by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL
We live in a time nowadays described as “The Age of Entitlement.” Not so for a group of selfless Rockford area high school and college age students.
This is Rockford United Methodist Church’s (RUMC) 22nd year of bringing a team of youth to serve one week in the Appalachia Mountains region in a home repair ministry under the auspices of the Appalachia Service Project (ASP).
This amazing group, and those who have gone before, freely give one week of their summer vacation in offering up their time and enthusiasm to help in ASP’s effort to eradicate substandard and, oftentimes, third world housing in Central Appalachia.
The 2011 RUMC team had the good fortune to be housed in a year-round regional ASP Center in Chavies, Ky., in Perry County, where they were fed and lodged for the week. Accommodations were dorm-like with bunk beds topped with sleeping bags brought from home. We mention they were fortunate because other ASP teams, not assigned to a regional center, oftentimes found themselves sleeping on floors, or if lucky, on cots. While on site, the RUMC team joined forces with another team of youth representing a Presbyterian church from Pennsylvania.
The RUMC team was divided into six crews, each led by two adults, one nurturing and the other with home-building knowledge and each assigned a home very much in need of repair. Client families, either because of their age or abilities, or simply a lack of funds, are unable to do so for themselves. Many many of these families live below the federal poverty level.
Over the course of the week, six the crews fanned out across the county and removed and replaced rotten floors and walls; built a wheelchair ramp and replaced parts of the roof; removed and replaced band joists, and the floors and walls of a condemned mobile home; tore down and replaced an entire room with flooring, insulation and drywall, then painted the walls and sided the house; replaced a roof with tin, sided the house, and painted the porch; dug a drainage ditch, landscaped, and built a deck on the back of a house in front of a door that previously had led to a drop-off; among many other things. (The semicolons separate what each crew accomplished.)
The entire team returned safely to Rockford a week later, feeling their lives had been much enriched and forever changed by the outpouring of love and gratitude of the peoples of the area. As for the clients themselves, they felt as though a miracle had occurred in their midst. Many of the youth will be so enriched by this experience that they will return every summer until they age out and then return again and again as adult leaders.
Not only did this awe-inspiring team give to the nth degree, they were obviously very, very intelligent. How do we know this? It seems that each had the foresight to bring Rockford’s hometown newspaper, The Rockford Squire, along on this experience of a lifetime. Just check out the picture!