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Appalachia Service Project Attracts Local Students

Dylan Roche
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November 2, 2011
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By Darrell Mak

Well over one hundred high school kids in the area last year participated in the Appalachia Service Project, a Christian ministry organization that provides life-changing, turn-key mission trips. The project brings thousands of volunteers from around the country to Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky - a region also known as rural Central Appalachia - to repair homes for needy, low-income families. Despite the wealth in the land, Appalachia is a region riddled with poverty.

Severna Park resident Lee Kinsella participated in the outings for the past five summers, starting when he was a student at Severna Park High School. He has enjoyed the experience so much that he plans to volunteer again next summer as a college student. “We go to the very poor regions of those areas and help people build whatever they need like additions or wheelchair ramps,” said Kinsella.

The Appalachia Service Project receives requests throughout the year from needy families and decides where to send its volunteer resources. “There are a whole lot of applicants,” noted Kinsella, “but only a few get chosen.” On average, the Project only is able to serve one in ten families that apply for help. “We need many, many more volunteers to make a lasting dent in Appalachian poverty,” the Project’s web site noted.

Volunteers such as Kinsella work in teams of six individuals for one week, consisting of two adult supervisors and four student workers. A new work team of volunteers comes in every week until the project is completed. All work is provided free of charge, and most projects take an entire summer to complete. The workers are mainly high school students, but some college students, such as Kinsella, volunteer as well.

Established in 1969, the program was founded by Reverend Glenn "Tex" Evans, a minister in the United Methodist Church, and aims to make homes "warmer, safer and drier" for needy families. Since 1969, more than 260,000 volunteers from across the nation have repaired over 14,000 homes. Today, the organization has grown into serving 25 communities with about 15,000 people volunteering in the program annually.

Kinsella said a typical day consists of waking up at 7:00am, eating breakfast, doing morning devotion, then departing to the work site. The group returns by 4:00pm, gets ready for dinner, then holds another devotion session in the evening. At the end of the week, he said the team concludes the trip by giving the receiving family a signed bible “as a special little tribute to them.”

Kinsella said his most memorable experience of his five trips was helping one very poor family build a needed addition to their house. “They were so poor that the 70 year-old owner wore the same clothes every day,” Kinsella recalled. “His accent was so thick, we couldn’t understand what he was saying, but he and his family were obviously so grateful to us. They were always doing as much as they could to help us while we were doing as much as we could to help them.”


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