Spring break program offers interaction with others


Eight persons from the PMCA team at the College of Charleston spent their recent spring break doing emergency home repair in Jackson County, N.C, for elderly and handicapped people who have no means to take care of repair needs themselves.

Ann Penick, Catholic campus minister at the school, and Deb Guess, Presbyterian campus minister, accompanied six students from the Presbyterian, Methodist, Catholic Association (PMCA) on the alternative spring break service project. Coordinated by the Southern Appalachian Building Aid (SABA), the program works with Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C., and its United Campus Ministries.

After their arrival on Feb. 28, the group spent a day hiking in the Appalachian Blue Ridge Mountains and then attended Sunday workshop at Trout Creek Baptist Church in the mountains.

For the next few days, the students were divided into two teams of four, enduring cold, snowy conditions to build a wheelchair ramp, a deck, and installing indoor plumbing at three different residences.

According to Penick, the goal of SABA is to allow people to live at home as long as possible, with all of the persons assisted being in their 60s or 70s. She said that the deck was constructed at the home of a woman who suffered a stroke and is confined to a wheelchair. Although homebound, the women can now leave the house and view mountain scenery from her backyard. Penick added that the plumbing work was done in the residence of a woman in her 70s, who will now be able to enjoy hot water in her kitchen and running water in a sink in the bathroom.

After working from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day, mountain cultural activities were presented in the evenings, with clogging, music, storytelling and shape note singing among the programs presented.

Meals were provided by the various congregations that make up United Campus Ministries at Western Carolina: Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran and Church of Christ.

At the end of each evening, students from the College of Charleston also held a devotional service, with prayer and a talk about the day’s events.

“They got a lot out of it,” Penick said of the group. “It meant a lot to them.” In addition, she said some of the students expressed satisfaction in being able to “see things come together,” as far as the work projects.

Penick praised the “truly ecumenical” nature of the group, which included Catholics, Methodists, Baptists and Presbyterians. “It was a good team building exercise.”