J. Strom Thurmond Lake Volunteer Village
Time sure flies when you’re having fun! It’s hard to believe we’ve been volunteering for seven weeks already!
We’re at J. Strom Thurmond Lake north of Augusta, GA. The lake is located in the Savannah River Basin on the Georgia/South Carolina border and is part of the Savannah District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).
Thurmond Lake is the largest USACE lake east of the Mississippi River. There are numerous USACE (a.k.a. COE) campgrounds, boat ramps, and day use areas with picnic areas and/or beaches located around the lake in both Georgia and South Carolina. Some of the campgrounds have water and electric with dump stations available, and some are “primitive” with no hookups.
On Tuesday, 2/5, we left Country Boys RV Park, Madison, GA, earlier than we usually get going on a travel day. Our Volunteer Coordinator, Ranger Hatfield, was only working a half day Tuesday along with all of Wednesday off. We wanted to get there before he left for the day, so our “abnormal” departure time was about 8:30AM and the trip took us just over two hours including a stop for diesel. We arrived at the Volunteer Village about 10:40AM. Ranger Hatfield stopped by a few minutes later, just in time to watch us get backed into our site, #12. He, and one of the volunteers, Dennis, welcomed us with handshakes and smiles. After talking for a few minutes, Ranger Hatfield told us to take the rest of Tuesday and Wednesday to get settled in. After he and Dennis left we unhooked the truck and got all set up for our stay.
The Volunteer Village is situated on a peninsula near Modoc, SC. It’s only about two years old and has twelve sites with full hookups including 50 amp service and WIFI. Each site has a concrete pad for your rig, picnic table, grill, another small table, and a lantern post. Ten of the sites are lakeside.
We’re parked on one of the two non-lakeside sites. However, from our vantage point up on the hill, we can see the lake on all three sides of the peninsula!
We’re actually uphill from everyone, so it’s very easy to look out over the other rigs and see the lake. This is a view of our site from down the hill.
Just up the road from us is the meeting hall.
It has a bathroom with a shower, a laundry area with two washers and two dryers available for our use free of charge, and a folding area.
There’s also a kitchen area, a wood-burning fireplace, book exchange, exercise equipment, tables, and chairs.
This is a view of the village from the meeting hall.
That’s our rig right in the middle of the picture above. Here’s a photo of our first sunset here, taken through the left rear side window of our rig.
On Thursday, 2/7, we headed up to the meeting hall for a 9AM volunteer meeting conducted by Ranger Hatfield. It was a good icebreaker for us and others to get introduced to each other. After the meeting we went to the Visitor Center, which overlooks the dam, for our orientation meeting with Ranger Hatfield and another couple, Bill and Carol. We received our vests, nametags, and keys, along with a welcome packet and some other printed information. The Visitor Center is also the main headquarters for the rangers and other staff. We received a tour and were introduced to many of the staff members. That evening we joined six other couples, including Ranger Hatfield and his wife, at Chili’s for dinner to celebrate volunteer Mary’s birthday.
This was another great opportunity to get to know some of the other volunteers!
Volunteers are required to work a minimum of 20 hours per week per site in exchange for the campsite. Our primary task, currently once per week, is to count fees collected from day use areas, campgrounds, and boat ramps. Once the busy season starts up we’ll start counting twice per week, and that should just about fulfill our weekly time commitment.
In the meantime, in addition to counting fees once per week, we’ve done a number of different things to fulfill our time requirement. We’ve made several trips to town to retrieve boat motor parts, decals, and Corps vehicles that had received recall updates. A major project that Terri and I completed recently was to check for the “no wake zone” and “no boats allowed” buoys and their positioning at all of the Corps beaches around the lake. That particular job took several days and many miles of driving, and required us to go into campgrounds and day use areas that are “closed for the season.” It was fun to be able to venture into those areas while they’re not yet open to the public. Currently we’re working on a project that again requires quite a bit of driving and entering closed areas. This task entails placement of reflective tape on road gates so that they’re more easily visible during road closures.
So far we’ve really enjoyed ourselves and have had no problem fulfilling our time requirements. In fact, we easily put in more hours than are required. The work is very easy, and everyone has been good to work with including fellow volunteers, rangers, and other staff. Everyone here at the Volunteer Village is friendly, and we’ve gotten together a few times for potlucks and happy hours. We’ll be here until July 15th, and we’ve already made arrangements to return in October for at least another three months!
We’ve had some other fun times since arriving here, but that will have to wait for now. Stay tuned…