What if “I’ll be home for Christmas” meant heading home to a leaky roof, plumbing problems and no money to pay for repairs?
That’s the reality for far too many, but through Camp One Fifty One (COFO), two families received late Christmas gifts in the form of much-needed home repairs.
For four days, from Dec. 30 through Jan. 3, a group of more than 30 youth and adult volunteers from four Douglas-area churches spent part of their Christmas breaks serving their neighbors.
An ecumenical effort, help came from St. Mark United Methodist Church in Douglas, Douglas First United Methodist, Douglas First Baptist Church, and Eastside Baptist Church in Douglas.
Called “Ho! Ho! COFO,” the mini camp provided a hometown mission and ministry opportunity for students and adults. Volunteers could come and go and work as they had time instead of dedicating an entire week to a project.
Ho! Ho! COFO is an extension of Camp One Fifty One’s long-running summer home repair ministry. Camp director Rev. Chris Calhoun, who also serves as St. Mark UMC’s pastor, receives numerous calls for assistance throughout the year. Some seven or eight houses are repaired during Camp One Fifty One’s regular weeklong summer service camp, but Rev. Calhoun knew more could be done.
Recognizing that students had free time during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays and could participate in local service projects if opportunities were available, he decided to tackle at least one home-repair project during one of the holiday breaks each year.
“I knew that I could get some of our volunteers together to do some work,” Rev. Calhoun said. “So we did one the week of Thanksgiving when kids were out of school without much to do.”
The non-summer service opportunity also fits with the camp’s name and belief, which is that it’s not enough to serve just one week each year.
“There are 51 other weeks that we could be serving,” he said. “The camp believes, as the Bible teaches, that the Christian lifestyle should be one of loving and sacrificial service to others.
“Being Christian is more than just going to church on Sunday and reading your Bible. As James said, faith without works is dead, and I believe it’s biblical that we do these things, that we help the needy. Obviously Jesus talked about it quite a bit.”
Since that first Thanksgiving week home-repair project four years ago when nearly 70 people from eight churches volunteered, Camp One Fifty One has alternated between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays to give more people opportunities to serve.
“Students, their parents, and other adult volunteers have responded amazingly well in giving both their time and their money to help those in need,” Rev. Calhoun said. All building materials are paid for through local church donations, the Douglas Exchange Club, and from event T-shirt sales.
This year, so many volunteers showed up and served that two homes were able to be repaired. In addition to replacing the roof on one home and making roofing and plumbing repairs to the second home, yard work and pressure washing of each were able to be added to the list of projects.
Brady Eastin, a 17-year-old junior at Coffee County High School and member of Douglas First UMC, has grown up around Camp One Fifty One and eagerly anticipated the day he turned 14 and could participate.
“It’s a life changing experience,” Eastin said. “It’s so awesome to get to serve. You think that you go in and serve the families – that we’re going in and helping them – but they serve us just as much as we serve them. It’s such a blessing to be able to do that.”
In addition to helping during his holiday breaks, for the past three summers Eastin has also participated in Camp One Fifty One’s weeklong summer camp.
His experiences have helped shape and grow his faith, he said.
“Being a part of this grows you in all kinds of ways,” Eastin said. “You see people who don’t have anything but they worship through it. You see how God works through situations that you think would be impossible.
“It’s hard to explain the impact it has on you, but it’s been truly amazing.”
For more information about Camp 151 or to donate to their projects, call Rev. Chris Calhoun at 912-381-6970 or visit www.onefiftyone.org.