Hard labor in the hot sun, doesnâ€™t sound like a fun summer vacation, but Camp Loy White participants love what they do.
â€œI donâ€™t see any better way to spend my summer,â€ said Faith McDermitt, a lead field coordinator for the camp.
The Christian camp, which is located in Cleveland County, is part of Carolina Cross Connections, a Lincolnton-based organization.
CCC boasts a total of six camps in as many counties. Each camp focuses on service during the day and worship in the evening.
This week, campers visited the Iron Station home of Savannah Alexander, an elderly woman in need of a ramp.
â€œTeenagers â€“ itâ€™s unbelievable,â€ she said as she sat on her porch watching the campers work.
Her daughter echoed her sentiment.
â€œYou donâ€™t find too many people willing to give up a week,â€ said Penelope Alexander.
Savannah Alexander has needed a ramp built outside her home since she broke her leg last September in an accident.
(Above) Kimmie Rosso develops her carpentry skills by cutting a board for the ramp. Chris Dean / LTN Photo
Since then, walking up and down the steps in front of her house has been a challenge. With money tight, however, there wasnâ€™t much she or her family could do.
Thankfully, the Department of Social Services gave her name to Carolina Cross Connections.
â€œGod is good,â€ said Penelope Alexander. â€œWe didnâ€™t know how it was going to get done, but God made a way.â€
The campers who built the ramp for the Alexanders are only one of several groups dispatched in the community.
Savannah Alexander (seated) and her family watch as teenagers from Camp Loy White build a ramp for the front of her home. Chris Dean / LTN Photo
Campers do a variety of service projects â€“ painting houses, fixing roofs and re-doing floors among other things.
Some are more qualified for such tasks than others, but all participate.
â€œSome of the kids that come in never used a hammer,â€ said McDermitt.
Gaining construction skills isnâ€™t the only thing that happens at the camp. Many campers, present and former, credit it with changing their lives.
For Kari Henderson, a 16 year old, the life changing moment happened three years ago during her first year at camp.
Every evening at Camp Loy White, campers have a worship service. That night it was a mock crucifixion.
Henderson decided then what path she wanted to take in her life.
â€œI felt like no one could stop me from doing what I wanted to do, and I knew it was Christ working in my life,â€ she said.
This year has been tough for Henderson. She lost a horse and a family member was diagnosed with cancer.
She refers to Carolina Cross Connection as her â€œsafe haven.â€
â€œHere there are no cliques, no exclusion,â€ she said. â€œItâ€™s perfect harmony.â€
Her fellow camper, Lauren Robbins, a 13-year old, also enjoys the social atmosphere of the camp.
â€œEverybody is friendly and nobody hates anybody,â€ she said.
Itâ€™s very different from her school in Florida, she says, which is divided up between â€œplasticsâ€ and â€œgoths.â€
No one at the camp is allowed to stay comfortably in a clique. When church groups come to the camp, they are divided up and sent to different work sites, forcing the students to open up to strangers.
â€œItâ€™s good for camp, and itâ€™s also good for life,â€ said Chris McAlister, the camp director.
McAlister is a former camper and he credits Carolina Cross Connections with molding him as a person.
â€œIt was almost life changing to see what we can do as youth to help out a community,â€ he said.
Heâ€™s noticed the same change in his campers.
â€œI think they learn what their abilities are,â€ he said. â€œThey learn they can do things theyâ€™ve never done before.â€
by Sarah Grano