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Full-time RVers Trade Labor for Free Camping

May 16, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

Jim and Anita Everett, formerly of El Paso, settled into their new summer home earlier this month and promptly got jobs.

The full-time RVers are part of a growing number of travelers who exchange volunteer hours for campsite rentals at Lake Shelbyville, the Decatur, Ill., Herald-Review reported.

“Since we retired, we spend the winter where it’s warm in the summer wherever we want,” Jim Everett said.

This year, the couple is spending several weeks at Lake Shelbyville, working 20 hours a week in the new Army Corps of Engineers Visitors Center. In exchange for greeting visitors, stocking the popcorn machine and doing other chores, they receive free camping with full hookups for their recreational vehicle. The Everetts are the first to use one of several new campsites at Shelbyville’s Dam Recreation Area specially constructed for volunteers.

“It’s a beautiful place to be,” said Anita Everett. “We have this wonderful view of the lake and a really nice setting.”

“There are lots of things we need volunteers for,” said ranger Pam Doty, who coordinates the volunteer workers. “They do mowing, cleaning, maintenance and work the fee booths at the various campgrounds around the lake.”

Full-time volunteers such as the Everetts come for several weeks at a time. Their jobs and hours are often set up more than a year in advance. Other volunteers work for shorter periods of time.

“It really doesn’t matter what the time is a volunteer has available,” Doty said. “We can find something for them to do.”

The volunteer group has grown over the years as budget cuts reduced paid help at the lake, and the Corps worked on ways to maintain services.

“Right now, a volunteer can do four hours of work in exchange for one night free camping,” Doty said. “It doesn’t matter if they’re from outside the area or someone who is local and wants to enjoy the lake.”

After 100 hours, volunteers have their names placed on a wall in the lobby of the new visitors center.

“We’re very grateful for everyone who wants to help,” Doty said.“Whether it’s at the visitors center and dam, the campgrounds or the General Dacey Trail, volunteers are what make Lake Shelbyville a premier destination.”

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