Associates Volunteer in Camden, Mississippi

Camden Associates

Pictured (l-r) are Associates Roger Kaestner, Christine Clifford, John Rossman, George Darner, Steve Helmich and Dodie Sudduth

Recently, we associates, Dodie Sudduth, George Darner, Steve Helmich, Roger Kaestner, John Rossman and Christine Clifford, ventured to Camden, Miss. for a week to assist Sister Donna Gunn, special project coordinator of Sacred Heart Parish and Family Center, with several projects including home repairs and oral history interviews of the parish community’s elders. A preliminary visit had been made to draw up design plans, order materials and create a schedule to complete the tasks.

Being welcomed before we even arrived by way of an article in the Sacred Heart Sunday bulletin made the time spent in this self-described place of worship, praise, creativity and service an everlasting memory that has changed many lives.

Father Mike, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, opened the rectory for the men to stay in and S. Donna opened her home to the women. Each morning we joined together to finalize the day’s tasks and agendas. We then went forward to build bonds with the community—some with hammers and nails and others with tape recorders.

Each day, lunch was prepared by the volunteers and staff at the community center. Sweet tea and warm southern hospitality was a gifting and delightful experience.

What was given and received was equally shared. After a day of building and bonding, a welcome meal generously prepared by the male associates was shared over table conversation. Christine and Dodie would recount the many stories and humorously tell of their own bloopers as they interviewed the elders. The interviewees ranged from “youngsters” around 50 years of age to their grandparents up to 110 years of age. (The verbal histories are now being transcribed and are eagerly anticipated being read.) Steve, George, Roger and John would primarily discuss different ways to build the next day’s porch, deck or ramp and would interject their own humorous bloopers from that day.

During several evenings, Jason, the grandson of one of the gentlemen interviewed, would stop by and join in the conversations. He would explain traditions, significant happenings and answer any questions. Unlike the morning gatherings, the evening conversation was more social than tactical, sharing bits and pieces of our lives and who we are.

By the third day, S. Donna was taking phone calls from community residents with requests such as: “When are you able to come and rebuild my porch?” “When am I going to be interviewed?” All of these were indications that our efforts were appreciated and we were fulfilling a need. At least for this week we felt we were making a difference for the dear neighbor.

What a wonderful week of sharing, giving and experiencing each other and the dear neighbor; in a single word—living. In addition to all that fun, we actually did finish 16 interviews, four new porches with handicap ramps, one set of stairs and carpeted one living room.

Click here to read pieces of conversations and recollections of an associate and the Camden residents.

Click here to view photos of the associates and their projects.

For more information about CSJ Associates, click here.

For Members Only:
Other volunteer opportunities and projects in Camden are being developed for the recent future. If interested in being a part of the Mississippi Volunteer Program and/or other opportunities, go to Association – Ministry Volunteer Opportunities in the Members Only section.

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