By Marlana Ward
As you take a drive down the back roads of Johnson County, you will see many older homes in various states of disrepair. For some, these home places have been in their families for generations but due to age or disability the homeowners have been unable to do necessary repairs. For over 47 years, the Appalachian Service Project has seen the plight of those living in need and has been changing lives one home at a time.
The Appalachian Service Project (ASP) story began in 1969 with Methodist Minister Reverend Glenn “Tex” Evans. Evans saw the increasing need for home repairs and witnessing in the rural areas of Kentucky and set out to change things. He first organized a group of 50 workers to help build and repair homes in Barbourville, Kentucky. The group would work on homes in the area throughout the day and in the evening, and they would gather together for a worship service.
Today, the ASP serves a five state region within the Appalachian Mountains. Teams from the project can be found in 26 counties throughout West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina. According to the ASP website: “Since 1969, 377,412 volunteers from across the nation have repaired 17,373 homes and, in the process, Appalachian families, volunteers, and staff have been immeasurably blessed.”
Recently, the ASP team could be seen completing projects within Johnson County. The team used the Trade Community Center as their local headquarters and began looking for ways to assist those in need within the county.
“Johnson County has always been a special place to ASP. In the fall, conversations began between Mayor Potter, the Trade Community Center, and ASP staff to discuss returning to the county because of the real need for critical home repair,” Amelia Mulder, Center Director for ASP explained.
“Mayor Potter specifically is a wonderful advocate for this county and gave ASP encouragement to return to serve more families and lift more homes out of substandard housing.”
When a home is chosen as a project for ASP, the team sets out to not only do physical repairs to a structure but to build a relationship with the homeowners, the volunteers, and the community they are working in. The homeowners selected experience great emotion when teams arrive to help as described by Mulder:
“There were many emotions in different cases – some disbelief, some happiness, and some immediate gratitude. The most incredible projects were the ones where our relations with the homeowners really grew over the summer – some families have made lasting bonds with our staffers and our volunteers that will last well past when this summer ends. We feel as though we’ve taken away as much from many of these families, in wisdom and friendship, as we have given.”
A portion of the ASP mission statement includes their belief that affordable, safe, sanitary housing is a basic human right and their work in Johnson County this summer reflects that. “Our center in Johnson has tackled projects such as installing new tin roofs, building wheelchair ramps, modifying existing bathrooms to be handicap accessible, adding second safe exits to homes, and a whole host of structural floor, foundation, and wall repairs,” Mulder shared.
For the rest of the story pick up a copy of this week’s Tomahawk.