The small town of Hollywood was filled last week with volunteers working through the blistering heat and humidity of a Lowcountry summer.
Groups of student-volunteers from across the country converged on the town as part of a collaboration between Reach Workcamps, based in Galeton, Colo., and Rural Mission in Johns Island. The mission work sought to combine work and religious service.
Mike Jones, executive director of Reach Workcamps, which has been providing weeklong service to low-income communities since 1992, said the heat made the work tougher on the middle school to college-age volunteers.
“The toughest part physically is definitely the heat,” he said. He mentioned that since the volunteers aren’t professional contractors, some minor errors have occurred.
“We had a couple small accidents. We’ve stepped through some roofs,” he said. Jones emphasized that no one suffered any injuries while working.
The volunteers came from several states, as far away as Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Ohio, to work on 38 homes in need of repair, in Hollywood, all while staying at Baptist Hill Middle/High School. Classrooms were lined with cots and sleeping bags, and the hallways featured stacks of desks, almost resembling the area’s historic forts.
Alexis Dubbs, 21, from Chambersburg, Pa., said she wasn’t used to the heat, humidity, or bugs that the Lowcountry had to offer, but said the volunteer work was well worth it.
“It’s cool to help people in different states, far from home,” she said, taking a break from painting the side of the school building at Wesley United Methodist Church.
The work camp brought the community of Hollywood together in many ways, according to Linda Gadson, the executive director of Rural Mission.
She noted that Tuesday’s dinner was provided and sponsored by Berkeley Electric Cooperative, thanks to Miriam Green, who serves as the chairperson on Rural Mission’s board. She is also the vice president of community services for Berkeley Electric Co-op.
Hollywood Mayor Jackie Heyward also helped feed the volunteers that Tuesday evening, and hopes their efforts have lasting effects in the town.
“I hope it plants a seed in the community that anyone can serve (this town),” she said.
Friday morning, the last day of the volunteers’ efforts in Hollywood, multiple crews were at the home of Maxine Ladson. The home was tucked away, past rows of trees and up an unpaved, gravel road. She expressed thanks to the volunteers who helped redo her floor, roof, and deck.
“It’s just a blessing,” said Ladson. “It’s a great opportunity to meet them. They’ve come from far away and brought their talents here.”
Ladson has lived at her home all of her life, just like her mother and grandmother. She said she looked forward to hosting her newborn grandchild at her fixed up house.
Mike Jones said that the experience benefits both the volunteers and the homeowners. He shared a story of one particularly touching moment he witnessed at the end of a past work camp, when some volunteers were upset they had to leave.
“A week ago they just met, and now they’re in tears saying goodbye,” he said. “That’s the most rewarding part, seeing that relationship grow.”