Armed with Gloves: St. Philip’s Holds a Workday at St. Christopher

Six Months of Work Done in Four Hours; 15 Truck Loads of Debris Hauled Away

It began with a simple question parishioner Dr. Heather Dawson asked Martha Freshley, the Senior Warden of St. Philip’s Church. “With the struggles St. Christopher is having as a result of the pandemic, would the Vestry consider having a St. Philip’s workday there?”

Martha brought the question to the Vestry at our September meeting. I serve on St. Christopher’s board, so I volunteered to explore the idea with Father Bob Lawrence, St. Christopher’s Executive Director. After the Vestry meeting, Vestrymen Todd Brown and Robby Marion approached me and indicated they would be glad to donate an afternoon to go out to do “yardwork” at the camp. I called Bob Lawrence to discuss the idea and then put Robby Marion in touch with him to schedule a time for Robby and Todd to go to St. Christopher.

Robby and Todd, along with vestryman Sam Robinson, went out one Thursday early in September, and Todd wrote a humorous and entertaining email thread about their experiences, leading other Vestry members to comment that they wished they had been able to go! Their interest led me to propose the idea of a “Vestry led” workday at St. Christopher, and we put an invitation in the weekly eSPIRE newsletter so all St. Philippians could join. Others signed up to participate and agreed to bring the equipment they had. David Gilbert, our youth minister, offered to recruit a number of the youth.

Early in the week leading up to the big day, Saturday, October 10, the weather forecast was abysmal; however, God had other plans and the day was absolutely perfect with temperatures in the upper 70s. Thirty-eight of us gathered on the porch of Susanna’s house at St. Christopher at 10 o’clock on Saturday morning. After an opening prayer, the four folks with chainsaws, the three with push lawn mowers, the two with riding mowers, the three with weed eaters, the ones with blowers and with loppers, and the rest of us, armed only with gloves and a willingness to work, spread out across the St. Christopher campus.

The folks with the chainsaws and pole saws took some of the men and youth so, as they cut limbs and trees, others could haul the cut items to the road for pickup. Others dispersed around the campus picking up palmetto fronds, limbs, and other fallen debris and placing those in piles on the roads for pickup as well. Still others tackled a project of removing vines and plants growing on the outside walls of cabins and on the walkways.

After about an hour, as the piles began to grow, some of the volunteers began using two of St. Christopher’s trucks to load the limbs, logs, vines, and other debris and haul the materials down to St. Christopher’s composting site about a mile from the center of campus.

At 12:30, we reconvened as a group and had Jersey Mike’s sandwiches and water on the porch at Susanna’s house. Then we headed back out for our tasks until 2 o’clock. By the end of our time, we had hauled 15 truckloads of debris to the composting site! As we finished, Steve Zack, the St. Christopher official in charge of maintaining the grounds, said it would have taken him and his two other groundskeepers six months to do the work the 38 of us had done in just over four hours!

By the end of the day, we had had a wonderful time together (some people operated lawn mowers for the first time––and almost drove the riding mowers into the St. Christopher lakes). We had developed new relationships that brought our church family closer together, and had restored some of the luster to the glory of God’s creation we are blessed to call St. Christopher.

Our only regret was that there was a lot more that needed to be done—and the thought occurred to us as to whether or not God might be calling other parishes to consider having their own work day at Saint Christopher.

By Bob Kunes, St. Philip’s Church, Charleston