Salkehatchie Summer Service
Huntersville Camp 2007
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 year he is running his 5th camp in Huntersville.
April 10, 2007 - Willis, Texas
We will be hosting our fifth camp in Huntersville this year. About this time in 2003 I was in a mild panic. We were worried about a number of things .... would anyone attend? ... could we find houses? ... would it run smoothly? At the time we were the first camp in the 26 year history of Salkehatchie Summer Service to be outside of South Carolina. It was a decision that the Salkehatchie Steering Committee didn't take lightly. It required a special vote to be approved. Of course, we did find houses and people did attend the camp, 39 of them and if I may say so myself, it ran very smoothly.
Over the past four camps I've been lucky enough to have a planning team that has been with me since the first camp. It has gotten to the point that I don't have to worry about too much. The meals will be great and Billy & Perry will do a great job with the spiritual side of the camp and people will attend. I only have to worry about the homes, the funds and the website.
This year we are also delighted to say that we'll have our second camp in North Carolina this year. Tresca Hollis will be the Camp Director for the Shelby Camp. You can check out her Director Notes and see how her camp is coming along. The opening of the Shelby Camp inspired me to redesign the website to showcase not only our camp but the Shelby Camp too. I'm in the midst of an 18-month effort to redesign the website to accommadate any number of camps in North Carolina. If you want to learn more about the website check out the Geek Report.
Searching for Homes
Mona and I have spent most of our energy searching for homes. For the past couple of years we've talked about working on homes outside of our immediate area. Since 2003 we've mostly worked in Huntersville. In 2004 we worked on two homes in Charlotte but that has been the exception. In Huntersville we've mostly worked on Rich Hatchet Road and the area bordered by Holbrook Road, Church Street and Dellwood Ave.
One of the areas we've thought about was the neighborhood in Cornelius that exists just east of Exit 28. It's about six miles from the church. However, we didn't have any contacts in the area and were reluctant to just knock on the doors of complete strangers. However, at the conclusion of last year's camp we received a call from a gentlemen who lived in the neighborhood. He hoped we might be able to help him in 2007.
When it came time to start our house search this year we called on this gentlemen. Unfortunately, he no longer lived in the home (it was actually abandoned). However, his former home is next the Bethel Union AME Zion Church. We decided to reach out to that church in the hopes they might broker some introductions in the neighborhood.
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May 21, 2007 - 35,000 ft over the United States
Searching for Homes (con't)
At Bethel Union AME Zion Church we contacted Delores Williams who is the chairman of the trustees for the church. After we spoke briefly on the phone she invited Mona and I to make a presentation at the church one evening. At that meeting we described what we did and what the Salkehatchie program was all about. Ms Williams agreed to help us meet some of the homeowners in the local community.
The following Sunday Ms Williams introduced us to nine homeowners. A few days later she introduced us to two more. Each of the homes we visited were potential Salkehatchie homes. Shortly, thereafter Mona and I began to talk about the potential of having all five of our homes in a single neighborhood. We had never done that before. We'd never had all of our homes within a short walk of each other.
Some time in early May we came to decision to have all our homes in the same neighborhood. I'll share some information about the actual homes in a few weeks.
I have not been very good about keeping up with my director notes. That being said, the planning for the camp has proceeded. As of this writing we have 53 people registered to attend the camp. For the first time we have adults attending our camp who had formally been youth in my camp. (To Katie, Julie, Robert, Cody and Chelsey .... welcome aboard!). Of the 53 returning, 34 have attended the camp previously. It will be a good mix of familiar faces and new people.
On the planning side, I'm very fortunate to have the same team in place. Billy Rintz and Perry Brittain will lead the worship team. Rehnea Raines, Christine McMillan, Patti Stiene and Vicki Rintz will get the meals organized. Ann Gibert, as usual, comes up with all sorts of ideas to make the camp run smoother. Mona will continue to organize our building materials as well as finding bargains at yard sales in our neighborhood. As they have in previous years, the team allows me to sleep at night.
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July 11, 2007 - Stranded in Boston Logan Airport
Just 10 Days to Go!
There have not been a lot of Camp Director updates compared to past years. That wasn't by intent but it's been a busy couple of months. Some family responsibilities have taken me away from planning for the camp. In addition we (me, Mona, Ben and Nathan) participated in the Shelby's first Salkehatchie Camp. Tresca Hollis and the whole Shellby team ran a great camp and we had a great time.
It has been awhile since I have seen the camp through the eyes of someone other than a Camp Director. Tresca asked me (as well as Mona to be site leaders. It was a fun but physically exhausting experience. It also re-affirmed the respect I have for the job that site leaders do. There is a lot for a site leader to keep track of during the work week.
Meanwhile back in Huntersville the plans for the camp have proceeded. We have selected our homes. As I had mentioned earlier in these notes we have selected five homes in the Smithville section of Cornelius. The neighborhood is located about 5 miles north of the church. It's a unique opportunity for us. All five homes are within walking distance of each other. We have also taken the opportunity to have our Friday evening church service at Bethel Union AME Zion Church which is located right in the Smithville neighborhood.
We've also set something of a record with the number of people coming to camp. We have 58 committed at this point with perhaps a couple more coming. The accommadations will be tight but we should be able to make it happen.
The website is also ready for the camp. I've tried to delegate some of the writing to others. In the past I have attempted to provide a daily update on the homes. Due to lack of time I was usually behind a few days and when I did get around to it my comments were rather sparse. This year I have a number of volunteers among our HUMC youth who will be writing daily reports on each of the homes. I think it should work out well.
Our newest invention on the website is something we're calling Salkehatchie Radio. What we hope to do is have audio files that can be accessed through the website, either directly or through a podcast on an iPod. I had messed around with the technology last fall and felt confident that we could get it working during the Huntersville Camp. The plan is to have a roving report, Ann Fletcher, spending some time interviewing campers during the week. Ann is a member of the HUMC congregation and also a writer for the Huntersville Herald. I know she'll do a great job. I just hope I can find the hour or two it will take me to edit the audio files and get them on the Website.
Like the last two years we'll also have videos on the website. Charles Gibert, one of our youth, will be responsible for getting the footage while Ed McCutcheon will take the raw material that Charles producces and create the final product. It should be great.
We'll also have the ability for friends and family members to send messages to the campers. It's been a popular feature of the website over the past two years. Last year there were 430 messages sent and delivered to the campers. Even the Camp Director received a couple!
And lastly there will be the pictures. Usually by this time I've put a couple of hundred pictures on the website. I just haven't had the time to put up many (only about 99 at this point) but once the camp starts up we'll probably average about 150/day.
All I ask at this point is that everybody pray for cooler weather and most of all pray for the campers and everyone working to make this a great camp.
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July 21, 2007
I would have to say that the first day went pretty well. Everyone got to the camp location (HUMC) in plenty of time. Everybody who needed to get me their medical did so. We did the tour of homes and nobody got lost. All the homeowners were there to greet us. Dinner was on time and there was enough for everyone to eat.
Nothing really to complain about there. On top of that the weather report for the upcoming week suggests that temperatures will not be blistering hot. That will be great.
I started the day at the church doing an interview with Arlene Andrew. She's one of the co-authors of the book "Send Me - The Story of Salkehatchie Summer Service". Check out the interview at Salkehatchie Radio. I think it was great, but that's me.
We formed the teams tonite but we're not telling until Sunday morning. They should be posted on the website by the time you read this.
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July 22, 2007
As I have said in previous years Sunday is a pretty easy for the Camp Director. The teams were formed Saturday night and from that point forward the youth become the responsbility of the respective adult leaders.
Early this morning each of the teams went out to meet with their homeowners. The purpose was to introduce the homeowner to their team, share a devotion and talk about what could be accomplished over the next week. That first meeting is important since it sets the stage for the coming week. A large part of the experience is being able form a relationship with the homeowners.
The campers sat together in the worship service. It was a sea of yellow. We looked good.
Our lunch was donated by Salsarita's, a local Mexican restaurant owned by my good friend Steve Iannarino. The lunch got rave reviews. The kids and adults loved it. Thanks Steve!
The 2007 Huntersville Salkehatchie Camp - a good looking group
After we took the camp pictures it was off to Lake Norman State Park for the afternoon. This is the third year we've been at this location. The picnic facilities are great but the swimming experience isn't very good. We'll look for another place next year.
In the evening we had our commissioning service. As our symbol this year we are using the number 5 to commemorate or fifth year of operation and the fact that we are working on five homes.
When we got back to the church about 8:30pm we had our adult meeting. Sunday is a chance to review in detail the logistics for the camp, hand out maps and make sure that the adult leaders have everything they need to get off to a fast start on Monday morning.
The stage is set. We are ready. Not much left for me to do insofar as the preparations. We're looking forward to a great week.
Say a prayer for our campers and the homeowners.
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July 23, 2007
Monday seemed to go by fast. The teams left the church this morning about 6:45am. The adults (especially those who have been here in the past) seemed especially focused. The weather report was telling us that we'd have mid-80's kind of temperatures. Given my recent experience at the Shelby Camp that was a blessing.
The First Call of the Day
I had settled in to do a few things in the office and mostly relax. My biggest set of responsibilities occurs on the first two days of camp as we get everybody settled in and assigned to their teams. My plan was to head out to the sites about 10:00am.
My cell phone rang at 8:28am. It was from Tresca Hollis. Our conversation went something like this ... Hello ... Hi Jerry, this is Tresca .... Hi Tresca, how are you? ..... Good, how are you .... I'm fine, what can I do for you .... When did you expect to come over to the site? .... I thought I'd be out there at 10:00am .... Well, we'd like you to come now because we have a big problem.
The phrase "big problem" is not one that a Camp Director likes to hear. However, if you are going to hear it it's much better to hear it early on Monday morning rather than Friday morning. As it turns out the Gabriel team had taken apart the bathroom and determined that there was raw sewage leaking under the house. We may need the services of a bonafide plumber.
I visited each of the homes during the morning. There were all working very quickly to tear off shingles, tear down kitchens and tear down bathrooms. There was a lot of destruction going on. Everybody seemed to be working very hard. The pictures in the Photo Gallery tell the tale.
The bathroom comes out quickly at the Gabriel site
The teams continued to make excellent progress through the day. It seemed that things slowed down a bit in a afternoon but that was really just a case of the big teardown being complete and everyone moving into work that was more detailed.
Although Cornelius is only about 5-7 miles away from the showers and the church there is a lot of traffic congestion towards the end of the day. In addition, a huge wreck on I-77 caused a lot of trouble by diverting drivers to secondary roads. All the teams got caught in the traffic and we were about one hour late starting dinner. Some things we have no control over.
In the evening Billy lead the program and did his usual great job. The theme was "Sharing other people's burdens" and it was a moving program. I expect there will be many burdens to share over the next few days
Continue to pray for our teams and their homeowners.
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July 24, 2007
Man, I was tired waking up this morning. I had been up till 2:30am getting stuff onto the website. Today was definitely going to be a slow day. At breakfast I distributed 65 messages. We are well on our way to breaking last year's record of 430 messages. I hung around the church most of the morning not doing much other than making some minor updates to the website. There weren't many phone calls. I did make one early trip to the Sherrill site to drop off Troy Daniel. He was doing some "interviewing" for us so he needed to be at the sites.
I really didn't get out to the sites in earnest until about 11:00am. It looked like some good progress was being made.
Lunch was a First Baptist of Huntersville. The had some great nachos
After lunch everyone headed on over to the Gabriel home. It was Mr Gabriel's birthday and the whole camp gave him a cake and sang Happy Birthday to him.
About 1:30pm I met a friend of mine from work, Dick Gamertsfelder. Mona and I decided to have some fun and we sent Dick over to the Gabriel house to have some fun with Baker. It was great. We'll more on that a some later time, but take my word for it ... IT WAS GREAT!.I got back to the church about 3:30pm. I was still tired. About 4:00pm Dianna Flake showed up. Dianna in the Youth Director for St Andrews Parish UMC in Charleston. They have supported our camp for the past four years. Dianna and I had become good friends but had never met until this afternoon. It was good to finally meet her in person.
In the evening our church put on a performance of Uncle Phil's Diner. Every year we try to have one night of fun where everyone can just sit back, relax and be entertained. It was fun.
I was surprised myself, when in the middle of the performance I was presented with a birthday cake. I turn 50 in four days and everyone wanted to get a head start on it. It was great.
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July 25, 2007
Wednesday during the week of Salkehatchie can be stressful. It's hump day and site leaders want to get as much done as possible so that they can coast through Thursday and Friday. Although everyone works hard on Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday brings a sense of urgency that only increases during the week.
Neal Carlton, an adult from McMannen UMC in Durham is at his first Salkehatchie camp. He got his first taste to what that stress can be like during the day. A lot of things did not go according to plan for Neal. We have all been there at one time or another.
One piece of bad news was that we learned that Chris Barrett's wife's grandfather passed away on Wednesday. Chris immediately made plans to leave the camp. Chris is the new pastor at St Andrews Parish UMC in Charleston, SC. He's been doing Salkehatchie since he was 14 and has been a real asset to this camp. Please pray for him and his family.
Despite the usual stresses that come with Wednesday, the teams feel that they are in pretty good shape with all of them confident that their projects will be completed by Friday. The one nagging issue that we have is the same one we have every year ... how do we deal with plumbing emergencies? In these older homes we often get surprises when we try to complete the plumbing hookups. This year has been no different. The Smith and Mobley teams are both dealing with plumbing issues as we come to a close on Wednesday. The Gabriel and Sherrill sites may have problems as they work to complete their hookups. We'll have to pray for those issues to work themselves out.
This is probably as good a time as any to talk about how the camp has been running this year. As we have in past years we have a strong core team of people in place to plan the meals. As usual, they have all done a great job. This congregation really embraces this mission and it's really evident to our guests from out of town. As always, it's made my life much easier knowing that the congregation is backing us every step of the way.
The website has continued it's popularity. We have now delivered close to 400 messages to our campers. And many of the messages are referencing pictures that are on the website.
This year I enlisted the help of our youth group to write daily narratives about the homes. That has been really helpful to me since I would always be several days behind in doing it myself and when I did do it, it was usually pretty lame. They have done a great job.
Our new feature, Salkehatchie Radio, has been fun. We've got some interesting interviews with a number of the youth and despite our inexperience in conducting interviews they have been really good sports about it.
Let's pray for a great Thursday and Friday to close the week.
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July 26, 2007
The miracles started early on Thursday. At 8:40am I got a call from Ron Steele plumbing. Some jobs were rescheduled and they were able to free up a couple of guys. They arrived at lunchtime and were with us the about 4:15pm. They took care of the plumbing concerns at the Smith and Mobley homes and left open the possibility that they might return the next day. We had some concerns in the remaining homes but there's really nothing major to worry about. By the way, there weren't many pictures taken at lunch today. That's because I was meeting the plumber about that time. I figure by this time everybody knows what youth look like when they are eating anyways.
As they had the previous three days, the teams worked extremely hard and made great progress. There will be many things needed to complete the projects on Friday but among the site leaders nobody seems too stressed.
One unfortunate story during the day .... Vance's dad suffered a stroke and he had to leave just after lunch on Thursday. Once his father is stabilized he hopes to be back on Friday. We'll see. Offer up your prayers to Vance and his family.
The teams worked till 6:00pm today and by the time they got back to the church for dinner they were starving. The youth were too tired for a talent show but there was a surprising amount of interest for an accordian concert. (Yes, you are reading that correctly). We had some fun with that and everyone seemed to really enjoy it. I'm waiting for it to show up on YouTube.
For whatever reason the youth seemed really wired this evening. I have no idea where they get the energy. I have to believe that the really moderate temperatures have played a role. In Shelby, the whole camp was dragging by Thursday. These guys are getting their second wind.
We're about 18 hours from the finish line. Keep us in your prayers.
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July 28, 2007
It's official. I'm really, really tired. I just woke up from a 4 1/2 nap and went over to the church to clean up my "office". It's really Byron Alexander's office. He's our Associate Pastor and was gracious enough to let me move into his space for the week. It was my office, sleeping quarters and general hang-out spot for anybody looking to come in and sit down. I was grateful to have it. Mona and I cleared my stuff out late this afternoon and replenished Byron's supply of Hershey mini-chocolates and Crystal Light. Thanks again, Bryon.
I'm usually very tired at the end of the Salkehatchie week. I stayed up all Friday night preparing the sending off presentation. About 5:00am I was literally falling asleep in my chair and was no where near done with the presentation. I set the alarm for 40 minutes and got a quick nap. About 6:00am I seemed to get my second wind and finished the presentation.
Looking back on Friday it was a long and ultimately rewarding day. The teams finished up breakfast quickly and went out the door ready for the final push.
I hung back at the church trying to set up another visit from the plumber. As it was, they made themselves available at about 9:30am. We got a full day of work from two good plumbers. Thank you Ron Steele Plumbing. You are a blessing.
On Thursday night I was checking my email (which I rarely do during a camp) and I noticed that I had received an email from a gentleman by the Patrick Rose who wrote for the Huntersville Herald. He was asking about doing a story about the camp. The editor of the Herald is Tucker Mitchell who is a member of the HUMC congregation and, in fact, leads my Sunday School class.
Patrick and I agreed to meet about 10:00am Friday morning. We got together and spent about one hour going through all the homes. He talked to a few of the youth and took some pictures. I'm looking forward to the article when it comes out. I'll link to it from this website.
Around the sites there was a heightened sense of urgency as the teams worked hard to finish up their projects. Most of the big stuff was done or just about done but the detail work still needed to be done. Flooring such as linoleum is usually the last stuff to go down and it really makes a huge difference.
After lunch I went back to the church to spend the remainder of the afternoon. On Friday afternoon I tend to stay away from the sites unless I'm specifically needed. The adult leaders don't need the additional stress of the Camp Director looking over their shoulder and I suspect that I'd get stressed watching the action. Not being around is probably best for everyone.
I went home and took a shower and around 4:00pm headed back to the church. When I returned I called the teams to get some insight into when they could be completed. Experience over the past few years has taught us that we just need to be flexible on Friday afternoon and allow the teams to finish up as much as they can. If dinner is pushed back an hour then that is OK.
I'll have more to say about the rest of Friday tomorrow. I feel another nap coming on.
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July 29, 2007
My nap lasted about 10 hours. I feel much better now.
The last teams (Mobley & Gabriel) left their sites about 5pm. We started the tour about 6:45pm. We assembled in the sanctuary at Union Bethel AME Zion church. Delores Williams, the vice-chair of the trustees at spoke briefly to the campers and then joined us for the tour. We were joined by a number of other residents of Smithfield. Ultimately we formed an entourage of about 70 people. We must of been quite a site for the residents of that neighborhood.
The tours are always great! Everyone is tired but really pumped up. The homeowners are extremely appreciative and the youth are extremely proud of what they have accomplished.
After the tour we went back to Union Bethel AME Zion Church for supper. The church members fed us a great meal.
A few months ago, when Mona and I had made the decision to work exclusively in the Smithfield neighborhood we thought about the possibility of moving our Friday evening workship service to Union Bethel. Given that we were serving that community we believed we had a unique opportunity to do something really special. We're weren't sure exactly what that would be but we knew it was something that we wanted to explore. I mentioned it to Billy and he agreed.
Sometime later I reached out to Delores Williams and she checked it out with the folks at Union Bethel and they agreed to host us not only for the service but also for dinner.
Several weeks before the camp Billy and I weren't completely sure how the service was going to come together. In fact, we weren't completely sure on Thursday. We only knew that there would be music and the Billy would speak and that Union Bethel's associate pastor would speak. Beyond that we really didn't know. So we decided that what we needed to do was to open up the floor to anybody who wanted to speak.
The service was awesome. The Halleluia Choir from Union Bethel was incredible. They got everybody out of their seats. And the testimonies from the adults, youths and homeowners were very moving. The whole event was very powerful.
At the conclusion of the service the members of Bethel Union left and the campers concluded the evening with the symbol service and communion. We left the church shortly after midnight. What a long but wonderful day.
As I mentioned earlier I got about 40 minutes of sleep leading up to Saturday morning. I published the day's photos to the website and updated each of the homeowners' pages. I then started on the powerpoint that I would show the campers during our closing. It was about 2:30am.
I don't believe that anyone (besides me) stayed up all night but I'm sure a few of them were up quite late. We got everyone up at 7:30am and breakfast was at 8:00am. A number of adults participated in another Salkehatchie tradition ... the Tool Sorting Bee which takes place in the parking lot of the church. Over the course of the week tools get passed from site to site as neccesary. There's nothing like getting up exhausted on Saturday morning to search for all of your tools. I'm not positive but I believe everyone found what they were looking for.
Every year I have this great plan to summarize our week at the camp with appropriate clever insights and profound sayings. And every year I'm too tired and my mind is too muddled to do anything but mutter a few incoherent things and push the button to start the powerpoint. Thankfully the powerpoint is usually pretty good. At the conlusion, Billy closed us out and did his usually great job.
We all moved from the sanctuary to the parking lot to say our goodbyes.
It had been another great camp. Thanks be to God.
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