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Retirees ‘get recharged’ as Ridgecrest volunteers

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Being a volunteer at Ridgecrest isn’t work; it’s fun, say Ruby and Frank Jackson, volunteer coordinators for Ridgecrest, a LifeWay Conference Center.

Frank, a retired chief of police in Chickasaw, Ala., said he has always loved to travel. “The only place I’ve ever been unsatisfied was where I was,” he said. “I like to go.”

Last year some friends told them how nice the weather was in Maggie Valley, N.C., a resort near Ridgecrest. So the couple traveled there by motor home from their home in Mobile, Ala.

“While we were at Maggie Valley, Frank noticed some information about Ridgecrest on the back of Open Windows [a LifeWay-produced devotional guide] when he was having his daily prayer time,” Ruby said. “When we saw there was a campground, we thought we’d check it out.”

Frank said he called Ridgecrest for reservations and discovered most people who stay at the campground were either conference participants or volunteer workers. So he discussed the volunteer program with Melissa Marlowe, administrative associate and supervisor of coordinators and volunteers at Ridgecrest, and was intrigued.

“[Ruby and I] talked about it and decided to sign on as volunteers for two weeks but wound up staying four months,” Frank said of their experience at Ridgecrest in 1999.

“There was just something exciting here,” Ruby said.

This year, Marlowe thought of the Jacksons when she was considering volunteer coordinators for the months of April through November.

“I was just about ready to call them when the phone rang,” Marlowe said. “It was Ruby saying they’d like to come back to Ridgecrest this year. I told her, ‘And I have something for you to do!'”

The Jacksons agreed to take on the position of volunteer coordinator for this year. One of their tasks is working with Marlowe to sort through the volunteer applications and select workers.

“[Frank] has the spiritual gift of discernment and he just seems to know who would be suited for serving here,” Marlowe said.

Frank said: “We have every kind of people here you can imagine. We have a farmer who is a millionaire dipping ice cream at the Nibble Nook. We’ve got a retired airline executive who repairs furniture. There is a school superintendent, retired military officers and three schoolteachers who have over 40 years of experience. They all volunteer here, serving as cooks, construction workers, everything.”

With a laugh, Ruby said that last year she had served in the Nibble Nook, making milkshakes. “It was so fun,” she said. “I had always wanted to do that! When I was a girl, my mother would never let me work at the drugstore, and that’s the only place you made milkshakes back then.”

Another volunteer had always wanted to work a telephone switchboard, Ruby said. “That’s what she got to do. A place like Ridgecrest lets you live out your dreams.”

This year’s volunteers at Ridgecrest range in age from about 60 up to 83, according to Frank, who said he finds age has little to do with a person’s ability to serve.

“There are people here in their 80s who have the mind and stamina of someone in their 60s. A lot of people just come alive and get recharged with serving here.”

So much so, he added, that two couples have met their mates here and gotten married.

Several of the volunteers come back to Ridgecrest in the fall to work the Chautauqua conferences, Ruby said. They also help close up Camp Ridgecrest for Boys and Camp Crestridge for Girls.

“We built the new steps, painted the cabins, that kind of stuff,” Frank said. “We kept thinking how nice it’d be for the boys and girls when they got back this summer.”

He added, “This is a ministry first of all. Our volunteers see it as that.”

The volunteers meet every Tuesday evening for a time of prayer, said Ruby, who calls the time one of the highlights of the whole week. Prayer requests are shared, and the group prays for every request mentioned. Then Ruby takes the list home with her and prays daily for each request for the rest of the week.

Frank said, “Ruby is a pray-er. She usually knows the answers to things before I do. After we’d been here last year, she knew God wanted us back this year. I just listen to what she tells me!”

Looking around, Frank said, “If you’ve ever had the desire to serve, this is the best place to do it. Our goal and philosophy is to make sure every volunteer who comes has a great experience. We want them to leave here saying this was the best time they’ve ever had.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.sbcbaptistpress.org. Photo title: RIDGECREST VOLUNTEERS.

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  • Polly House