Submitted by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
How would you like to spend five days doing manual labor in the hot sun in the middle of rural Appalachia? Four youth members and two adult leaders from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church recently did just that, serving three families in Man, West Virginia, through Appalachia Service Project (ASP). The trip gave the youth a chance to learn valuable new skills, meet new people, and experience a way of life very different from theirs in Bedford.
Cassie Baker, a 2013 BHS graduate; Natalie Schalick, a rising junior; Nate Presti, a rising sophomore; and Ethan Schalick, an incoming freshman, joined youth leaders John and Emily Mitchell on the weeklong trip, from June 22 through June 29. “We have a great youth group, with lots of support from the congregation,” John said. “We’re all thrilled that we finally pulled off a mission trip.”
The group spent their days working on three different sites, all mobile homes in or near Man. They installed railings for a back porch, built a wheelchair ramp, and hung rafters and plywood for a porch roof. John has volunteered as a construction supervisor with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Lowell for a dozen years, and was able to teach the youth the ins and outs of power drills, sawzalls, and circular saws. All four youth quickly mastered the tools and did the bulk of the work themselves.
In the evenings the group visited the local ice-cream place, learned about the history of coal mining from a retired miner, sang and heard lots of country music, and shared their own reflections about the work they were doing and the people they were serving. “I hope Margaret’s as happy with the ramp as we are,” Natalie said after finishing the wheelchair ramp, which created a much-needed emergency exit for an elderly woman living alone in a trailer.
Planning for the mission trip took more than a year, as the youth group researched different options and organizations, both domestic and overseas. After deciding that construction work was their preferred means of service, the group chose ASP because of its relative proximity: all sites were a one- to two-day drive away. They held fundraisers throughout the year, including a birdhouse raffle supported by the parish’s Girl Scouts, and were granted mission-designated funds from St. Paul’s ongoing Capital Campaign to underwrite the bulk of the expenses.
ASP operates in five states (West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee), with dozens of centers for its seven-week summer program and a few year-round locations as well. Each center is run by a staff of four current or recently graduated college students. Volunteer work crews are expected to do chores every day to keep the center clean and organized. ASP was founded by a Methodist minister and has a Christian worldview: programming includes daily volunteer-led devotions and time for prayer.