Salkehatchie 2016 in Bishopville, SC

Salkehatchie 2016 in Bishopville, SC


Several members of Waters Edge traveled to Bishopville, SC to participate in the 2016 Salkehatchie Summer Service Camp. One of the members of the team, Buzz Christoff, wrote this about his experience.


The Work Week Experience
at the 2016 Salkehatchie Summer Service, Bishopville, SC
How I Spent My Summer Vacation
Buzz Christoff

Having had no experience with summer camp except as a National Guardsman in the 1970’s, I had no idea what to expect when I signed up for Salkehatchie. I knew only that it involved home repair and that I had experience and skills that I could share. I had chosen both my prior careers (first as a police officer and then as an emergency room nurse) based on my desire to help others—sometimes whether or not they wanted my help. But my week at Salkehatchie proved to be fulfilling in ways I had never before experienced.

Daily, our mornings started at 5:30 am or earlier, with breakfast at 6:00.  We met our work crew at the trucks at 6:45 and then traveled on to the job site.  Upon arriving at the job site, we had a short devotional, which included a prayer and a scripture reading with the homeowner and the work crew.  The job assignments were made and realistic goals for the day were shared.  The campers were supervised by adults throughout all aspects of the jobs, even though some of the campers were more experienced than some of the adults.

Rehabbing a house, in most cases, requires far more than just a fresh coat of paint.  Usually the roof needs at least patching if not replacing.  If the roof has been un-cared for, or open for any period of time, the interior of the home will have sustained some water damage.  This damage will result in the need for new drywall and probably new structural supports in places.  If this damaged area has been exposed to the elements for an extended period of time, the flooring and supporting structures may need to be replaced as well.  So, we are basically replacing parts of the entire home, as needed, to make it whole again. The different job sites (homes) for the projects are chosen based on the needs and the inability of the homeowner to have the jobs done independently of outside assistance.

As one of the adults on the job site, my main concern was keeping the campers safe at all times.  Teaching a teen aged camper the proper and safe way to use power tools, climb ladders, demolish walls, and even worksite housekeeping/clean-up were my primary concerns in addition to completing the tasks at hand. Happily, only one Band-Aid was used the entire week for a very minor knuckle scrape at our worksite.  As work on the home progressed, the campers’ skills improved.  The awkward first-time power saw user became the teacher for the rest of the crew, and the shaky ladder climber developed mountain-goat certainty by the end of the day.  All of this was achieved by the determination of these youthful campers.  Under the ever-watchful and appreciative eye of the homeowner, the home was being rebuilt piece by piece and taking shape.

Despite my many years of experience as a homeowner, I had never jacked up a house before.  A large portion of the outer sill plate had deteriorated from termite infestation and needed to be replaced to reinforce the structure and to level the interior floor.  I watched and helped in this task; and now I feel that, with the right equipment, I could probably do the same thing if needed.  Portions of the exterior wall structure had met the same fate as the sill plate and had to be replaced along with some of the windows.  Once the insulation, sheeting and exterior siding were installed and trim molding was added to the soffit and windows, the home was ready for paint.  Just about everyone had a paint brush or roller, and that part of the job was completed in short order.  It seemed as though it took longer to get the errant paint cleaned off the campers than it did to paint the exterior of the house.

If a week’s worth of early, hot and dusty work mornings; long, hot, dusty work afternoons or working in the pouring rain; making sure that all of the campers retained all of their body parts–intact; participating in group activities; and then attending the evening music and devotions sure sounds like a lot.  It is. But it is all worth it!

Good Lord willing, I will return next summer to do it all over again–to see the smiles on the campers’ faces as they learn new skills and achieve their tasks and to see the grateful smiles and tears in the eyes of the homeowners as their homes are reborn.

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