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Salkehatchie Summer Service
Huntersville Camp 2011
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. This year Jerry and Mona are running their 9th camp in Huntersville.

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Saturday July 16, 2011 - First day of Camp
Sunday July 17, 2011
Monday July 18, 2011
Tuesday July 19, 2011
Wednesday July 20, 2011
Thursday July 21, 2011
Friday July 22, 2011
Saturday July 23, 2011 - Last day of Camp


April 24, 2011 - Huntersville, North Carolina

It's time to start getting ready for another Salkehatchie camp. We'll be hosting our 8th camp. Check here for regular updates from the Camp Director.

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July 16, 2011 - First Day of Camp - 8:00am

Here we are again.

It's shortly before 8am and I've been at the church for about a 1/2 hour. There's been a lot of activity around her for the past few months that has lead us to this point. We're ready to go.

I've been somewhat slack in terms of providing any updates via the website aside from the tweets on the Home Page, but that doesn't mean there wasn't a lot going on.

It's going to be a smaller camp this year. The final number came in at 55 campers, down from the 61 of last year and the 72 from the previous year. As such, we'll only be working on four homes this year. I'm actually looking forward to this camp being a little smaller. It's a better chance to get to know everyone and we won't feel as cramped within the church.

Our four homes this year are in Huntersville (3) and Cornelius.

I feel that we're ready. Mona, Ann Gibert, Mike Stedman and I have put in a lot of time over the last few months getting ready. Ann has put our meals together while Mike has been working on building some kitchen cabinets.

I'm felling rather calm at the moment. The church is quiet. We've worked hard getting ourselves ready. Not much else to do except watch it all unfold over the 8 days. It's going to be good. It always is. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

July 17, 2011 - Rest of the Day

The award for the first camper to arrive this year goes to Frank Greene. Actually we don't give out awards for that but if we did Frank would get it. Frank's been with us four years and this year he will be Site Leader on the Brawley home.

The campers started arriving around 1:00pm. We had a few that had some car trouble and were later than expected but we were able to start on time at 3:00pm. We left for the home tour about 3:40pm.

The home tour went quickly which was the result of having fewer homes and fewer people in the camp. That gave everyone a little time relax when we got back to church. Since the church was hosting a wedding that day we made sure that everyone stayed away from the Worship Center.

After dinner we moved to the Youth Lounge and had our program. As has been our custom we showed the closing presentation from the previous year. Those who were here last year enjoyed seeing it again and being reminded of last year's experience. For those who are attending the camp for the first time it was a good way to provide some insight into what goes on at camp. For those of you with lots of time and bandwidth you can check out last year's closing presentation here.

Perry Brittain and Michael Goode, our Senior Pastor did a great job with the evening program. They set a great tone for the remainder of the week. Sharon Hilliard lead everybody with some fun games.

During the adult meeting we completed the teams and placed every year on a site. We always try to to put the youth on the home they have chosen but that's not always possible. Hopefully, everyone will be happy with where they have been placed. You can check out the Site Teams.

We're off to a good start!

July 17, 2011

Tired, tired, tired, tired.

I didn't sleep well last night. Not sure what the reason for it was but just couldn't get to sleep. As a result I went through the entire day feeling exhausted. Never a good way to start a week where I'll be averaging 4-5 hours of sleep a night.

The United Methodist Men got us started with their usual great breakfast. They've been doing the job for us for the past 9 years and it's always great. Thank you Bill Kerns and the team.

Shortly before 9am the teams went out to meet their homeowners. The Sunday morning meeting is a time for a short devotion followed by a discussion with the homeowner talking about what's going to happen over the course of the week. It's also the first time that the homeowner will get to meet their team.

During the 10:30am worship service we all sat together in our camp T-shirts (this year's color being an ugly brownish-green). I was given the opportunity to give a little background on the program and let the congregation know what will be happening over the course of the week. Although we have hosted this program for nine years we've had a number of new families join the church in the last year so it was an opportunity for them to hear about the program.

The rest of Sunday was spent mostly having fun. After lunch we took the camp photos and then Allison Cook lead us in some team building games in the gym. At about 3:00pm we all left for the bowling alley.

At about 5:30pm we arrived at the Ranson House for dinner. The Ranson House is owned by Billy and Rehnea Raines and they've been gracious enough to offer it up for our Sunday dinners. It's a large turn-of-the-century home that the Raines' renovated a couple of years ago and it is now used to host corporate events and weddings. It's a great way to spend our Sunday evenings.

Once again, Perry and Michael did a great job with the evening program. We commissioned each of the campesr and about 7:30pm we made our way back to the church.

We had our adult meeting and as we do on the Sunday of every camp we reviewed all the logistics for the coming week. We also laughed a lot.

The one disappointment for the day is that I didn't take as many pictures as I would have liked. Being as tired as I was certainly didn't help. I'll do better over the course of the week. Be sure to check out our photos. At this point I just looking for a good night's sleep.

We're ready. Pray for good weather and the campers' safety

July 18, 2011

Monday, it's the first working day of the camp.

And this turned out to be a very good first day. It's an exciting day for many reasons. Those who have been here before know the routine. They are out of bed at 5:30am and ready for breakfast at 6:00am. They know what's ahead of them and they can't wait to get started. The first timers are also excited but for different reasons. Although they've seen the excitement building up during the weekend they don't quite know what to expect. All in all everyone is ready to go.

My first stop at about 8:30 was at the Neal home where both Mona and Natalia were working. Both decks and the wheelchair ramp had already been torn down. The team had been working about 90 minutes and the dumpster was half full.

Indoors, the floor was already coming up and the bathroom was being gutted. A lot had been accomplished in a very short time.

On the roof, the team had cleared off the shingles on half of the north side of the roof. They were also moving quickly. The day was still relatively cool and the team had taken advantage of that.

At the Phillips home the team was pondering what needed to be done on the roof. We had had no plan to do anything on the roof since there weren't any leaks. However, on closer inspection it seemed there was water damage. The fascia boards had rotted away raising the possibility that we had a roof problem on our hands. Once the team got an even closer look it seemed that the rotting was only in the area of the gutters. As such, the repair work wouldn't be nearly as extensive.

On the inside the team was removing most of the kitchen floor. The floor sagged in places and the team needed to diagnose the problem. The team had held off momentarily tearing out the lower kitchen cabinets until they could shut off the water from the street. The kitchen sink had no shut-off valves.

When I arrived at the Brawley home about 10:00am the team had cleared the shingles completely off one half of the roof. There were some defective sheathing to be replaced but the roof was otherwise very solid. On the inside the team had removed most of the wall coverings in the carport-turned-den.

At the Henderson home there was a lot of serious demolition going on. When I arrived shortly before lunch the team had completely gutted the kitchen and most of the bathroom. There were a lot of opening to the crawlspace. Another dumpster was rapidly filling up.

There was a lot of progress made in the morning.

After lunch, the teams all continued to make good progress although the heat was beginning to take a tool. The Neal team got off the roof shortly after lunch. However, they had managed to completely shingle one side of the roof. The Brawley team completely gutted the den and the Henderson started to put the subfloors back into place. The Phillips team had diagnose and repaired the sagging floor and was beginning to put the subfloor back.

As first days go it was a great one. In the past there was usually a house or two where we would find an unexpected surprise that add both time and expense to the project. That didn't happen today. It still might happen but so far everything is looking good. All the teams were upbeat about what was accomplished during the day.

One of things that I had contemplated for a number of years, but had never acted upon, was inviting massage therapists to visit the camp and offer their services to the adult campers. I always thought it would be fun to give it a try. This year I was able to make it happen. At the conclusion of last year's camp I developed some significant back problems and as a result began seeing a chiropractor, Dr Jon Vezendy, regularly. Dr Vezendy connected me with a couple of massage therapists who were more than happy to help us out. When the campers arrived from the sites today they were greeted by Patricia and Kristen. They were a big hit. Some of the adults were much more relaxed on Monday evening then I had previously seen.

During the evening Elizabeth Hilliard, Lauren Carlton and Kristin Lassiter lead us in music while Michael Goode provided the message. The youth seemed a little distracted this evening. For the younger ones it had been a long, albeit exciting, day and focusing seemed to be difficult. Hopefully they'll settle down a bit as the week wears on.

All in all, a very good day. I'm hoping that it keeps up. Still way behind in my sleep. That's got to change.

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July 19, 2011

Finally, a good night's sleep. Up at 4:30am this morning and feeling pretty good. Hope this can keep up.

I've often said that if I do the right kind of planning prior to the camp, there isn't much for me to do during the week of the camp. Everything should run smoothly without me getting too involved. That leaves me available to handle any emergencies that come up. And if no emergencies come up then there's not much to do.

And today was one of those days. My phone rang about four times. I needed to pick up some wasp spray and some needed me to pick up a change of clothers. Other than that it was pretty quiet.

We did have couple of visitors today. Katie Cloninger came down to visit her group from Conover. It was good to see Katie again. In addition, Lauren Dunn, a reporter from the Huntersville Herald, came by to see what was going on at the camp. She spent about four hours with us visiting all the home sites, speaking to a couple of homeowners as well as a number of adults and youth campers. We'll look forward to the article.

I even had time for a short nap in my office.

On Tuesdays, we don't have a formal program. Usually we try to do something fun. This evening we took everyone to the pool at Wynfield Forest. After two days in the hot sun it was a nice refreshing break.

Although things are running rather smoothly there are a couple of concerns. It has been hot and it's getting hotter. We're doing our best to keep everyone hydrated but one young lady needed to get out of the sun today. In addition, a number of folks are complaining about sore throats. There seems to be one or two each day. It's something we are keeping an eye on.

July 20, 2011

I have always approached Wednesdays with a certain amount of trepidation. In the first couple of years of the camp Wednesday was always the day when the wheels would come off the cart. If anything was to go really wrong it would happen on Wednesday. Things have been different the last few years but that early experience is always on my mind.

However, it looks like I had nothing to worry about. Everything continued to go well through to the end of Wednesday. The teams were on target both from the perspective of their projects and their budget. Usually by this part of the week I can recognize the sites that are really behind schedule and I can speculate which projects won't be completed. Right now it looks like everything will be completed on time.

A few general comments on the week:

We've got some new adults in camp. Everyone seems to have fit in really well. This can be an overwhelming experience for the first timers. But everyone has quickly embraced what we're trying to do and I expect that I'll see most of them again next year.

Pampering the adults seems to work. The whole massage therapist experiment has been a grand success. First of all the adults loved it. Kristen and Patricia from Vezendy Chiropractic did a great job. The second side benefit is that the prospect of getting a massage gets the adults motivated to leave the site on time! It will be challenge to raise the bar higher next year.

Mike Goode has done a great job as the Spiritual Leader of the camp. Mike was at a disadvantage since he hadn't previously attended a Salkehatchie camp. That being said, he's done a great job with the evening message and has carried the theme regarding us being the hands of God through the week.

My phone rarely rings. I can generally sense how things are going by the number of times my phone rings. No one is likely to call me to tell me how great things are. However, I'll always hear about the problems. I'm generally getting about five calls a day for mostly minor things. The most urgent thing I've been called about involved getting shorts for a young man who ripped up his shorts on the site.

Keep us in your thoughts and prayers for the rest of the week.

July 21, 2011

Thursday is the long work day. We tack on one extra hour to the work schedule. We also make Thursdays a program-free day. The only thing on the evening schedule is dinner which starts at 7:30pm. We also give the teams some latitude to stretch out the work day beyond 6:00pm.

Two of the teams (Phillips & Neal) called it a day at 6:00pm. This was partly because of a sudden rainstorm that brought all the outdoor activity to a stop. The Henderson team left their site at about 7:00pm. The Brawley team worked to just past 8:00pm.

For dinner the Logos Circle served barbecue. They knew that it is usually a crazy work day so they were able to be very flexible when it came to serving up the meal. They even put together some plates that were delivered to the Brawley site.

The day itself proceeded much like the previous three days. The teams were able to keep on track and there were no surprises or major problems. The day was, like they had been all week, brutally hot with temperatures hitting the high 90's with lots of humidity to go along with it. In fact, by 10:00pm at night the temperature was still about 90.

We had some guests and alumni roll in during the day. Hillary Wagstaff and Justin Blackburn came by as well as Keri Taylor and Chance McFalls. It was good to see them all and we welcomed their help.

We managed to keep even hydrated although you could see the energy level dropping off in the afternoon.

In the evening, the kids still seemed to have a lot of energy. The adults were moving rather slowly. A number of them called it an early night.

Everyone is feeling pretty good. The Brawley team is feeling a little stressed but I think they will be fine.

One more work day to go. As always, the week has gone by quickly.

We are looking forward to a great day on Friday.

July 22, 2011

Woke up this morning at 4:30am as I had all week. I printed out the camper messages as I always did first thing in the morning and wandered over to the Fellowship Hall. I laid out the messages so the campers could find them at breakfast and poured myself a cup of coffee. This routine had played out every morning since Monday. And every single morning when I arrived at the Fellowship Hall, Bill and Wanda Kerns were there preparing breakfast (that coffee I poured didn't make itself!). Every year for nine years the one constant has been Bill and Wanda and the rest of the United Methodist Men getting up at 4:00am just so we can have a hearty breakfast. We don't just get a sausage biscuit and some juice. We get a wonderful buffet of eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and on certain days you can add to that pancakes, French toast and bacon & egg biscuits. And lets not leave out the bottomless cups of coffee and juice. In addition, they make sure that our water coolers and jugs are filled with ice, water and Gatorade according to each team's specifications. It is some kind of awesome.

Each of the worksites has a dumpster (I've learned over the years that they are called "cans" by those in the business). One of our congregation members, Linda Daniel, works for Republic Services. Every year for nine years Linda has made sure that the dumpsters and trash pickup is provided free of charge. I won't receive the numbers for a few weeks but last year (2010) Republic hauled away 30 (no typo) tons of trash ... 60,000 pounds. It would have cost us $2100 if we had been charged.

On the Neal site, Michael Stewart, was one of the adult leaders. Michael has been a contractor in the Huntersville area for about 40 years. He has worked with us for the past six years. I assign him to the site that go will represent our most difficult structural challenge. His ability to build an addition and ensure that it will stand for about a hundred years is second to none. A lot of our youth have learned about carpentry from Michael Stewart.

At the Phillips site, Bob Sims was doing some electrical work. Bob is about 78 years old. I'm not really sure. Bob has been our go-to guy for anything electrical. Every year I give Bob a map to each of the sites. On Monday he pays a visit to each of the sites and talks to the site leaders regarding whatever electrical needs they may have for the week. The teams are capable of handling the straightforward stuff but anything tricky becomes Bob's project(s). The only thing Bob won't do is crawl under the house. He gets someone else to run the wires to the hard-to-get places. Other than that he owns the electrical work.

Sometime during the morning, some adult from some home site, made a trip to the "Salkehatchie Garage". Salkehatchie Garage is the name we give to an old rundown garage that sits on the church property. When the church purchased the land where HUMC now stands it also purchase two houses that were on the property. One of the houses had a small garage. That garage has become our storage area for materials. The materials have been accumumlated over the years. Materials that have not been used during the week (and can't be returned) are stored in the Salkehatchie Garage. Individuals also donate building materials or used appliances to our camp and they find their way into the garage. Every spring Mona spends a couple of weeks taking this chaotic assortment of building supplies and sorts it. Plumbing and electrical supplies find their way into various labeled tubs. Nails and screws are placed in jars and put on shelves. 75 - 100 gallons of paint are sorted, mixed and separated and labeled so anyone searching for paint instantly knows its color and whether it is interior or exterior paint. Wood is separated and stacked neatly. The Salkehatchie Garage is a money saver.

We had lunch at New Friendship Presbyterian Church. New Friendship is a tiny African-American church located in the middle of Huntersville. For everyone of the past nine years they have served us a lunch during the week of our camp. If you ask any adult which lunch stands out to them it's this one. Deep fried chicken wings, green beans and mac & cheese. Some great deserts and all the lemonade we can drink. From time to time the ladies will ask us if they should change the menu. We respond with an emphatic NO. This year's lunch was made extra special because we were working on Bettye Phillips home. Bettye has been one of the ladies who prepared our lunch every year. It was great to work in her home this year.

At the Henderson home the team was putting the last touches on the kitchen cabinets. Since the beginning of June Mike Stedman has been building kitchen cabinets for the Phillips and Henderson homes. For us, it's the best deal going. Not only are the cabinets high quality they custom made to fit in the kitchen of our homeowners. At the conclusion of the camp, Mike is also there to help us finish up the various things that didn't get completed during the camp.

This year, our lunches and dinners we're coordinated by Ann Gibert. Ann has helped us plan the logistics for the camp every year since our first year. She has had a variety of roles but the last two years she has taken on the responsibility for planning our lunches and dinners. If you are getting the impression that our campers are well-fed then you would be right.

Although Mona and I have been the face of the camp for the past nine years we receive (and need) a lot of support from a lot of people. We are forever grateful for the continuing committment of many people who make this camp successful.

At about 3:00pm the teams started arriving at the church. I usually get calls from site leaders asking for a few extra hours to complete their projects. I didn't get a single call today. Everyone was back at church and in the showers by 4:30pm. With the exception of the Brawley team everyone completed their projects. The Neal, Phillips and Henderson teams had their punch lists but they were minor. Even the Brawley team left behind tasks that were going to be easy to complete (priming and painting a room and laying down some flooring, all in the same room). This was easily the best result we ever had. All credit goes to the site leaders who managed their projects with a lot of precision.

The tour of homes began at 5:30pm. The final home tour is always the highlight of the week for me. Lots of happy smiles but there's also a lot of tears. It's usually an emotional time for the homeowners and their teams. The bond that has formed over the week between the teams and their homeowners is a strong one.

The evening concludes with a symbols service and communion. The symbols service is an opportunity for each of the campers to speak. Over the work week the campers were asked to find some object on their work site that held some special meaning to them. Our request is no more detailed than that. Some of the testimonials we hear are quite powerful and emotional. This year was no different. The symbols service is a private affair for the campers so I won't share any of the details here.

The evening program concludes with the serving of communion. After blessing the elements Pastor Goode asked Mona and I to serve communion to the campers. We were privileged to do so.

On Friday nights we suspend the 11:00pm curfew. The campers have worked hard during the course of the week and we let them enjoy their last evening together. Some gather in a part of the church and just talk while others go to the media center to watch movies. Snow White, Dumbo and A Bug's Life were the movies of choice this year.

I settled into my office to create the closing presentation for next morning. It's been a good day.

July 23, 2011

We have a tradition here in Huntersville. On Saturday morning we show a presentation that reviews the whole week. Everyone seems to enjoy it. We just sit back and watch what has happened each day.

Of course, that presentation doesn't create itself. I'm usually up most of Friday night creating it. A couple of years ago I discovered that Powerpoint can import a complete folder of photos and place each on a page to form an "album". In fact it's a complete presentation of photos.

As a result two things have happened. First, it makes the effort and time needed to create the presentation much shorter and secondly it allows me to make the presentation longer. This year I set a record for by having 708 slides. At 3 seconds per slide the whole thing took about 35 minutes to run. No one really complains about the length (at least not to me).

I finished the presentation about 3:30am. Although Powerpoint does a great job importing the pictures there is still considerable editing and rearranging to be done. Regardless, the process is a lot easier than it was a few years ago.

Since I wanted to get a few hours of sleep before the morning I went around the church to see who was still up. Everyone was mostly asleep. The media (movie) room had about 7 people in it .... all asleep. The last movie had completed but it seems no one was awake to see the exciting conclusion of A Bug's Life. I got everyone up and sent them to their rooms.

Another three youth were in the Youth Lounge playing Jenga. I let them stay up with instructions to stay inside and not bother anyone else. I understnad they called it a night about 4:00am.

The alarm got me up at 6:00am. Bill and Wanda already had the coffe brewing and I really needed a cup.

By 9:00am everyone was up (perhaps not awake, but up), the sleeping quarters were cleared and everyone had breakfast.

At 9:00am we began our closing program. There were lots of people to thank. Mike Goode, Bill and Wanda Kerns got some special mentions. I thanked each of the site leaders. They all did a remarkable job. It is without question the most difficult job in the camp. I'll take Camp Director over site leader any day. I also thanked the adults. The adults give up a week of vacation to come to this camp to oversee the activities of the youth. It's no small job and they do it happily. Lastly, I thanked the youth. They worked very hard. The conditions were terrible with temperatures in the high 90's and humidity to match. They gave it their all and the results showed. They represented themselves and their churches very well.

Every year for the past four years we have asked the campers to acknowledge the individual(s) who best represented a qualities of servanthood during this week. It's not a contest but an opportunity for the campers to lift up those who who had a special impact on them during the week. In addition, it is an opportunity to honor the memory of Nicole Sager. Nicole Sager attended our camp in 2006 and 2007. Several months prior to the 2008 camp Nicole was tragically killed in a single-car accident while returning home from Youth Group meeting at her church.

This year the campers recognized the contribution of Meredith Davis. Meredith has attended our camp since 2004. She was a rising 9th grader that year. Over the years, she has lead by example and brought an infectious enthusiasm to our camp. In 2004 she wrote a daily diary that we published on the website. In 2009 she convinced her mother Melissa, sister Caroline and members of the youth group at Sea Island Presbyterian Church to attend our camp. Meredith was a deserving choice.

During the week a few of campers had worked on a short video which was shown just prior to the final presentation. It was called "Stalker-hatchie", the story of a camper who was a little too obsessed and smitten with another camper. It was hilarious. I hope to have it posted soon.

The final presentation (it's a very long download) ended to applause at about 9:50am. Mike Goode closed us out with a benediction and with that the camp was officially dismissed.

It was one of our best weeks.

God is good. Thanks be to God.

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