APPALACHIA — Pulling up to the former Appalachia High School, vans and work trucks lined the gymnasium parking lot, ready to roll out at 9 a.m. the morning of July 2.
The Appalachia Service Project is in town again this summer. The group has taken up lodging at the former school for the next few weeks.
The project has been doing home repair for low-income families in central Appalachia for nearly 50 years. “Over the past 10 years Appalachia Service Project has served Wise County for six summers, one of which serving in Appalachia and Saint Paul simultaneously,” wrote Katherine Kerka, the current center director for ASP Wise County, in an email.
This year, the project is working on houses throughout the towns of Big Stone Gap and Appalachia. “We have worked on 11 homes so far this summer and will probably work on about 15 or so during the course of the summer,” wrote Kerka. “We have been working on a variety of projects including, foundation repairs, floor repairs, porches, ramps, drywall, insulation, roof repairs, siding and one room addition.”
Volunteers come from all over the country, including New York, Ohio, Connecticut, Massachusetts and North Carolina.
Vicki, a volunteer originally from Costa Rica, was one of the adults among the crew leaving to work on the morning of July 2. “No one believes me back home that there is poverty here in America. I told them that there are a lot of people that need help,” she said.
“Although I’m only good at making coffee,” Vicki joked.
Most of the volunteers are high school students, but anyone can help. Kerka said they have between 67 and 84 volunteers per week. Some churches bring between 30 and 70 people. The volunteers, who split off into work crews of around five students and two adults, pay $750 per person to come work for the week. A new group comes in every Sunday; however, Kerka and three other staff members stay for the duration of the project. The groups began coming in early June and will be in the area for seven weeks total.
“We really appreciate all the support we have had from the community,” Kerka wrote. “Everyone has been so kind and accepting of us and we are so grateful for everyone allowing us to work in this community.”
For more information about Appalachia Service Project, or if you are interested in volunteering or in need of home repair, visit www.asphome.org.