Since 1969, Appalachia Service Project (ASP) has been serving homeowners, and their families, all throughout Central Appalachia. ASP has made homes warmer, safer, and drier for the last 50 years while providing volunteers with unique and life changing experiences. In the last year alone, ASP has served 439 families, built over 60 new homes, and has had over 16,000 volunteers serving in Appalachia.
ASP envisions the eradication of substandard housing in Central Appalachia and the transformation of everyone who comes in contact with their ministry. Securing proper housing is crucial in eliminating poverty and keeping families together in Appalachia. ASP brings thousands of volunteers from all over the nation to Central Appalachia to repair homes for low-income families. Over 50 years, more than 390,000 volunteers have repaired 17,866 homes in the region, which includes parts of Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. Not only have the volunteers helped thousands of families have safe and secure homes through this rewarding experience, but they have also been exposed to the affordable housing crisis, and are now able to raise awareness about the issues facing the region.
Below is a story from one of their volunteers, Jamie, who talked about their rewarding and transformative experience volunteering with ASP.
This Must Be the Place: Finding Refuge in a Room
In 2016, I was on staff in Breathitt County, Kentucky. On one of my first days in Breathitt, I visited the home of a woman named Florence. Upon entering her living room and taking a seat beside her on the tan couch, she said that she would rather be called Flo. Flo’s living room was often dark, and her couch was often slightly damp with humidity. We filled the space between stories with silence, and the room always felt full.
When Flo told stories, she didn’t look at me. She would cross her legs and point her knees towards me, but she would keep her gaze focused on something else – the clock that hung on the wall, the loaf of bread on the counter, or her dog on the ground by the front door. These objects that she looked at, the places she directed her stories, made the room feel full even when we were the only two people sitting on the couch. Her living room was full of things that represented her life. Her living room became a place of fellowship, a place where stories from her past intertwined with the objects on her walls and me, an ASP summer staffer who found refuge in her living room throughout the summer.
Jenna Thompson, a returning staffer in Scott County, Tennessee, has also found refuge in living room conversations and wrote about some of her experiences from this summer.
I find that the most memorable moments of my day are those spent with homeowners in their living rooms, their couches and sofas becoming an appreciated escape from the hot July sun. This summer, I have seen how volunteers often find comfort in homeowner’s living rooms as well.
In Debra’s home, the living room hosts the volunteers’ lunch breaks. As the smell of Debra’s grandmother’s soup wafts through the air, volunteers lead devotions and intentional conversations. For Debra, cooking soup and making peanut butter and maple syrup sandwiches is her way of giving back to the volunteers who are spread out on her living room couches and chairs.
Living rooms can provide a place of comfort for volunteers, and sometimes ASP is able to physically transform living spaces throughout a summer of home repair. On another worksite, Pam and Junior now have new floors in their living room this summer. After the floors were finished, Pam explained how she is now proud of her home. She now welcomes anyone in to see her home – especially her living room since it is the first room people see when they walk through the front door.
As a volunteer, I love watching how a room can physically transform throughout a week. On Sunday, the subfloor might be exposed in preparation for joist repair, but on Friday, volunteers might be returning furniture to its regular location.
As a staffer, I love watching how the feeling of a room can transform throughout the summer. During my first week in the county, I might tentatively sit on the edge of a couch, but by the end of the summer, I will likely have a favorite seat in the home of people who offer love through the fellowship in a room.
If you’d like to see some of the impact ASP has had on the region, please follow the links below:
If you’d like to learn more about ASP, and how you can volunteer, please follow the links below:
The Fahe Network is comprised of 50+ nonprofit Members serving the Appalachian portions of Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, Alabama and Maryland. Fahe has cultivated the deepest reaching platform to connect investment to these boots on the ground leaders. To learn more about ASP and our other Members, please visit our interactive map and Membership directory.