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Mississippi Nailbenders tackle local camp project

It takes a village to raise a child — but it takes the Mississippi Nailbenders to build a local camp for youths.

That group’s name suggests it is “hammer-challenged” concerning the fastening of objects to each other using slender metal shafts with pointed ends (nails).

It is actually a mission organization of skilled volunteers who go from place to place tackling new construction projects for church congregations and related groups — and probably don’t smash their thumbs all that often.

The Mississippi Nailbenders boasts more than 600 members, about 40 of whom — representing nine states — made their way to Surry County last week to lend their talents in launching a project known as Camp Andrew.

Its organizers seek to provide Christian summer camp and retreat opportunities for boys and girls using cabin and other facilities being developed in the Woodville community between Mount Airy and Westfield.

“There’s just not words to express enough gratitude to those people for working to help us build our Camp Andrew,” said Roy Nunn, 68, who is spearheading the effort to make it a reality on a site of about 200 acres.

“It will take at least five years to build the things that we plan to build,” Nunn added Wednesday.

“Eventually, we’d like to have nearly 400 campers at a time.”

The Mississippi Nailbenders’ work last week involved getting the site ready for other steps later.

“They were preparing pads for cabins,” Nunn explained

Some temporary tent camping is possible this summer. “And next year we should have some cabins constructed,” Nunn said.

Mississippi Nailbenders volunteers plan to return for two weeks in October to build those units.

In memory of son

While Camp Andrew is presently a work in progress aided by the Mississippi Nailbenders, the story actually begins in 1998, when Andrew Joel Nunn — one of three children of Roy and Sharon Nunn — died from a rare form of pancreatic cancer.

He was just 10 years old, yet already had his sights set on the future.

“We called him Andy,” his dad mentioned. “Andy always said he wanted to be a missionary, even as a young boy.”

His inspiration to serve others would manifest itself years later when Camp Andrew was first envisioned.

“It was in 2015,” recalled Roy Nunn, a member of a family that produced The Nunn Brothers bluegrass group headed by his siblings Arnold and Alden. “It was basically a calling that the Lord gave us to build a youth camp.”

Nunn realized it would take a lot of property to accomplish what was desired. This began with the acquisition of about 47.5 acres that his great-grandfather had bought in 1920 and remained in the family for 90-plus years before changing hands.

Other chunks of acreage were acquired later “to get the land mass that we need,” the Camp Andrew spokesman disclosed, with five family farms dedicated to the effort altogether. The camp is to include a series of buildings encompassing multiple cabins.

The entire tract contains forested areas for hiking and other activities, allowing campers to enjoy nature while experiencing God’s love, according to Nunn. The property also features two lakes and a section of Big Creek totaling about 3,500 feet.

It borders Woodville, Slate Mountain, Westfield and Brown roads. The main entrance to the property is off Brown Road, but will be off N.C. 89 in the future, Nunn said.

Enter Nailbenders

Roy Nunn acknowledges that much of the work so far on the camp has not been visible in scope, such as meeting with architects and engineers.

That all changed last week with the arrival of the Mississippi Nailbenders to Surry County.

“I had a friend in Mississippi and he knew we were doing Camp Andrew,” Nunn said of how the group came to be involved in the local project.

That individual seemed quite enthused about it and subsequently contacted Jack Honea, one of the leaders of the Mississippi Nailbenders.

“And he (Honea) said, ‘we think we can help you,’ and it just went from there,” Nunn recalled, with its visit here taking several months to arrange.

It was sponsored by an organization known as Church Building Ministries Inc. (CBMI) that sometimes works with the Mississippi Nailbenders, which was the case with this trip.

Those who helped included mechanics who got camp equipment up and running, such as a sawmill operation.

“The Lord has blessed the camp with several pieces of equipment,” Nunn reported. “They needed much repair and these men worked miracles with God’s help on this equipment.”

Nunn says it would have cost the camp many thousands of dollars to complete those tasks. “And God sent these humble servants to accomplish such great things.”

Representatives of Laurel Lakes Baptist Camp in Corbin, Kentucky, also brought in a sawmill component.

And Nunn says wood that was processed during the work week came from a donation of pine trees that Don Badgett raised from seedlings 65 years ago.

Badgett, now 80, and his wife Jean donated trees that had grown to more than 80 feet tall to the camp project.

Studs and floor joists were provided for about six cabins, with about 50 more logs still to be milled.

Other work at the site last week included bush-hogging, grading and hauling loads of rock and dirt.

At least five cooks also were on hand to prepare meals for the crew members, who were housed on the grounds.

“They did too many jobs to mention,” Nunn summarized regarding the volunteers’ contributions for Camp Andrew which reflected the traditional barn-raising philosophy that truly does take the proverbial village.

Although the project is named in honor of his late son, he says the main goal of the camp involves being able to share the gospel with youths in a non-denominational fashion.

“But building it in the name of Andy means a lot to us,” Nunn agreed.

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