Salkehatchie teens help Indian family complete home

dthackham@fortmilltimes.comJune 26, 2013 

— Two weeks ago, 10-year-old Sophia Sieburg’s bed, clothes, furniture and all of her toys were packed up in a storage closet while she slept with her mother Natalya in their unfinished three-story Indian Land home.

Boxes and paint cans littered a hardwood floor yet to be laid. The architect, Natalya’s husband, Robert, passed away a year ago, leaving the widow and her daughter a completed, yet empty home.

“He drove himself to the hospital, but he never came home,” Sophia said.

Robert Hubbard, who had been dealing with heart issues for years, traveled to Duke University for surgery on May 17, 2012. Doctors discharged him five days later, she said, but Hubbard suffered cardiac arrest on the way home and died. He was 68.

Just over a year later, the family’s home interior is finally seeing progress, thanks to a youth ministry working in the Fort Mill area.

The Catawba Salkehatchie Camp, a coalition of youth from ages 14 to 23, is typically composed of volunteers from United Methodist churches around the Carolinas. The Catawba group is an offshoot of the Salkehatchie Summer Service, a service ministry that oversees over 50 separate camps in South Carolina. While some of the teenagers, like five-year veteran Colleen Berry, had seen houses in disrepair before, nothing prepared her for this year’s task.

“You walk in and you’re just overwhelmed,” Berry said. “There’s just a bunch of miscellaneous boxes plopped everywhere at first. But we’ve been doing sheetrock, painting, flooring, laying tile, molding, cleaning. We’ve seen so much improvement.”

Berry and 11 of her close friends, including three adults, are working from last Saturday to this Saturday to round out a full week of work.

“They’ve all been really nice and they don’t act like just workers, they act like friends,” Sophia said.

Paige McDowell said the Catawba group has fallen in love with the Sieburg family. The temporary discomfort of sawing wood or painting walls in the summer heat, she said, is all worth it to give a loving family a home they can be proud to live in.

“We might get dirty and disgusting at the end of the day, but you move past it and you move past selfish needs,” McDowell said. “We want to give them the happiness we know everyday.”

Natalya said she feels her late husband would have been “thrilled” to see his work of 13 years completed.

“It was the project of his life,” she said. “I know his soul is happy now. The whole crew has been very fast and very productive and I know Sophia has been so happy with everything.”

While her toys are currently spread out over two tables in the back yard, Sophia is enjoying the freedom of sleeping in her own room, painted in “playful pool” blue, complete with a sleigh bed and a walk-in closet. Hubbard, a pool designer who was influenced by the work of American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, even added a small sunroof to Sophia’s room. Sophia wants to invite her friends over for a sleepover party.

“It makes me really happy, I give thanks to everyone who could come out to do this and help us,” she said. “I never used to be able to bring friends over and now I can.”

To learn more about Salkehatchie Summer Service, email salkehatchie@umcsc.org or call Gail Corn at 803-786-9486 ext 318.

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