Mission campers rebuild rain gardens
By Dean Shipley
The day was warm but not hot. Tuesday’s temperatures of 80-something treated the 24 campers from the Student Life “blue” team much kinder than say, a week ago.
With the extreme heat of the holiday week a memory, 19 youth and five adults from West Virginia worked along side Julia Cumming, administrator of the Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District. They were giving her 48 hands for three hours a day for two days to clean out rain gardens behind the Madison County Senior Citizen Center.
“They’re doing great. They’re workhorses,” Cumming said.
After they pulled weeds and stacked them in piles, the students cut them into smaller chunks, which Cumming said accelerates decomposition.
Her two-day crew at the bike path — they’ll work another day elsewhere — came to her through Student Life in Birmingham, Ala. The Christian-faith-based organization conducts camps so the campers cannot only provide a service to a community, but also learn the benefits of serving a community. Then, said Lauren, Brewer, the campers take those lessons learned back to their own communities. The hope is they implement service projects in their own communities.
This group hailed from Bridgeport, West Virginia said Andrew Reep of the Fellowship Bible Church. They are camping at Cedarville University, where they have room and board as well as hear speakers on spiritual topics and have a little fun, too.
Reep said his group chose the “mission camp” as an opportunity to serve.
After the weeds are successfully removed, Cumming said they will help her lay down mulch in between the small plots which will contain flowers and native warm season grasses. Since they are rain gardens the grasses will provide natural water filtering. The flowers, including black-eye Susans, bee balm, swamp milk weed and blue lobelia will provide food for pollinators.
Camper Matthew Schwenk teamed with fellow camper Kiana Swann to cut up weeds and bag them. For him the camp was about learning to serve a community and thereby serve God and “to reach out to the community.”
Since late May Student Life groups have been visiting all over the United States. Their work will continue through the end of July.
Cumming said once the students are gone, she hopes some volunteers will step forward to care for the rain gardens on an ongoing basis.
“The goal is to get volunteers to keep their eyes on this,” Cumming said.
She said in time the native plants will take over thus keeping the weeds at bay. But until that time, Cumming said volunteers will be needed to give the gardens some attention.
Anyone interested in helping out may call the soil and water district at (740) 852-4004.