Students join with the Appalachia Service Project to make an impact

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Nestled in the Appalachian region lies the town of Jonesville, Va.. This town is where five University of Indianapolis students will be spending their upcoming spring break, working to repair homes in the town. This is all part of the Appalachia Service Project (ASP), which, according to their website, brings volunteers from across the country to repair homes for low-income families.

According to the Appalachia Service Project website, this project started in 1969 by Rev. Glenn Evans, a United Methodist minister who saw that there was a need for home repairs in the Appalachian region. The trip welcomes all college students, even those who are not of Christian faith, according to Assistant Director of the Lantz Center and Ecumenical & Interfaith Programs David Boyd.

At the Appalachia Service Project, UIndy students will be met by other college age volunteers from around the country to repair and replace homes for low-income families, according to Boyd. He said he will be leading the group as he has done before.

“Students getting out of their own bubble and getting involved in the lives of others is very, very, important,” Boyd said. “I think for their education, for their exposure … and [to] see another culture, to see other people. Appalachia Service Project is another culture. When you go there, you realize that these are not people our students have ever encountered. They are coal miners, they are families who have lived on the mountain their entire lives.”

According to Boyd, the group starts working in the morning and then takes a break for lunch, where they can spend time with the family. In the evening, the group will also spend time with other college students from across the country. 

“We get up in the morning, we pack our lunch and we go and build. And it’s, a lot of the time, stuff students are not fully familiar with it,” Boyd said. “The first year, I went with a group of students with no construction experience and we sided a house. They did phenomenal, not just okay, they did amazing work. Getting it straight, the mathematics, working together, it was really amazing.” 

Boyd said that the theme of ASP is “warmer, safer, drier.” Students will be using power tools, but Boyd said that they do not do anything unsafe. 

“When I’ve been, the groups have painted, siding, added a foundation, they fixed a foundation one year, they built a wheelchair ramp,” Boyd said. “So anything that will make a house warmer, safer and drier, [the students] will come in and do it… they run power tools. Lot of that stuff, the students are able to do, they need [to be] empowered to do it.”

Junior religion and psychology major Mya Taylor is also returning to the trip. She said the first time she went on the service trip was when COVID-19 hit. Taylor said it was an interesting experience as she received the email about the university shutting down due to COVID-19 during her trip. 

“When I went, I didn’t know anybody that was going either. When I came back, we were all so close at the end of that trip, even though it was a bigger group,” Taylor said. “… We became such a tight knit, little family that week.”

Senior exercise science major Caroline Kavanaugh is returning to help volunteer for the Appalachia Service Project as this is her second time going. Kavanaugh said she is looking forward to meeting another family, working on another project and hanging out with her group again. 

“Last time that I went, it was a bunch of fun, I met a lot of people. … You get to work with… the family and it was nice to get to know the family over the week,” Kavanaugh said. “And then, when we went back, you got to hang out with the rest of the people from your group, so basically everybody from UIndy, and we just kind of hung out, we played 4-square, listened to music, just kind of chilled, which was really fun… I was kind of nervous the first time because I was like, ‘I don’t have any construction experience, I have no idea what I’m doing.’ But by the end of the week, I was working with the Miter saw, using the drill, things like that.”

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