How I Spent my Summer Vacation: Appalachia Service Project (ASP)
August 09, 2017
Back in April my church was looking for adult volunteers to participate in a construction mission trip called Appalachia Service Project (ASP). I decided to assist in this year’s trip and signed myself up after debriefing my supervisor (Chris Kiefer) that I was now taking a week long “vacation.” This year, my church sent 52 people; 16 adults and 36 youth. We were broken down into groups of two adult leaders and four to five high school youth. And off we went on a five-and-a-half-hour trip in eight vans to Chapmanville, West Virginia.
This service project was a week long, eight hours per day construction trip for low-income families in need of house repair located in central Appalachia. Home repair ranged from restoring siding, replacing flooring, constructing a-frame roofs, building decks and much more. This was my ninth year as a volunteer and third year as an adult leader. This year, my group was tasked with designing and digging two ditches to prevent copious amounts of water flowing down a steep slope into the side of our homeowner’s house. Our second job was to frame and soffit, also known as underpinning, the new addition that had previously been built by ASP groups prior to our week.
Located mostly in Central Appalachia, ASP manages about 25 or more centers. Centers are local schools and churches turned into living quarters and construction suppliers for volunteer groups. This year we stayed in a middle school located in the small town of Chapmanville, West Virginia. Each center is staffed by four volunteer college students who have the duties of organization, budgeting, visiting and interviewing prospective low-income homes, and making the eight week volunteer coordination run smoothly.
The church is assigned one of the eight weeks that span from the beginning of June to the end of July. ASP is a non-profit, yearly run organization that sponsors 25+ summer centers and 2 year-round centers. The year-round centers are for volunteer groups to help on weekends or for high schoolers and college students to participate on their spring breaks.
At the end of the week, we finished the underpinning and most the ditches. The youth in my group were helping on odd jobs around the house from painting inside to sanding drywall. It was Thursday evening, we were getting close to winding down for the day and I decided to take a seat on the hillside behind our homeowner’s house. To set the stage of our work site, the family included two parents both in their mid-50s, two daughters, one in high school and one in middle school, and a newborn. The high schooler was the mother of the newborn. The Father of the house was a retired marine core veteran who hurt his back while working in the local coal mines and was on permanent disability leave. The mother was a stay at home mom helping with the two kids and baby.
While sitting there on the hillside, still dripping with sweat, reflecting back on the previous days and years I’ve volunteered, it brings me great joy and satisfaction that my lending hand, only a small fraction of what had been accomplished over the summer, can mean to a family. To see the father of the home open and close the newly installed front door 100 times like he has never touched a door before. To see the mother and high schooler ecstatic with the new addition onto the side of the mobile home transform into a habitable room for their newborn. To see the youth, that volunteered a week of their time, at the end of the day having fun dancing to music with the family while still giving 100 percent of their efforts to complete the work at hand. This shines a light on the hope and service people can provide to families in need. Therefore, I continue to spend one week out of the year, using the construction skills I’ve learned through Timmons group and previous years of experience, to help people less fortunate than I am.