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Volunteers needed as Ridgecrest attendance climbs

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP) — LifeWay’s Ridgecrest Conference Center celebrated record attendance last year as approximately 70,000 guests visited the Blue Ridge Mountain retreat site.

“It was the most people we’ve seen in almost 30 years,” said Art Snead, executive director at Ridgecrest. “The fingerprints of God’s blessings are everywhere.”

With the blessing of extra guests comes the need for more help on campus. Leaders at the conference center are currently looking to deepen their volunteer pool, which they say plays a vital role in serving visitors.

“At Ridgecrest, we desire to see lives impacted for God’s glory,” said Chris Fenske, support staff coordinator. “We want to serve our guests with excellence and we need help to do that well.”

David and Judy Constance, Ridgecrest volunteers from Cleveland, Tenn., began serving at the conference center in 2011. During their first year, they assisted with landscaping around campus.

They’ve returned every year since and have served in catering, housekeeping, laundry services, kitchen work and have even assisted with a special assignment during a marriage retreat. This July, they’re working at the Nibble Nook, an on-campus ice cream shop and eatery.

“Everything we’ve done has been fun,” David said. “There are so many ways to serve here, and they let you change what you do. We don’t know of many other volunteer programs that are so flexible.”

The Constances represent some of the many retired individuals who invest in Ridgecrest.

“We don’t believe retirement is a time you’re supposed to sit back and just relax; we want to be used,” David said. “Being retired, we can’t give [monetarily] as much as we used to, so we try to give of our time.”

Ridgecrest volunteers typically serve a minimum of two weeks for about 30 to 35 hours a week. The conference center provides housing and some meals, and a laundry room is available on campus. While serving, volunteers reside either in on-campus housing or in their own RVs at a Ridgecrest campground.

Volunteer opportunities include:

— Food services — preparing food, baking, hosting, running registers and serving food.

— Hospitality and guest relations — greeting, driving trams and working in the retail shop.

— Facility maintenance — carpentry, painting, landscaping and other tasks based on trade skills such as stonework, electrical and HVAC.

“During summer months and in October — our busiest times — we need around 50 volunteers,” Snead said. “We also need more volunteers to come for shorter amounts of time when we’re busy in the other months.”

Last year, nearly 340 volunteers served at Ridgecrest. That number includes Harold and Ruby Turner, who were first inspired to serve while on vacation at the conference center.

“While staying at Ridgecrest, we met a lot of the volunteers,” Ruby said. “They seemed to have formed a bond and loved what they were doing. We knew this was something we would love to be a part of, and so we came home and applied.”

Like the Constances, the Turners have served in many ways at Ridgecrest. This year, they’re acting as dorm parents for around 80 summer staffers, a role they also plan to assume this fall and winter for Ridgecrest interns.

Last year, Harold retired from being a full-time pastor and Ruby retired as an accountant. While retirement gives them more time to volunteer, their service at Ridgecrest began while they were both employed full-time.

“You don’t have to wait until you retire to enjoy this wonderful experience,” Ruby said. “We started volunteering at Ridgecrest on our time off while we were still in the work force and loved it.”

Fenske hopes to get more volunteers from all walks of life — from retirees to college students and teachers who can serve during breaks or time off for the summer.

“It doesn’t matter what age you are or what your skill set is,” Fenske said. “Volunteering can be life-changing, and God can use you in a mighty way at Ridgecrest.”

For information on volunteering at Ridgecrest, visit RidgecrestConferenceCenter.org/Volunteer or call 1-828-669-3589.