Volunteers bring their RVs and their skills to Rhodes Grove

Shawn Hardy
Carl Simerson works in a shower at Rhodes Grove Camp, where he is part of the Roving Volunteers in Christ’s Service team.

Ten campers at Rhodes Grove Camp and Conference Center in Kauffman this month brought the own accommodations and spend a lot of time with tools in their hands.

Five couples from Roving Volunteers in Christ’s Service pulled into camp their RVs early this month, rolled up their sleeves and got to work.

Team leaders Henry and Kathy Nickel hail from Texas and are joined by Pennsylvanians Henry and Phyllis Hoffman and Gerald and Rhoda Nissley, Floridians Dennis and Karen Packard and New Yorkers Carl and Vlarjie Simerson.

They are helping restore 30 cottages with carpentry, electrical work, plumbing, plaint and glazing windows, according to Angela Monn, executive director at Rhodes Grove. The women are doing sewing, office work and cleaning. They’ve helped close the pool, are preparing the the off-road adventure run at the end of the month and are repairing a diesel tractor.

“I love to see how God works. They needed the tractor repaired and we have men with the skills to do it,” said Kathy Nickel. “We come to do work, whatever it may be.”

RVICS is a non-profit organization founded in 1977.

“Membership consists of retired couples who travel throughout the United States and Canada in motor homes, fifth wheel trailers and travel trailers. The ministry of physical labor is directed to Christian facilities such as retreat and conference centers, schools and colleges, camps, retirement centers and similar ministries,” Nick and Boo Jones, RVICS ambassadors, explained in an email.

RVICS volunteers to everything from painting to complete remodels to constructing buildings, saving the places they serve thousands of dollars.

“We’re both faith-based so our missions align well. We appreciate the labor, ministry and mindset,” said Monn, noting this is the third or fourth RVICS visit in her 11-year tenure.

It’s not all work for the RVICS volunteers.

“We play, work and pray together,” Nickel said.

Work is done weekdays through noon on Thursdays, then the volunteers have time to explore the area, both as a group and on their own. Their local itinerary includes Martin’s Famous Pastry Shoppe, Rachel’s Country Kitchen, the fall festival at the Lurgan Greenhouse and Antietam National Battlefield. On Sundays, they worship at churches in the area and on weeknights, they have Bible study, fellowship and play games.

“I love the camaraderie,” Nickel said. RVICS is non-denominational so “we meet people from the same faith, but not the same backgrounds.”

Kathy Nickel is second-generation RVICS and it was her husband who first mentioned doing it in their own retirement. They’ve traveled all over the country and sometimes extend their trips to visit family.

Approximately 60 couples per year participate in the program and typically, RVICS members travel 5,000 to 10,000 miles annually.

For more information, visit www.rvics.com or email rvics@rvics.com.