Bedford Residents Lend a Hand in Appalachia

Two Bedford churches made mission trips to Appalachia during the summer of 2021. First Church of Christ (l), and St. Paul’s (r)

Two teams from local churches, St. Paul’s Episcopal and First Church of Christ, Congregational, recently returned from mission trips to Appalachian communities where each spent a week repairing homes for families in need.

St. Paul’s team went to Wise County, Virginia under the auspices of the Appalachian Service Project (ASP). The First Church trip was arranged through the Appalachian South Folklife Center in Pipestem, West Virginia, which aims “to assist and educate the young people of the mountains.” First in ASP’s goals is to make homes “warmer, safer, and drier for Appalachian families.”

A Gallery of Images ~ St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

A Gallery of Images ~ First Church of Christ, Congregational

In each case, the mission trip’s goal was to complete needed repairs to homes while building relationships with volunteers within the region.

One of St. Paul’s teams was assigned to remove and replace old fascia boards and soffits from their worksite. Another team worked to install new underpinnings on a mobile home.

Ani Zildjian, a participant from St. Paul’s and a senior at Bedford High School, who was on her second mission trip, is very enthusiastic about the experience. “The owner was very friendly.  She hung out on the porch and talked to us, so we really got to know her.” She said, adding, “It is very interesting to meet people in a different situation.”

On some evenings the staff at ASP walked St. Paul’s volunteers through exercises to help them understand the life of local families, explaining the struggles for people when the nearest grocery store is over an hour away and funds are limited. Other evenings they just had fun, like learning line dancing.

Among the volunteers from First Church of Christ Congregational was Kathy Register. She reflected on the trip, “It was very, very rewarding, I was the oldest person there, but I was encouraged to come. I was told, there is a job for everyone.” And there was.

One team stripped old drywall from the interior of a home, installed insulation, and applied new drywall. Previously there had been no insulation at all.

Alison Weaver had been on a previous trip with First Church. She wrote a daily blog of the 2021 trip, which can be found at https://firstchurchbedford.weebly.com/blogs.html.

Her recommendation to potential participants is,  “Don’t hold back, the experience will meet you.” She also spoke of the importance of respect. “It is a very intimate moment,” she said, “to enter someone else’s home and to start to work on it.”

All the travelers took advantage of opportunities to see new sights, learn more about the region, and check out local biscuits and barbeque.


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