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Salkehatchie Summer Service
Huntersville Camp 2005
Notes from the Camp Director

Jerry Kita was born in Welland, Ontario, Canada and has lived in Huntersville, NC since July 1997 with his wife Mona and their three children, Ben, Nathan and Natalia. The Kita family are members of Huntersville United Methodist Church. In 2000 Jerry and Mona led a group of eight youth to a Salkehatchie Summer Service Camp in Camden, South Carolina. Huntersville United Methodist Youth have continued to attend the Camden camp. This exposure to Salkehatchie convinced Jerry and Mona to start a camp in Huntersville.

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March 29, 2005
April 29, 2005
May 27, 2005
June 18, 2005
July 1, 2005
July 16, 2005 - First Day of Camp
July 17, 2005
July 18, 2005
July 19, 2005
July 20, 2005
July 21, 2005
July 22, 2005
July 23, 2005 - Last Day of Camp

March 12, 2005

The month of March is a sign of many things. Spring begins in March and the NCAA playoffs begin in March. For me it's a sign that we need to start getting serious about planning our Salkehatchie Camp. That's not to say that there hasn't been considerable work going on to this point it's just that March is the month where we really have to get serious. But more on that later.

This is also a good time of year to reflect on last year's camp. On the 2004 version of this page, prior to camp, I stated my hopes for the following:

  • Another team of skilled adults to provide their leadership. We were extremely blessed to have four experienced site leaders at last year's camp. A number of adults with Salkehatchie experience in South Carolina came up to help us. It made all the difference in the world. It's a little too much to ask that they help us out again but if they're reading this they should know they are most welcome.
  • More youth from the Western North Carolina conference. We welcome youth and adults from every state and conference. However, in order to grow the Salkehatchie movement in the WNNC we need more participation from the conference churches. The early indications, based on interested emails and phone calls, suggests that we'll have 15-20 youth from the WNNC this year. Last year we had only three out of a total of 22 youth.
  • The same generous support we received from the local community as last year. Last year we had about $5000 worth of supplies, meals and materials donated to the camp. In a camp that started with a budget of approximately $9500 that was huge.

The adults ponder the selection of the teams

We were successful on all counts. We had a great group of adults, there were 20 youths from North Carolina (including 14 from the WNCC Conference) and we raised more money and received more donations of goods and services. All in all a successful camp. In addition we significantly improved the lives of four homeowners. Over the course of the week we renovated three kitchens, reshingled two roofs, renovated three bathrooms and repaired or replaced floor joists in three of the homes. That was all in addition to the usual cleaning, painting, deck building and installation of electrical fixtures. Our campers contributed 2100 hours of labor during the week. To put that in perspective each homeowner got the equivalent of 13 weeks one person's time at no charge.

That describes the tangible measures of success. The intangible measures were no less important. We simply had a great bunch of youth and adults in camp. We were truly blessed. We all got along, we all worked hard and we all had fun. One of my many lasting memories is of our nightly adult meetings. At the conclusion of our evening programs the adults, on most nights, would meet for about 45 minutes discuss various things related to site progress, issues that may have arisen during the day and budgets. Those meetings were always a lot a fun. When the meeting business was complete everyone usually just hung around and talked and told jokes and stories. It was great.

The campers gather around the Bost home

The youth were equally great. I'd be happy to have the whole group of them back again in 2005. Their willingness to work hard under severe conditions and their spirit in the service of God was an inspiration to me. At the conclusion of the camp a number of the youth (and some adults) offered up some thoughts on our Guestbook. Check it out; you'll enjoy it. [NOTE: Since this writing the Guestbook has been discontinued due to excessive spamming... jk] A few weeks after the camp some of the youth emailed me and asked about the possibility of having a camp reunion sometime in the winter. I discussed it with the camp staff and the church and we decided, "Why not?". So we had one during the weekend of January 28-30, 2005. We had about 22 youth and adults come in from out of town and we had a great time despite the only significant snowfall of the winter.

The other pleasant surprise was the interest in this particular website, especially during the week of the camp. I had built the website for two specific reasons:

  • To promote this camp within North Carolina. When you're starting a new program (in North Carolina) everyone asks for your website. A website makes you seem legitimate
  • To see if I could actually do it. I've always wanted to have a website. This was the first time I actually had a reason to build one.

It was a useful tool for describing the program and letting people know what went on at camp. I also allowed the registered campers to view information that wasn't otherwise viewable by the rest of the world. I did this by giving each registered camper a userid and password. All that seemed to be reasonably successful if you measure success by the number of hits on the website.

The Morehead team gathers with Mr and Mrs Morehead. The work week is over and it's time to show off what's been done.

Prior to the camp I announced that I would be updating the website daily with photographs and narratives describing the day's events. That became hugely popular during the week of the camp as friends and family tuned in everyday to see what their favorite camper was up to. To put it in perspective, from January 2004 to the beginning of the camp there were 11,000 page views on the website (believe it or not the page counter was exactly 11,000 the moment the camp started). From the start of the camp on July 17th to the following Sunday, July 25th at 11:59pm there were exactly 15,123 page views on the website. Prior to the camp the website had averaged about 2000 page views per month and during the camp it averaged about 1600/day. It's averaged just over 3000 page views per month since then. Now that the expectation has been set I guess we'll have to do it again this year. We've added a few things to the website like a Discussion Forum and this year's Photo Gallery will have bigger pictures which should be easier on the eyes of older people like me.

As you can probably tell we're looking forward to another great camp. It's late and I'm calling it a night. I haven't said a word about what preparations we've made so far so I'll do that the next time.

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March 29, 2005 - Orlando

We have yet to have a meeting of the Salkehatchie team. Vacations and other events have conspired to keep us from getting together. Nevertheless, there has been a lot of planning going on. Here's an update on the key activities:

Camp Registrations

As I suspected our camp is filling up fast. We have 41 officially registered for camp. Of those registered, 31 are returning from last year. I suspect we'll have somewhere between 45 and 50 campers this year. At this point we have 29 youth registered. If I have a concern it's that we're somewhat short of skilled adults. I'm confident we'll get that worked out before the start of camp.

Home Visits

We've made about eight home visits so far. Although we haven't told anything to the homeowners we think we've got three homes that we'll work on during our camp in July. Of the three homes, two are in Huntersville and the third is in Charlotte. I hope to have the fourth house picked out sometime in the first week of April

The Website

We're working on a few enhancements to the website. Hopefully, the changes will enhance the experience for those following the camp. We will still have the Photo Gallery. The only change is that you can click on any photo to see an enlarged version of it. We also plan to add a feature that will allow anyone to send a message to one of the campers from the website. When the message is received it can then be printed and given to the camper. Our most ambitious plan is to add video to the website. If we can pull this off (and we're not sure that we can) we'll be able to post videos to the website during the camp. We hope to test it on the website in the next six weeks.

The Planning Team

We're very lucky to have a dedicated group of people who work hard to put this camp together. It makes my job very easy. Just like last year, Rehnea Raines, Christine McMillan, Vicki Rintz and Patti Stiene will be looking after most of the Huntersville "operation". That includes getting the church ready for the week of the camp, setting up the showers in Huntersville and arranging the lunches. Mona Kita and Pattie Stiene will also be responsible for doing fund raising. Like she did last year, Ann Gibert will take care of the Charlotte "operation". That includes arranging the lunches and showers. Ann's job is doubly difficult because she really can't begin her planning until the Charlotte homes are selected. Given the size of Charlotte, home locations determine where the lunches and showers will be. But everything will get done. This is a great team.

During the camp, Rev Billy Rintz will handle the responsibilities of the spiritual leader. Perry Brittain will handle the music. They both do a great job.

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April 29, 2005

We are going to have a large camp. This web site shows 49 registered for camp. I'm fairly certain that another 3-5 will still register for the camp. That means we'll have as many as 54 registered in camp. Allowing for the expected drop outs at the end we'll still have around 50 in camp with as many as 35 youths. As a comparison, we had 24 youths at our first camp in 2003 and 29 last year. These numbers mean we've got some decisions to make over the next few weeks. The first is where are we going to put everyone. I'm not too worried about that one. The planning team will figure it out. The second issue is how many houses will we work on. The last two years we've worked on four homes. I expected we'd do that again this year. Now I'm not so sure. Working on five homes might make more sense. Ideally, we would do three in Huntersville and two in Charlotte.

The other issue is whether we've got enough skilled adults in camp to manage five homes. We certainly have enough bodies. However, skills might be another issue.

I'm curious if anyone has any opinions on what we should do? We could either work on four homes with larger teams (12 - 14 people per team) or go with five homes and smaller teams (9 - 10 people per team).

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May 27, 2005

We made some important decisions over the last 30 days. As I suspected we've had a lot of people register for the camp. We currently have 56 registered and I have turned about 20 away. During our first camp in 2003 we often wondered if we'd get enough people to hold a camp. We're grateful the way the camp has grown in popularity. The number of people in this year's camp has essentially forced us to go from four to five homes.

Moving from four to five homes wasn't surprising since we considered that kind of growth inevitable. The bigger surprise was our decision to work exclusively in Huntersville this year. Last year we worked on two homes in Huntersville and two homes in Charlotte. That presented us with some challenges but we did pull it off. Our original plans were to do the same thing this year. However, despite our best efforts we weren't able find suitable homes to work on. When May 1st came around we decided that we couldn't wait any longer and made the decision to work in Huntersville. It has been much easier to find homes in Huntersville because homeowners we've previously worked with have referred us to friends and acquaintances.

This year we will be working with five great homeowners. Each of them has a friend or an acquaintance that we've worked with in the past. They are each excited and appreciative of our willingness to work with them this year.

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June 18, 2005

John Ballentine and Tresca Hollis chat with Mr Jetton (right) and his friend Mr. Thompson

The last 10 days were very busy as we hit the home stretch in our planning for this year's camp. There also was an unexpected distraction that took up more of my time than I would have liked. More on that later.

Prior to every year's camp we have an adult meeting. The purpose of the adult meeting is to provide an orientation for the adults attending the camp and most importantly to match the adult teams with the homes that they will be working on. There are no formal "Salkehatchie Rules" for how the adult teams are formed. Every Camp Director is given the latitude to do it there own way. I modeled our approach to forming adult teams and assigning them homes after Richard Hagins' Wateree Camp. Richard, for years, has run a great camp so most of what he does serves as a model for our camp.

I, somewhat arbitrarily, form the adult teams prior to the adult meeting. We're fortunate to have adults with previous Salkehatchie experience. They are the easy choices as site leaders. The only first-time site leader this year is Vance Lowe. However, this is Vance's third camp with us so he really understands the program. After that I try to place adults around to ensure that the construction talent is spread equally around. I try to put folks who haven't previously worked together on the same team. In addition, I try where possible to separate folks from the same church.

This year we've got five great teams. I've satisfied with the mix of talents on each team.

In addition to everything I've mentioned previously, the adult meeting is a good opportunity to figure out how long the tour is going to take. For those of you keeping score at home .... it will be about 2 1/2 hours.

The adult meeting was a lot of fun. It was a great opportunity to see old friends and at the same time meet the adults who'll be attending the camp for the first time. The newcomers this year, who attended the meeting, are John Anderson, David Flake, Carl Duncan, Ray Peter and Kathryn Tiero-Peter. Carl's wife Tammy attend last year. David's son William attend last year. John Anderson was recruited by Larry Hawkey and Ray and Kathryn are close friends of mine. John Ballentine will be back with us this year. He was with us the first year. He was registered for last year but a baseball injury just prior to camp kept him from joining us. We're thrilled to seem him again. If the adult meeting was any indication it's going to be a great camp.

Back at the church the team of Kathryn Peter, Ray Peter, John Anderson and Mona Kita (site leader) make plans for the Ramsey home

At the conclusion of the home tour the adult teams get together and rank the homes they'd like to work on. Again, this is exactly how it's done at the Wateree camp. To be completely honest, I have a preferred outcome in mind when I put the teams together. That being said, I do let the teams sort it out amongst themselves without any input from me. In case you're wondering, this year's teams and homes matched up they way I would have done it had it been left to me. If you haven't done so already you can see this year's adult teams and the homes they'll be working on here.

The one unwanted distraction during the past week came from the company that hosts this website. I received an email without warning that they were upgrading to a new platform and that they weren't able to migrate my website to the new platform. I had exactly 21 days to do the migration myself or risk losing all the accumlated data on the website. The web pages themselves are safe since I have a copy of them on my laptop. Migrating them is easy. What's not so easy is retrieving all the information in the database (photos, camper information, guestbook, discussion forum etc) and recreating it on the new platform. In addition to that, the web hosting had other problems with their old platform and experienced some major outages. This site was down for a period of 41 straight hours. Ultimately everything was resolved. The old platform came up long enough to allow me to retrieve information in the database and I figured out how to move it to the new platform. Salkehatchiehuntersville.com was finally back on the air yesterday (Friday, June 17th) at 4:00pm. We're sorry about the delay.

The votes are in ... Each adult team ranked the homes they wanted to work on

As I said earlier, we're now in the home stretch. Just 28 days to camp.

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July 1, 2005 - Happy Canada Day!

Time to Give Thanks!

The calendar says that two weeks from tomorrow campers will be arriving in Huntersville. Mona and I are busy attending to multiple last minute details but for the most part we are ready to go. The biggest open item is whether or not we'll be able to get some kitchen cabinets donated to our camp. We need to renovate kitchens in three of the five homes we'll be working on. Getting kitchen cabinets donated will be a huge help. Whether or not we get cabinets won't affect our camp. It only affects how much money we have to spend the homeowners. Cabinets can be a large expense so we'll just keep our fingers crossed.

Aside from the cabinets there are no big issues to deal with between now and the beginning of camp. I'm currently working on the documentation the site teams will need for the camp. Stuff like directions to the showers, directions to the lunch location, important phone numbers etc.

With most of the heavy lifting behind us we're now just counting down the days to the camp. There are many people I need to thank ... not only for this camp but for the previous year's camps.

  • Rehnea Raines, Ann Gibert, Patti Stiene, Christine McMillan and Vicki Rintz have been core members of the Salkehatchie planning team for three years. They are dedicated, diligent and dependable. There are aspects of the camp that happen without any involvement from me. The campers are fed three great meals a day and I have no idea how it happens. That is just one example of what they do. There are others. Last year, when we worked in Charlotte, Ann Gibert made all the arrangements for lunch and showers for the Charlotte teams. It was a big job. They are the ones that really make the camp happen.
  • I've often called Richard Hagins the godfather of the Huntersville Salkehatchie Camp. I don't think he was completely comfortable with that characterization but he went along with it. It was Richard, who in 2001, first suggested to me the idea of having a Salkehatchie camp in Huntersville. Richard is the Camp Director for the Wateree Camp in South Carolina. He led the charge in getting approvals from the South Carolina conference for it to happen. He also participated in our camp the first two years as a site leader. The Huntersville Camp owes him a lot. We'll miss him this year.
  • The biggest challenge of any first year Salkehatchie Camp is getting enough experienced adults to attend. In our first year I was most grateful to a group of folks I referred to as the Camden Mafia. They were the adults who were veterans of Richard Hagins camp in South Carolina. John Ballentine, Laura Pascal, Baker Ratliff, Jimmy Cauthen and of course, Richard Hagins attended our first camp and helped make it a success. As a first year Camp Director I was extremely nervous about that 2003 camp. They'll never know how much I appreciated their contribution
  • I also have to thank Bob Sims. Not many folks who attend our camp may know Bob Sims. Bob is a member of HUMC's congregation and has led many mission building teams. Over the past two years Bob has helped out wherever he's been needed. He has become our camp electrical specialist. If we needed any electrical help he's been there. This year Bob will be taking a vacation during the week of our camp. However, he'll still be contributing by installing a breaker box at the Jetton home in the week prior to our camp. He'll also be there to help us with whatever work needs finishing at the conclusion of the camp.
  • Rev Billy Rintz has been the spiritual director at our camp. No Salkehatchie camp can operate without the support of its congregation and Billy has led the way. In addition, he's provided me with the support I've needed to run the camp. He trusts me to run the camp the way I'd like to run it but he also knows enough to give me guidance when I need it. He's been my partner and my friend.

  • McMannen UMC from Durham, NC and First UMC from China Grove, NC have supported our camp every year. I am grateful for their support. Thank you for having faith in us every year.
  • I can't forget the youth and adults that support our camp. I am overwhelmed and humbled by the enthusiasm they show for this camp. (You have to be enthusiastic to have a camp reunion in January!) We work them like dogs in brutal conditions 10 hours a day for five days. And still they are happy to come back. Of the 45 campers that attended our camp last year, 33 are coming back. That means a lot to us. And to those youths who frequently mention Salkehatchie in their AIM Profiles ... You have no idea how thrilled I am that you consider our camp an important part of your lives.
  • Of course, there are the homeowners. It takes a lot of trust and faith to let ten or more complete strangers tear apart your house and try to put it back together in just one week.
  • My wife Mona has been with me every step of the way. In fact, I attended my first Salkehatchie camp at her urging. She had attended a mission camp in North Carolina in 1999. When our church decided to send our youth group to Richard Hagin's camp in South Carolina she volunteered both of us. During the camp Mona is quite content to work with whatever site team she's been assigned to. She loves the work. However, in the months leading up to the camp she's the one busily working on getting donations for the camp. Light fixtures, paint, kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets and carpeting are just some of the things she goes after. Her efforts save us a couple of thousand dollars each camp. Prior to the camp she'll mix whatever paint we've collect into large buckets ready for use. In addition, she'll make an inventory of all the things that have been donated. In addition, she constantly peppers me with ideas for improving our camp. Her biggest job however is putting up with my obsessing over the camp ... especially in the final stages of the planning for each camp. I think she's also amused by my obsession over this website. I couldn't imagine running this camp without her.

Yes, there are a lot of people to thank. And finally, thanks to God who gives us all the strength to make it happen. With this kind of support we can't help but have a good camp.

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July 16, 2005 - First Day of Camp

We seemed to get through our first day OK. Here's some of the highlights

  • Our first campers started arriving at 10:00am. In fact we had over half of the camp checked in prior to noon, which was our official start time. I hope that the promptness is a sign of things to come later this week
  • We had only a single no show. Of course, we'd prefer that everyone show up but I'll take 55 out 56 any time
  • We made it through the tour of homes ahead of schedule. Maybe this is a trend!
  • I got to bed at 1:15am. If this is the start of a trend then I am really in trouble. I have to find a way go get some sleep.

We had a few minor glitches along the way, however. One of our homeowners misunderstood the time we were supposed to show up and we weren't able to see anything other than the outside of the home. When we sent the teams off to showers one of the local pools seemed surprised (they shouldn't be!) that we were using the facility. Nevertheless, anyone who wanted to get a shower was able to get one. And finally, dinner started about 15 minutes later than we would have liked. All in all it wasn't anything that we couldn't deal with

At the Ramsey home

The first day of camp generally runs at a frantic pace. There's lots to do and it seems that we're moving the campers here and there. The primary purpose of day 1 is to get everyone settled into the camp, tour the homes and select the teams. That and everyone getting to know each other.

The biggest job today was working with the adult leaders to form the site teams. After the tour, the youth rank each of the homes according to their preference. We use that as a guide to form teams. The adults had been assigned to teams about five weeks ago so we don't need to worry about them. Overall, it can be quite a balancing act as we try to balance the teams according to experience, gender and a bunch of other factors all the while trying to put the youths on home sites that they've ranked the most highly.

Perry Brittain and Billy Rintz lead the evening program. As usual they did a superb job.

My only thought at the moment .... wonder when I'm going to get the video of the day's events. As soon as I get it I'll post it.

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July 17, 2005

If there's such a thing as an easy day for the Camp Director, I guess it's Sunday. The teams are formed Saturday night and posted on Sunday morning. After breakfast the teams go off to visit their homeowners.

The purpose of the homeowner visits is to accomplish a couple of things

  • Have the homeowner meet their whole team for the first time
  • Discuss and negotiate what's going to be done over the course of the week
  • Share a devotion which is usually lead by the site leader

Based on the reports I got, all of this morning's meetings went well

After the homeowner meetings everyone attended the service. I think we all looked pretty good in our section of the sanctuary. We were a sea of blue. You will be able to see it in the Photo Gallery.

After the service there's lunch (pizza today!) and we take the Camp photo. We are a good looking group of people! We might be dragging at bit by Friday however.

We were a group of good looking people on Sunday

Sunday can get a little complicated however for the Kita family since we have to send our three kids to camp. A family friend spent Saturday evening with them and brought them to church. After lunch Mona made the 90 minute drive to drop them off at Camp Harrison.

The campers spent the afternoon at Lake Norman State Park. It was hot and humid and most everyone went swimming. It was a good relaxing time. Again, not much for the Camp Director to do except relax and, of course, take photographs. It seems the newcomers to camp are resigned to me sticking a camera in their face constantly. Last year's campers barely notice me anymore.

At dinner we had the privilege of hearing Bishop J. Lawrence McCleskey speak to us. Bishop McCleskey was formerly the Bishop in the SC Conference. While there, he was a big Salkehatchie advocate. When we learned that he was appointed to the Western NC Conference we booked him to speak at our camp and he graciously accepted. He told us of his many Salkehatchie experiences in South Carolina.

The Bishop's talk was followed by the "commissioning ceremony". Our camp follows the tradition started by Richard Hagins' Wateree Camp whereby each camper is presented a symbol in the form of a necklace. From this year's necklace hangs a bowl representing the bowl used by Jesus to wash his disciple's feet. The theme of our camp is servanthood.

After the commissioning ceremony we returned to the church. The adults met for about 40 minutes to go over details regarding the work week. It was a good meeting. Everyone is anxious to begin work

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July 18, 2005

First day of work. I'm usually a little apprenhensive about the first day of the Salkehatchie work week (although less so than in previous years). I keep running over in my mind whether we've got everything in place. Will the dumpsters arrive? Are the Lowe's and Home Depot accounts in place as I think they are. There is really no reason to worry about this stuff since the planning team has done an excellent job in pulling this camp togther. The real reason I think I worry is that once Monday starts there's not a whole lot left for me to do. The remainder of the week belongs to the youth and adults. I get to take pictures and provide updates to the website and perhaps handle any issue that comes along.

Yesterday was spent mostly taking pictures and running back to the church to load those photos on the website. I manage to get 159 pictures out there before supper. Having the homes relatively close to the church worked out pretty well.

Logistically the day went pretty well. Everything was where it was supposed to be. All the teams seem to have a good day. We had a thunderstorm that passed through the area late in the day. Most everyone got wet. My biggest concern at that time was for the Ramsey home. The team was removing the shingles from the roof when the storm system passed through. However, the team prayed hard and the storm mostly passed around them.

The team gets an early start on the Ramsey roof.

Despite the late weather surprise most of the teams got back for dinner at a reasonable time and our schedule wasn't disrupted.

Billy and Perry lead the evening program and did there usual superb job. The rest of the evening was spent mostly relaxing with the youth making a few runs to the convenience store and playing 4-squares or watching a movie. If they weren't there then they were in my office checking out the website.

Speaking of the website, there were about 6000 hits on the website over a 24 hour period. We had 11,000 hits on the website during last year's camp. At the moment of this writing we've had 9233 hits on the site. We should break last year's record by noon and it's only Tuesday. We've also delivered 85 messages to the campers. They truly seem to enjoy receiving them so keep those messages coming.

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July 19, 2005

I suppose that if this camp is going to be known for anything it's the extreme heat. Monday and Tuesday had temperatures in excess of 90F. With the humidity the heat index was about 100. Everyday was an exercise in keeping everyone as hydrated as possible.

The Ramsey team seemed to be the most affected by the heat. They spent the day trying to remove shingles off the existing roof. There were about five layers of shingles that stubbornly wanted to stay on.

As for the Camp Director it was a very uneventful day. I was up with the rest of the campers for breakfast, updated the website from 7-9am and spent the rest of the day cruising around the sites taking pictures. I'm feeling pretty good about this camp. Everyone is working hard despite the extreme conditions and the teams are making great progess. Wednesday should be an interesting day. That's when we gauge where we are insofar as progress and budget.

Tuesday evening was fun. On Monday I had told the campers that we didn't have access to the Fellowship Hall for dinner as per our usual custom. I told them that we had instead made arrangements for them to go to a place call Phil's for dinner and that we all should meet in the parking lot at 6:30pm. At 6:30 we gathered in the parking lot as we had agreed but instead of boarding the buses I lead everybody down into the Fellowship Hall. In April of this year the church had put on a production of Uncle Phil's Diner which was a dinner theatre set in a 1950's diner. It was a great break for the campers .... a departure from our usual evening programs. A lot of people from the congregation got a chance to perform, even the Camp Director.

When the production ended at 8:30 everyone had the rest of the evening devoted to free time. I ended up being up till 2:00pm getting the day's pictures on the website. So I'm pretty tired right now as I write this.

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July 20, 2005

I really don't look forward to Wednesdays during the week of Salkehatchie. By Wednesday the task of tearing stuff out is largely complete and the team begins looking towards the end of the week with the knowledge there isn't much time left. That alone makes for many anxious moments. In addition, it seems that teams are little more tired, a little more prone to making mistakes and more prone to getting frustrated.

The day began with a trip to the hospital emergency room with one of our young campers complaining of chest pains. (Cutting quickly to the end of the story ... our camper was discharged late in the day. No major problem and she'll be back at the work site tomorrow). Billy Rintz and I took turns staying with her in the hospital until her parents arrived.

With the hospital visit taking priority I didn't make my normal rounds today. Furthermore the general lack of sleep caught up with me today and I fell asleep in my office for about two hours in the afternoon. I guess that was better than driving around in my non-air conditioned car. As a result I haven't been able to put Wednesday photos just yet. However, by the time you read this I expect to have the Wednesday photos done.

Beyond the challenge of the work projects, our campers have had plenty to think about. One of our site leaders left on Sunday to deal with his father's illness. Two brothers in camp had a death in the family and will leave the camp in the morning. Several of our sites are feeling anxious about their ability to complete their major projects.

I don't like Wednesdays much at Salkehatchie.

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July 21, 2005

Thursday was a long day but mostly a good one. Late Wednesday night we decided to lengthen Thursday's work day. We had been originally scheduled to work until 6:00pm but moved it to 7:00pm to give teams a little extra time to complete projects. We were a bit concerned that because of the heat we might be asking a little too much of the youth. Not surprisingly the youth were ready to go. They have been a pretty keen bunch.

We didn't get much of a break from the weather over the course of the day. It may have been a few degrees cooler but it sure didn't feel like it. The Ramsey team continued the big roof job. A few more hands from the HUMC congregation joined them over the course of the day. The team put a thermometer on the roof. When I was there the temperature gauge showed 121F on the roof. Needless to say this team was taking a lot of water breaks. Despite the temperature they made great progress on the roof and will finish it up on Friday. They also completed the painting of the exterior. They'll be hard pressed to complete the screened in porch/utility room but the team is committed to getting it done.

The Jetton team continued with their extraordinary transformation. The pictures in the Photo Gallery tell the story. The team expects to complete most of what they started. To show the team his appreciation Mr Jetton is providing lunch for his team. The team also agreed to get a 5am Friday morning to get the earliest possible start on the work. (NOTE: they were on the road at 5:30am)

The Hicks team has gone through their projects one-by-one. The exterior is complete. Gutters are up. Porches are built. All that's left is some flooring and they'll be done.

The Staton team has made steady progress all week. Today the kitchen cabinets go up. The outside deck was completed yesterday and most of the soffit and fascia work is done. It's mostly kitchen and bathroom work left.

The Stevenson team was planning on a big effort for Friday. The team will spend most of the day shingling and installing the kitchen cabinets and completing the interior rooms. The Stevenson home has been the biggest project this year and the team has done a remarkable job. They are committed to getting it done.

By the end of the day on Friday a tremendous amount will have been accomplished. There will however, be things left for Mona and me to worry about when camp breaks. That's OK too. This camp is what it is because it is not afraid to tackle the big projects.

Keep the teams in your thoughts and prayers. One big day left.

We had our annual talent show tonight. I say annual because we've now had it two years in a row. I guess that now qualifies as "annual". I'm amazed that the campers have as much energy as they do. Thursday is usually the night that we allow the campers to work late. To be able to then have a talent show that begins at 9:30pm is quite amazing. I was doing all I could to sit upright in my chair. John Ballentine was the master of ceremonies for the show with Baker Ratliff, Hunter Wagstaff, Tresca Hollis and Jennifer Ratliff as the judges. The whole event was hilarious with various talents on display such as juggling, dancing and singing. Larry Hawkey did his annual (two years in a row) "You might be Salkehatchie ...." routine. For last year's version check out this link. Larry added some new material this year and it was hilarious. As I said, it was a fun event and even the Camp Director participated.

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July 22, 2005

Friday already? Where does the week go? I think the campers are ready for the week to end. Weather wise it's been brutally hot. I'm thankful no one has collapsed from the heat. Then again, we do a good job of insisting that everyone has plenty of water breaks.

The porch at the side door looks really good

Spencer Dobbins on the Jetton team came up with the idea of getting up at 5:00am. The adults went along with it assuming that it would never happen. They were wrong. They were on the road at 5:30am. They let the cooks in the kitchen know that there would be 10 less for breakfast.

Today lunch was provided by the good folks from First United Methodist of China Grove. However, two team had lunch provided to them by their homeowners. Mr Jetton and Mrs Stevenson felt so stongly about what their teams were doing for them that they insisted on providing lunch for their teams. Mr Jetton treated his team to lunch at Cici's Pizza while Mrs Stevenson had a grill brought in from her church. We've had some great homeowners this year.

I try not to spend too much time at the homes on Friday since the teams don't need me hovering around to see if they complete everything so I mostly hang out at the church and try to get caught up on the website or sleep. Actually, I mostly sleep.

Friday is usually the highlight of the week for me. The Tour of Homes is fun. The transformations are incredible and everyone has a great time despite their being tired and exhausted. Every home was impressive even though some had work that needed to be done. The highlight for me was Paul Hicks singing Amazing Grace. It gave us chills.

We got back to the church at 7:30pm about 30 minutes ahead of our scheduled dinner. (I mention this because last year we were 2 hours late.) After dinner we had the symbol ceremony. Each camper finds a symbol some time during the week. The symbol can be found on the home site or somewhere else in camp. It's an opportunity to discuss how it relates to their experience at camp. I have to admit this was one of the best ceremonies I've ever participated in. At the conclusion of the ceremony Robert Cox lead the communion service. Robert did a brilliant job. (Praying for you Robert ... jk) I have to say it was the best Friday evening that we've experienced in this camp. It was an incredibly moving experience.

On Friday night we let the campers stay up late. The last stragglers were finally sent to bed about 3:45am. I called it a night about 4:00am.

Prior to the symbol ceremony

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July 23, 2005 - Last Day of Camp

And just that quickly it comes to an end. Every year a few of the campers, usually the youth, suggest that Salkehatchie should be a two week experience. One week seems to go by too fast. I don't agree. Besides the fact that it would be almost impossible to get adults to commit to a two week camp, I believe that the relatively short duration of the camp contributes to making it special. The 4 1/2 day sprint to get these projects done means that there is an intensity and sense of urgency that seems to bring out the best in us. One is forced to put away personal agendas and work towards the short term goal. Any one individual who loses sight of the end goal risks derailing the whole team. There is no time to think about the difficult and uncomfortable working conditions. I wouldn't change anything about it.

Every year a few of the campers, usually the youth, suggest that Salkehatchie should be a two week experience. One week seems to go by too fast. I don't agree. Besides the fact that it would be almost impossible to get adults to commit to a two week camp, I believe that the relatively short duration of the camp contributes to making it special. The 4 1/2 day sprint to get these projects done means that there is an intensity and sense of urgency that seems to bring out the best in us.

I actually had a few hours sleep. When I chased everyone who was awake to bed at 4:00am I was able to get to bed myself. In the past I've essentially stayed awake all night to put together a closing Powerpoint presentation. With Laura doing the closing video I had given her my photographs about 9:00pm and I had nothing left to do. I liked that.

I woke up about 6:30am, printed out some "camper messages" and prepared for the morning program. The campers were awakened at 7:30am. Last night they were given instructions to clear out all their stuff and have breakfast by 9:00am. One of many things that have made this a very pleasant camp for me is how well everyone has followed the camp rules and responded to requests. Like they have all week everyone responded and personal items were out of the rooms by 8:45am. Our volunteers were able to begin cleaning the rooms immediately. (One issue however ... someone left a snakeskin in their room which almost made Christine McMillan jump out of her own skin!)

At 9:05 we began the final presentation. After getting a few administrative items out of the way I spoke about the week that had just passed. I mentioned that we had shared a lot during the week. Many in our group had personal challenges that they shared with the group. We all had an opportunity to minister to each other. I also acknowledged two people who had made such a huge difference in this camp, my wife Mona for all the things she did in the weeks leading up to the camp and Laura Brittain for all the work she did in pulling together the videos. The rest of my address to the campers was as follows:

"At the conclusion of last year's camp I received postings to the website, emails and at least one letter from individuals thanking me for their experience at the camp. Of course, we were flattered. We work very hard to put on this camp. However, I have to say that everyone was thanking the wrong person. Let me explain that. Now don't get me wrong. We do work hard to put on a great camp. There's a lot of hours that goes into the preparation and we pay a lot of attention to detail. We'll put our camp up against any other camp in South Carolina, even those that have been in operation for 15-20 years. That being said, there is a limit to what we are able to do. All we do and all we can do is set a stage and create an environment for good things to happen. The rest is up to you. Last Saturday and Sunday we told you where to be, how long to be there and what you needed to do. In short, we controlled your experience. We were setting the stage and creating the environment. When Monday came around, it was up to you to create your own experience ... and you did. If you are looking for someone to thank for the experience you have had you need to look inside yourselves. You created that experience, not us.

I am often asked why I do this. It's a fair question. It is a lot of work. I guess there are many reasons. But what it really comes down to is that I genuinely like being around you. You make me feel good and most importantly you make me feel like I do something that is worthwhile. And I thank you for that"

Billy closed us out with prayer. Camp dismissed.

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