When Lee planned a bicycle ride with his son and son-in-law on the Blue Ridge Parkway, I began searching for a place to “be” for the week he was away. Since we had once attended a senior adult conference at Lifeway Ridgecrest Conference Center, I started with the center’s web page, finding a button to click for volunteer opportunities. Located in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains only 17 miles east of Asheville—the place I needed to stay—I applied to volunteer at Ridgecrest. Actually, Lee and I both applied and were accepted in their volunteer program. He filled some roles in maintenance during the week prior to his bicycle ride.
For more than a century, the 1,300-acre Christian conference center has welcomed over a million guests for senior adult conferences, youth camps and meetings, retreats, Bible study, worship services, weddings, and music celebrations. Visitors have lodging choices ranging from deluxe hotel rooms to family and youth housing. Ridgecrest maintains a full staff of paid employees, but volunteers are key to serving guests, providing helping hands and busy feet to handle many tasks in food services, housekeeping, laundry, hospitality, and guest relations. Their work enables paid employees to accomplish tasks that would be limited due to a lack of funding or personnel.
Volunteers are recruited and selected with preference given to those who possess a thorough understanding of and commitment to Ridgecrest’s mission statement: “As God works through us, we will help people and churches by providing the best conference center environment for finding biblical solutions for life.” Volunteers strengthen the ministry of Ridgecrest by serving guests with Christ-like servant hearts. A commitment of two weeks is required, although many volunteers spend several weeks or months in service at the conference center. A minimum of 30 hours per week is required for the room and board furnished by the conference center. In our case, and that of several others plus a group of North Carolina Campers on Mission, “room” meant a full-hookup site in the wooded campground across I-40 from the Ridgecrest campus. Settled in a friendly neighborhood of individuals serving with a common purpose, I felt safe and quite at home on my camp site number 8. As an additional benefit, we had access to a small laundry at no charge. Volunteers without RVs are provided dorm rooms. All volunteers have daily meals in the cafeteria.
For the week prior to his bicycle adventure, Lee worked in facilities, joining other red-shirted men in remodeling a dorm for the facility’s staff. While he fitted carpet tiles on the floors of the refurbished rooms, I worked morning hours in the kitchen’s salad room. My duties included slicing a mound of radishes and cucumbers, washing thumb-sized tomatoes, and layering greens into a mammoth stainless steel salad bowl. From the huge bowl, we scooped the greens into shallow rectangular bowls for the cafeteria serving line. We also prepared mixed fruit bowls and peaches and strawberries for the next day’s breakfast. Other volunteers, recognized by the red polo shirts with the Lifeway Ridgecrest logo, worked in the larger kitchen area preparing rolls, cookies, and cakes.
At the end of our first week, Lee and I both were assigned duties in the Centennial Eatery, a grill and ice cream shop for guests who do not purchase meal tickets for the cafeteria, or simply prefer to have a double cheeseburger and fries. Lee did the deep frying and I assembled hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken sandwiches on buns, adding all the typical Southern fixings. The pace was fast and often a line formed to the outdoor sidewalk with folks waiting to order the sandwiches we prepared.
After I drove Lee and his sons to the entrance of the Blue Ridge Parkway to begin their week-long bicycle ride, I returned to our motorhome parked at the Ridgecrest Campground and started my second week of volunteering. My assignment? The facility’s laundry. For full work days, I folded mountains of sheets, towels, tablecloths, and shower curtains. Another volunteer worked with me alongside the permanent staff of the laundry.
Lifeway Ridgecrest is one of many conference centers, retreats, or camps across our country in which RVers have an opportunity to volunteer in various areas of service, including food service, housekeeping. maintenance, laundry, and hospitality. Some, like Lifeway Ridgecrest, are Christian-oriented; others are sponsored by various organizations. In my book, Road Work II, I noted many resources for such volunteer options under the section titled: WorkCamping. The “C” indicates “charitable” volunteerism and WorkCamping, like Workamping, is a registered name. To experience this type of volunteerism, one needs only a servant’s heart.
For more information about volunteering at Lifeway Ridgecrest Conference Center, go to http://ridgecrestconferencecenter.org/employment. Details for volunteerism is under the employment tab.
Traveling in their motorhome several months each year, Arline and her photographer husband, Lee Smith, make their permanent home in Heber Springs, Arkansas. She currently is a presenter for Workamper Rendezvous, sponsored by Workamper News. Arline has dozens of magazine articles published, as well as five books: “Road Work: The Ultimate RVing Adventure” (now available on Kindle); “Road Work II: The RVer’s Ultimate Income Resource Guide”; “Truly Zula; When Heads & Hearts Collide”; and “The Heart of Branson”, a history of the families who started the entertainment town and those who sustain it today. Visit Arline’s personal blog at ArlineChandler.Blogspot.com