Putting Faith into Action

17 October 2023

By Elaine Garrison

Did you know…to be a member of the Community of Christ RV Association, you don’t have to own a recreational vehicle?

You do need an interest in the repair and upkeep of historic buildings, church campgrounds, and enjoying the faith and company of others with similar interests.

About seventy-five people are members of the organization; thirty-one members and others recently showed up to work at the Joseph Smith Historic Site in Nauvoo, Illinois, USA. The core crew is ten to fifteen workers. The volunteers glaze or replace windows; paint indoors and out; replace siding; work on plumbing, electrical, and flooring; and deal with the unexpected things common to repairs on old buildings.

“Nauvoo brings some unique challenges due to the age of the buildings and trying to maintain the historical nature of the buildings. The good thing is we have several people who can put their heads together to figure out a solution,” said Rollie Marolf, association board president of Topeka, Kansas, USA.

I am so very grateful for the support they [the RV Association] provide us and can’t imagine trying to operate the historic sites without their help.

Apostle Lachlan Mackay

Apostle Lachlan Mackay, director of the church’s historic sites, said recently in the Forum, a newsletter for the Historic Sites Association: “I can’t overstate the ongoing importance of the Community of Christ RV Association to the historic sites. As maintenance staff has been reduced due to financial constraints, the RVA has picked up significant slack. Without their generous donation of time and talent, we would not have been able to open safely.

“I am so very grateful for the support they provide us and can’t imagine trying to operate the historic sites without their help.”

Tasks might be assigned according to each volunteer’s knowledge. For example, Marolf’s areas of expertise are plumbing, electrical, heating, and cooling systems.

However, volunteers don’t need specific remodeling or construction skills. They can learn as they go, said Woody Wilson, association project supervisor. As he loaded large, round hay bales at a ranch in northeast Oklahoma, Wilson pondered one of the larger tasks ahead: rehabbing a caretaker house at Camp Bountiful in Jackson, Ohio, USA. The building needs lots of help.

“We’ll be taking out windows, putting up new OSB [Oriented Strand Board, an extra-strong plywood], Tyvek house wrap, and vinyl siding,” among other things, Wilson said.

Other projects are smaller, such as a planned handicapped-access ramp for a church. No matter the complexity, each task gets a thorough evaluation before work begins.

How It Works

The RV Association team works March through May and then in September and October to avoid extreme heat and because the campgrounds where members likely would be working are in use. It’s not a firm rule, as the group flexes to include projects when it can. This year, three projects are scheduled in August with work planned at Camp Bountiful in Ohio, the Kirtland Temple site in Ohio, and Camp Winniaugwamauk in Maine.

Projects usually are completed in a week or two. Nauvoo is a favorite among the workers. The aging buildings are on the task list most springs. Nauvoo takes two weeks every year, and volunteers worked two weeks at Camp Farwesta recently.

The association does not receive financial support from the church. Members pay a $25.00 membership per family per year and provide their own transportation to sites.

Members also provide their own breakfast and lunch. The site provides the evening meal.

The site where the work is done is asked to pay $200.00, which helps maintain tools and equipment that will be used during the project.

Sites also supply construction materials. It’s Wilson’s goal to have everything in place when volunteers arrive.

To Volunteer or Receive Help

All are welcome to volunteer. Visit Community of Christ RV Association website for information about membership and volunteering. Click on Forms and look for the PDF with “dues” in the name.

One of Wilson’s favorite stories is about a Utah couple, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that worked with RV Association volunteers at Nauvoo. The two told the Community of Christ volunteers how much they appreciated fellowship and sharing of faith at the project site. The couple returned the next year to work with RV Association volunteers.

We truly build community together. Working together, playing together, and eating together builds community that goes beyond just working on the projects.

Rollie Marolf

As Marolf said, “We truly build community together. Working together, playing together, and eating together builds community that goes beyond just working on the projects. In the past couple of years, we’ve been able to recruit members from some of the local sites because they have been so impressed with the fellowship and community they felt.”

If a church, campground, or other church-related site needs help from the association, an application is the first step. Visit the Community of Christ RV Association website. Click on Forms and open “rva_project_application_6-4-22.pdf.”

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