While many teenagers look forward to a summer of sleeping late, 36 Columbia County teens paid to go to camp and work.
Beginning June 17, youths from Wesley United Methodist Church in Evans joined about 1,300 teens and adults at one of five Carolina Cross Connection camps in North Carolina for a weeklong mission camp and retreat.
"I didn't want to leave," said Britnee Franke, 18, who attended Camp Elk Shoals in West Jefferson. N.C., from June 17-23. "I wanted it to be longer."
Carolina Cross Connection is a nonprofit organization that provides home repairs for elderly, disabled, lonely and impoverished people throughout western North Carolina, said Catherine Sherrod, the organization's spokeswoman. While at camp, the youth and some adult volunteers go out into the community during the day to do service projects and come back to camp at night for fellowship, worship and spiritual renewal.
The campers and adults pay $290 each to work in small groups doing home repairs including repairing and replacing porches, steps, wheelchair ramps, handrails and flooring, painting, yard work, cleaning and other jobs.
"You give something, but you get something back," said Jacob Griswell, 18, of Martinez, of his camp experience.
Griswell said the camp is lots of fun, despite the days of hard work. He enjoyed meeting the people the group worked for and seeing their appreciation.
The days are long at camp, Griswell said, adding that camp counselors find creative and loud ways to wake up campers at 7 a.m. After breakfast, the small groups, usually including youth and adults from churches in different states, head out for a day of work.
"For my two-day project, we had to build a wheelchair ramp, a 38-foot-long wheelchair ramp," said Franke, of Martinez, who had previously attended the camp. "It was one of the hardest projects that we had. We did yard work and painting. Our group did mostly everything. We washed. We painted. We built."
Kristine Jahnke, 17, of Evans, was one of 20 Wesley teens to head off to Camp Carolwood July 1-7 in Lenoir, N.C. It was her first Carolina Cross Connection camp experience.
"I just think it is really great getting to know people less fortunate than you and helping them," Jahnke said June 27. She had gone on a previous mission trip to Jamaica. "I'm excited. I've been waiting for this all summer."
Franke and Griswell said after a long days work, the teens had some free time before dinner and group fellowship, which often included games and songs. The pair said they made lasting relationships at camp with teens from other cities and possibly other countries.
But it was the interaction with the people they worked for that really made the week of labor worth it all, they said.
"It was really interesting to like meet them, find out their story and everything about them," Franke said, adding that many of the people ate lunch and socialized with the work groups. ".It is worth every minute of it. You get to see the expression on the people's faces we worked for, how grateful they are."
Beth Coody, 15, of Evans, was looking forward on June 27 to attending the camp for the second time. She went with Jahnke to Camp Carolwood on July 1-7.
Beth said she brought something back with her from camp.
"I met some people and I really learned how to be appreciative because they were very nice," Beth said. "I am very spoiled and it makes you grateful for what you have."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.