Our church has a very active outreach program. TNO (Topeka North Outreach) is a program with several ways to help the needy families in the North Topeka and Oakland areas. If you read the TNO Report, you will get an idea of some of the ways TNO is helping.
Another program supported by members of our congregation is MIM (Mariners in Mission). MIM is an organization consisting of people from numerous Presbyterian churches around the country. We go on mission tips three times a year to work camps at various Presbyterian or multi-denominational camps and retreats. MIM does volunteer construction and similar tasks.
Stronghold Conference Center
We had a short list of tasks they wanted us to do. There were other tasks we undertook, as well.
- Stronghold’s highest priority project was to build a swing set. This is a 24-foot hexagonal framework supporting 6 porch style two-person swings around a firepit.
- Replace the bridge which washed away during a heavy rain.
- Make curtains for the Castle.
- Power wash and stain a deck.
Monday – two of us built the first swing seat. Then, assembly line style, four of us knocked out the remaining five swing seats, except for one back brace per swing due to a slight lumber shortage. These seats are five-foot-wide porch style swings designed to support two people. With more crew, we installed eye bolts for the chains. We also installed the chains on the seats. Meanwhile, the camp councilors cleared brush from the site where the swings were to be located. Next, the camp’s maintenance crew cut down several trees in this area, cut it up for firewood, and neatly stacked it. There will be a fire pit in the center of the swing set.
Tuesday – while waiting for the utilities guy to allow us to dig our holes, we confirmed the exact location for the post holes. We also installed eye bolts to the overhead beams. These will support the swings. Early afternoon, the camp used their tractor-mounted auger to dig the 6 holes, but it broke on the second hole. We had to manually dig the rest of the holes, each three feet deep. We loosened the dirt and rock with shovels, but when the hole got too deep, (believe this or not) we used a shop vac to vacuum the dirt and rocks out of the bottom of the holes. (None of us have arms 3-feet long.) We raised the six 12-foot long 6x6 posts, setting them in the ground, leveling them, and anchoring them with over 600 pounds of concrete. We let the concrete set overnight.
Wednesday – we topped off the holes around the uprights with dirt. Then, using pallet forks on a tractor, we lifted five of the six 14-foot cross beams into place and secured them with long lag screws. We cut and installed four of the twelve 2x6 diagonal braces. Finally, we finished off the swing braces.
Thursday – first thing, we packed up and moved our belongings to our new residence. Friday morning a group of grandparents and grandchildren were arriving and needed our old quarters. Some of our ladies helped clean rooms and make beds. We cut the remaining diagonal braces for the swing set. Thursday was to be our afternoon off to see the local sights. However, we all chose to rest up. That evening, we went to a local steak house for dinner.
Friday – following an early morning rain, we installed the final overhead cross beam, and installed the remaining diagonal braces. Using the rest of the heavy-duty chain, we hung the swings from the overhead braces. Camp staff people “tested” the benches and gave their approval. “Testing” continued on-and-off all afternoon. Once the stumps are removed, they will install the fire pit.