LOGIN HERE: User ID: Password: | Contact Us

Salkehatchie Summer Service
Huntersville Camp 2006

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 year he is running his fouth camp in Huntersville.

Go directly to:
May 27, 2006
May 30, 2006
May 31, 2006
June 29, 2006
July 15, 2006 - First Day of Camp
July 16, 2006
July 17, 2006
July 18, 2006
July 19, 2006
July 20, 2006
July 21, 2006
July 22, 2006 - Last Day of Camp

April 16, 2006 - Oberstaufen, Germany

It is about time that I gave a report on where we are with the camp. You can see that we filled up quickly this year. By the beginning of March we already had 37 youth registered and we have since stopped accepting youth registrations. We have 13 adults registered but I am expecting a few more. For those of you with a userid and password you can look over the list of camp participants. It's a nice mixture of new and familiar faces.

We have also been busy looking at houses. You can see pictures that we have taken in the Photo Gallery. We plan on doing four homes this year. We have visited seven homes so far and there are four that we could work on. However, we still plan to look at a few more before we make our final decisions.

As for what you can expect from the website during this year's camp there's been one major change. It's unlikely that we'll be putting videos on the website this year. Our cinematographer, Laura Brittain, will be working outside of Huntersville this year and as such won't be available to film and create the videos. We will definitely miss that. In addition, we'll miss the other contributions that Laura has made to our camp in the past.

Like last year friends and family will be able to send messaqes to the campers. That feature is now active on the website so feel free to test it out. It gives me a chance to see if it's really working. The link is at the left hand of this page.

As for the actual planning of the camp it's safe to say that we're behind our pace of last year. There's several reasons for this. Since this is our fourth camp I didn't feel it was necessary to get the planning team together as early as I have in the past years. It gave everybody the opportunity to concentrate on other things in the early part of they year. Speaking for myself, it allowed me to concentrate on a new role and responsbilities at work. In addition it gave me some time to take a break from Salkehatchie stuff. At the conclusion of last year's camp we were left a with a significant project to complete at the Ramsey house. That took up most weekends until the beginning of December. Shortly after that we had our reunion (another rousing success!). I just needed the break.

When we return from our vacation on April 26 we'll need to get to get to work. We'll keep you updated on the progress.

Return to top

May 27, 2006

Looking for Homes

The shingles are in really bad shape

There are many things that need to be done prior to the start of camp. Fortunately most of those things happen without me having to do much (if any) work. Registrations happen without me doing anything. HUMC gives us space for a week. Nothing to worry about there. A team of folks arrange our meals. Billy Rintz and Perry Brittain worry about the evening programming. However, the one thing that I do spend a lot of time on is the selection of the homes we'll be working on. Mona and I spend much of the five months leading up to our camp visiting homeowners and trying to figure out which ones we will work with.

In the months leading up to our first camp in 2003 we spent a lot of time looking for homeowners to work with. Since we had no reputation or track record finding homes was difficult. The last two years have been considerably different. This year we have received a lot of calls from homeowners hoping that we can work with them. Mona, Tresca Hollis and I have visited about 12 homes so far this year. That's the good news. The bad news is that it makes our decision that much more interesting and difficult.

When we look at a home we quickly place it in one of three categories ... definite yes, definite no and definite maybe. As you might suspect the definite yes's and no's are pretty easy to pick out. A definite yes would be a home that has some obvious structural and/or safety issues. Leaking roofs, collapsing floors and dangerous steps are characterstics of a "definite yes". If the homeowner is elderly with no visible resources to do the repairs it's all the more likely we'll work with them.

Some owners who call us misunderstand what it is that we do. They are usually looking for someone to help with some odd jobs that they are not in a position to do themselves. These homes typically don't have any pressing structural issues and likely don't have enough work to keep a team of 10 people busy for a week. Sometimes we'll turn down a home because we don't anticipate having the necessary skills in camp.

The toughest houses to select are the "maybe's". "Maybe's" are usually homes that have plenty of good projects but aren't usually homes that absolutely have to be worked on right away. The challenge is picking the one that we will do and which one we won't.

This year we have found three definite's, three maybe's and the other six were definite no's. We recently decided that we would work on five homes this year. Sometime in the next 10 days we'll decide which two of the three maybe's we'll work on.

You can see the homes we are currently looking at by checking out the Photo Gallery.

Return to top

May 30, 2006 - 35,000 feet over the Eastern United States

Tough Decisions to Make

Mona and I had set aside Memorial Day as the day to visit many the prospective homeowners. We had eight separate appointments with the first starting at 8:00am and the final one ending about 5:00pm. Of the 12 homes in total we had originally visited we had already told two of the homeowners that we weren't able to help them. There were two others that we didn't get to see on Memorial Day. I wasn't particularly looking forward to the day. There were two homeowners in the group of eight that we had definitely decided not to work with this summer. One of homes had some sagging floors and also needed some windows replaced. The windows may have been manageable but the sagging floors presented some challenges that I didn't believe we would be able to easily fix. The other home didn't have any real major problems that needed to be urgently fixed. The homeowner had an extremely small kitchen and bathroom. I couldn't see any solution that didn't involved building an addition and frankly I don't want to tackle another addition this year.

Another view of the roof

Mona and I had come to really like both these homeowners. Both were women living alone that had put a lot of effort into maintaining their homes. They just didn't have the resources to go that extra step. We didn't enjoy telling them that we couldn't help them. It didn't make it any easier when we learned during our visit that one of the women just learned that her son was terminally ill with cancer. She had lost another son to cancer just 18 months before. Both homeowners were disappointed but they both understood how we had come to our decision.

During the day we informed three of the homeowners that we would like to work with them this summer, assuming that they were still willing to have about 10 complete strangers tearing up their house. They all said yes. I wonder if the homeowners appreciate just how crazy it can during the week of Salkehatchie. In my initial meetings with the homeowners I try to paint a picture of just how messy it can get. During our first camp in 2003 I distinctly remembered one homeowner on Wednesday watching in stunned disbelief at the hole in ground that used to be her kitchen. Everything in that kitchen was so rotted that the team had removed all the floor joists. There was literally a 12 x 10 hole when the team left at the end of the day. (If you want to see what it really looked like go the 2003 Photo Gallery and check out the pictures of the Ladda home). I've learned since then that homeowners prefer to know what they are in for.

Return to top

May 31, 2006 - Newark International Airport

Tough Decisions to Make (con't)

There were three additional homeowners that we visited on Memorial Day. We told each of those homeowners that we had not yet come to a decision regarding whether we would be working on their homes this year. We needed to pick two of the three but Mona and I had not yet come to a decision. There were compelling reasons to choose each of them. All three homeowners are women who live alone. Two of them are quite elderly (ages 79 & 87). The third homeowner is in her early 50's but she is severely handicapped. She has an oxygen tank with her at all times and although she can walk she uses a wheelchair to move about the house or to visit the doctor. Here's a brief rundown on these three homeowners:

Mrs S is 87 years old. She lives alone but she has family in the area. Her home's windows need replacing, the ramp in the front of the house needs to be repaired and she could use a deck off the back door. There are some cosmetic changes that are required inside but those are relatively minor. Not only does Mrs S need our help but she has helped cook food for us at New Friendship Presbyterian Church every year. My concerns with this house are the skill required to replace the windows and the expense of the windows. In the next week I'll be measuring the windows and determining if we can afford to do this home.

Mrs T is 79 years old. She too lives alone but she does have family in the area. Mrs T's home is structurally sound (as far as we can tell). The interior needs painting, she needs a wheelchair ramp and a new pantry in the kitchen. She has a hookup for a washer and dryer but there is no drain. As such Mrs T needs to go the laundromat to do her laundry. One reason to work on this home is that it's not too complicated a home to work on. Since we will have some inexperienced site leaders these year it might make sense to do this home.

Mona and Tresca at the back of the house

Mrs E is in her early 50's. An accident a few years ago has left her severely disabled. In addition to needing oxygen she also has a morphine pump to help her manage her pain. Her home needs some basic maintenance as well as some improvements to make it more handicapped accessible. Windows need to be replaced, doorways need to be widened to accomadate a wheelchair and the bathroom needs to be upgraded to allow Mrs E to take a shower which she can't do right now.

Each of these homeowners needs our help. We can only do two. I've already spent one sleepness night trying to figure out what I'm going to do .... I'll probably have a few more before we come to a decision.

We've had some difficult decisions to make this year regarding our choice of homes. In our first year of operation it was difficult to find homes since we had not established a reputation in the neighborhood. We really didn't have any tough decisions to make. We looked at five homes and chose four of them. The home we didnt' choose we eventually chose the following year. That was Vertie Bost's home. This year we haven't needed to look for homes. We've had twelve homeowners contact us. Most of those homeowners heard about Salkehatchie from another homeowner that we had previously worked for. That speaks well of our program. However, it does make the decisions that much more difficult.

Return to top

June 29, 2006

We Have Made Our Home Selections

As documented earlier we've had a challenging time figuring out which homes we are going to work on. We have made our decisions and the homeowners have been notified of our decisions. Hopefully in a few days I'll create a web page describing the specific homes that we'll be working on. For those of you with a userid and password I hope to have Briefing Sheets for each of the homes by July 4th.

Return to top

July 15, 2006 - First Day of Camp

We got through the first day without a hitch. But that was to be expected. We intentionally planned for the camp to start a little later this year. In the past we had felt that there was too much dead time during the afternoon of the first day and that we would allow everyone to leave a little later in the morning to get here. As it was everyone was on time and we were able to start our home tour a little earlier than scheduled.

I'm wondering if the weather is going to be problem. The rain really came down hard just before we were beginning to start dinner. A drain, just outside the kitchen door, became clogged and water started coming into the kitchen. There have been a lot of thunderstorms the last few days. Hopefully, they will be restricted to the supper hour

The biggest problem for was that the storm knocked out the church's internet connection. Not only could I not get to the web I couldn't put things on the web. I'm writing this at 5:53am on Sunday and I'm not sure when I'll get it onto the website. That also goes for the 80+ pictures I took yesterday.

Going into the Berry home

Return to top

July 16, 2006

One of the more amazing things that occurred last night (Saturday) happened during the adult meeting. The main purpose of the Saturday night meeting is to form the site teams. The adult teams had been created prior to the camp starting. During the Saturday tour of homes the youth rate the homes according to their preference. In the evening we use those forms as a guide to start creating the teams. Not everyone gets their top choice but we work hard to ensure that no one gets their bottom choices. After dinner Tresca, Mona and I took a first pass at the forming the teams. The intent is to put together the teams and use this as a starting point.

During the adult meeting we hand out the team lists to the respective site leaders. What normally follows is about 45 minutes of bartering and negotiating ... "I need more big kids" .... "There are too many from this one church on this site" ... "This two don't like each other" ... "These two like each other too much" ... anyways you get the idea.

I was expecting much of the same. I guess we did a decent job of forming the teams but every site leader accepted the team that we gave them. That's never happend at my camp (or any other camp I've been part of). I was rather stunned. I'm not sure what it means but hopefully it means something good.

On Sunday the newly formed teams went off to meet with their homeowners. I didn't attend and hung around the church. The feedback I got was that the meetings went well.

We worshipped at HUMC at 10:30 and then ate lunch. After lunch the teams spent a little bit of time doing some planning and then it was off to the lake for an afternoon of unstructured rest and relaxation. Everyone welcomed it knowing that the hardwork started on Monday.

Katie Fralic joined us at the lake. She is the Director of Youth Ministries at the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. She played a lead role in the early days of our camp. It was essential that the conference be supportive of our camp and Katie was a big supporter of our effort.

Playing some cards on Sunday afternoon

After dinner Billy gave a sermon (another excellent job) and we commissioned the campers in preparation for the coming week. At the conclusion we headed back to church.

Not sure if this trend will continue but we seem to be running ahead of schedule on just about everything. It would be great if we could keep it up for the whole week!

Return to top

July 17, 2006

During past camps I would usually get nervous on the Monday of the camp. My nervousness was related to potential issues that might expose themselves on the first day. I'm a lot calmer this year. Perhaps I'm getting the idea that we know what we're doing.

Monday was a great day on the work sites. Every team seemed to have a plan and they began to immediately execute on it. You'll see more of what they accomplished on the Home Owners Page. In general every team completed tearing out what they needed to tear out. A few teams began the process of building it back up.

Lunch was at Christ Community Church. It was the first time that we had used that particular church. They did a great job. Lots of pasta and meatballs and salad. A great way to kickoff the week.

Over the course of the afternoon there were a few minor injuries. A few of the youth at the Blackman home stepped on nails. Nothing too serious but we had Dr Carlos Anzola look over them in the evening. No emergency room visits so far.

The Berry team is ready to go

We had a couple of logistics snafus at the end of the day. One of the shower facilities forgot we were coming (one would think a couple of emails and phone calls would be enough of a minder) and we had to quickly divert that team to another facility. They got their showers fortunately. Another shower that we had signed wasn't really a great facility. We'll have to find another alternative for Tuesday.

Dinner was served by HUMC's Seekers Sunday School class ... fried chicken. We enjoyed that!

In the evening Perry did a great job with the music and Billy ran an awesome program. It was a great first work day ... some logistics issues and a few minor injuries, but aside from that it went well.

Return to top

July 18, 2006

On Tuesday the work day proceeded much like the second day. Great progress through out the day.

Sharon Hilliard is a first time adult at our camp. She's responsible for Children's Ministries at McMannen United Methodist Church in Durham, NC. We have set her up to be the delivery person for the camp. Anyone who needs anything delivered to their site can give Sharon a call. We've never done this at our camp before. It has really worked out well. Lots of great reviews from the adult leaders in camp. However, I'm not sure she ever imagined being this busy.

Sharon Hilliard does deliveries for all the sites ... caught up with her in Lowe's

The shower situation was worked out. Eddie Shaner, who's in our congregation, is the vice-principal at Hopewell High School. He arranged for us to use their shower facilities. It was great. The other shower that wasn't opened the previous day made arrangements for staff to be there. It worked out really well.

We spent Tuesday evening at the Huntersville Family Fitness & Aquatic Center Waterpark. Everyone had a great time. After a long hot day it was very refreshing. However, that didn't pass without one anxious moment. When we arrived the staff told us that they thought we were coming in tomorrow (Wednesday). However, they quickly got a few more life guards assigned to the Waterpark and we were able to stay. I didn't want to tell 32 teenagers that they had to go back to the church. I'm glad we were able to work it out.

I didn't have an adult meeting afterwards. There really was no need for one. Everything had gone well during the day and I thought the only thing the adults needed was to relax and get an early rest if they needed it.

We're keeping Dr Anzola busy. Mona had an insect bite that required attention and one of the youth who had stepped on a nail the previous day needed to have that looked at.

Tomorrow's Wednesday. I'm always a little leery of Wednesday's. It's the 1/2 way point and teams really begin to think of what they need to accomplish by the end of the week. It will be an interesting day. They all are during Salkehatchie.

Return to top

July 19, 2006

It was a hot one. It started out hot and stayed that way through out the day. Thankfully the air conditioning at the church was repaired. We took one of the youths to the church in the afternoon to get them out of the heat. (He's doing fine).

The heat seemed to slow everyone down today. Lots of good progress was made but the third day of intense heat seemed to take its toll. Some of the teams were disappointed at the end of the day because they felt they should have gotten more done. However, as you'll see in the photos a lot of work got done.

The waterpark was a nice break from the heat of the day

Our logistics glitch of the day (we've had a few this year) was that we ran out of food at lunch. However, the lunch team rallied to get some more food and everyone went away well fed.

Moneywise we seem to be in great shape. By end of day Wednesday I can usually know if we are going to be under or over budget. So far all the teams are running under their projections. This, of course, is a good thing. I'll need money to pay for plumbing services in the next few weeks.

From what I can tell, the homeowners are delighted. Mrs Evans has been away all week and won't see her home until Friday. She won't recognize it.

Sharon Hilliard continues to be a blessing. She's been our delivery person. I have no idea how we gotten away without one the past three years. The site leaders have been raving about her contribution to this year's camp. The other benefit of having Sharon around is that she is aware of every team's surplus materials. For example, if a team is about to buy some bags of cement she knows if other teams have some that they haven't used. That alone has probably saved us several hundred dollars.

This year we've had a new video person, Crystal Dabbs. She's visited the sites to take videos and in the evenings she hands the raw footage to Ed McCutcheon who creates the actual videos we put on the website. They have done a great job. Ed and his family will be leaving for vacation tomorrow so we'll only have videos up to Wednesday. The rest will be on the website after Ed returns from vacation.

There really have been a lot of doctor visits this year. Moreso than the last three years combined. Nothing serious ... just a couple of people stepping on nails and a few insect bites. Thankfully, it hasn't been any worse than that. Many thanks to Dr. Carlos Anzola.

They will be taking videos this week

In the evening Lynn and Perry Brittain made 100+ water filled balloons. The youth had a good time with that.

We passed the half way point. Lots of work yet to do but everyone is confident that it will get done.

Return to top

July 20, 2006

One hates to be cocky but I would have to say that we are cruising. Right now our teams are all schedule to finish their projects on time. That means no major projects for Mona and me to finish up. Last year we worked into December. Now there will be plumbing to do but we knew that heading into the week. Plumbers are difficult for us to schedule during the week of the camp so some of the work will be completed in the next week or two. But other than that only the Torrence team will be racing to get done. The Hicks and Berry teams will definitely be done by noon. The Blackman team will be done in the early afternoon. The Evans team is targeting just after lunch but that might be a stretch. Furthermore, the teams will come in under their operating budget. In a camp with four first year site leaders that is remarkable.

We had our talent show last night. Not a lot of acts but they were good ones. The pictures are in the Photo Gallery.

We are all looking forward to Friday. The week has just flown by.

Return to top

July 21, 2006

At breakfast all the teams seemed very relaxed. They were anxious to get out to the sites but no one seemed to be in a panic. Last year, in an effort to finish up one of the teams skipped breakfast and got out the door about 5:30am. Even the Torrence team, which had the most work in front of them seemed to be pretty calm.

By about noon both the Hicks and Berry teams were finished. Lunch was at HUMC but was provided by the folks at First United Methodist of China Grove. Great chicken. My plan for the afternoon was to head over to the Evans home about 1:30pm which was the time we were expecting Ms Evans to arrive. Due to health reasons she had spent the week at a friends home in Charlotte. She had left her home on Sunday before the team had started work. We were all anxious to see her reaction. My other plan was to grab a shower and then print off some before-pictures that we'd place at the homes prior to the tour.

One more workday

As it turned out Ms Evans didn't show up until just after 3:00pm. I didn't want to miss her return so I hung around helping out a little but mostly took pictures. If you wanted to know why the Evans team had so many pictures taken Friday afternoon that's the reason. While doing so I developed a full appreciation of what the Evans team had accomplished. Starting on Monday they tore out the wall separating the kitchen and living room (including the chimney), rebuilt the front porch while adding a ramp, built a utility room, done some wiring, replaced the flooring and painted all of the interior. Lots of work got done this week.

Ms Evans was overcome with emotion when she arrived home. The team had accomplished more than she could have imagined. Everyone was in tears including me. It was one of the best moments of the camp.

There was no time to get a shower. About 3:40 I walked down the street to see what the Torrence team was up to. I started to shoo them out of there at 3:50pm. I was worried that Vance might keep his team there until they were completed and that might take some time. I needed to have the tour start at 5:00pm.

The tour got started about 5:15pm. Like all tours ending the week it was great. Some great testimonials by the homeowners. All the teams deserved to be proud of what they had accomplished.

The symbol ceremony

After dinner we had our communion and symbols ceremony. It's always a very emotional time for everyone. My plan after the ceremony was to go home to have a shower and then start building the presentation for Saturday morning. As it was, one of the youth who earlier in the day had been bitten by an insect was experiencing some redness and soreness at the sight of the bite. So I was off to hospital (along with Bill Ratliff and Tresca Hollis). We got back from the hospital at about 2:00am. No shower. I worked on the presentation till 4:00am and went to sleep.

Return to top

July 22, 2006

It takes about six or seven months of serious planning to prepare for the camp. Some part of every week is spent doing some kind of preparation. At times it seems like the camp will never arrive. However, when the camp does start, it seems to be over in a flash. The week literally flies by for me. During the weeks and months leading up to camp I feel some amount of stress. It's nothing that I can't cope with and I often don't even realize I feel it. Details regarding the camp are constantly running through my head. On the Saturday morning that the camp ends I feel very calm and peaceful (and tired ... a couple of hours sleep will do that). With the camp behind us and very little post-camp work to do it was a great feeling.

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."

Matthew 25:35-36

In my closing remarks I spent a few moments talking about this year's site leaders. We had four first-time site leaders this year. None of them had volunteered for the job. But with experienced site leaders like Baker Ratliff and John Ballentine not attending this year I needed to call upon other adults to fill the role. The fifth site leader was Bill Ratliff. All the site leaders did a remarkable job. They projects were about 98% complete and no one went over budget. I have plenty of money left to pay for the necessary plumbing work. Collectively it was the best performance by any group of site leaders in the four years of this camp.

We had an unusually experienced group of youth this year. Included among the returning campers were 9 graduating seniors. They were Chelsey Young, Robert Dobbins, Julie Pollard, Doug Coats, Hillary Wagstaff, Cody Shores, Jarad Osterhus, Tyler Wilson and Katie Owens. Three of them; Robert, Julie and Cody had attended all four of our camps. Everyone else had attended at least two. It's not unusual for college-age youth to attend our camps. In fact, many of the nine expressed an interest in returning. The reality, however, is that the lives of college youth changes dramatically and most won't have the time to return to our camp.

This particular group has had a tremendous positive impact on our camp. We have had very successful camps over the past 4 years and these young people deserve a good part of the credit. Not only did they set an example for the newer youth they also set an example for the adults. I will miss them.

We showed the campers a presentation and video that encapsulated the whole week. It ran about 25 minutes and everyone enjoyed it. Billy closed us out with a reading of Matthew 25:31-46.

Lots of hugs as everyone made their way to the parking lot. Mona, Carl Duncan and I went over to Ms Evans home to help her move some of her things back into her house. We had rented storage boxes which she had used to store most of her furniture and personal belongings. When I returned home about noon I took Natalia to lunch as I had promised her. I returned home for a nap, but not before I took a long shower.

It was a great camp. God has been good to us. Thanks be to God.

Return to top