college-age youth drawn primarily from the South Carolina United Methodist Conference. For a week, they join work camps and improve homes of needy families all over the state. There are six project sites in Union County this week: on Sardis Road, Perrin Avenue, Jerusalem Road, Cabin Street, Williford Road and Old Buffalo Road.
At the home of Dorothy Thomas on Old Buffalo Road, the house was rewired, a fresh coat of blue paint was being applied, the foundation was being shored up, a bathroom was being remodeled and Diggins said if time permitted, the area under the house was going to be closed in to help keep cold air from circulating under it in the winter.
“They are doing good work,” said Ms. Thomas, who lives at the home with her daughter and sometimes grandchildren who visit. “Everything is nice and they are good people. They chose me and I appreciate it.”
Diggins, a senior vice president in real estate services with Carolina First Bank, said he looks forward to spending part of his vacation time with Salkehatchie.
“I love working with the kids,” he said. “This is a great experience for the kids and me.”
Ashley Rhodes, 20, a respiratory therapy student at Spartanburg Technical College and a member of Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church in Hickory Grove, said she is enjoying her week in Union.
“I like it because we get to help people who are not as fortunate as we are have what we have,” said Miss Rhodes, in her sixth year of Salkhatchie Service.
This year, Miss Rhodes and the others will take home an army green and yellow T-shirt that reads, “Salkehatchie Wages War on Poverty.”
Miss Rhodes said she and the other volunteers attended services at Grace United Methodist Church Sunday, the host church for Salkehatchie Summer Service. During the children's sermon Union County Auditor Brad Valentine, a Salkehatchie volunteer, talked about the program and the changes it makes in the participants - changes you can't see with the eye.
“All you take back physically is a T-shirt,” she said.