‘We still have friends in many states from those work group years’

Spring Break. Many colleges and schools have a break or vacation from classes in the middle of March, called spring break although spring does not officially break until March 20 or 21st. It has become a custom for many college students to go to Florida. But many church groups of high school age and religious college groups have often done a work experience at some mission.

We got started with work groups in 1960 with a church group referred to us from the Red Bird Mission. That one group then referred other groups and by 1965 we had most of March filled with church or college groups. The early groups helped us do TSI (timber stand improvement); plant thousands of pine trees; build fences and general construction since we were always building something. Those were the big jobs which we mingled with early garden work, animal care, house work and visiting with Peggy on her nursing rounds. We were paid for a baby delivery with a pair of goats and “caring for the kids” was always a popular chore. We also got two pigs for another delivery so we soon were in the pig business; and baby pigs are also adorable, if you are careful around the mother sow. I have no idea how many people have milked a cow for the first time in their lives and gathered eggs. Not only did they learn about where milk comes from but that it is warm when they get it straight from the cow or goat. It was also a learning experience that although it looked easy when we did it, the “faucet” was not always so easy to turn on. They also learned the many complicated steps to make the very butter on the table.

One time we were to tear down and clean up an old log barn so we used the logs to build a smaller log barn at the Center for the goats and called it the Lincoln House; appropriate in two ways: after Lincoln logs and also because our goats are named after the presidents and their families. So that group both razed and raised a building at the same time. Most of the time the type of work we did was totally new to the youth in the work group so it was a constant learning experience. I guess that was the teacher in me; it seemed important for us to stretch the young people into both social and work-related experiences. How many times did we hear how important that week was in their lives.

One of the high lights of the week was the privilege of going with Peggy on her nursing work, especially if there was a new baby. Another big event was an after school gathering from Dewitt elementary school for games and singing. In summer they helped with our Day Camp program.

This was a win-win program as we at the Center got physical work done, some families got home improvement and the young people involved experienced a whole new type of life. We had a very active work group program from 1960 until 2015 when Peggy’s health made it impossible to continue. We still have friends in many states from those work group years.