A fully loaded coal train speeding through the tiny town of Pax in Fayette County, W. Va. may mean energy is en route to power the economies of the Washington, D.C. area and similar communities along the east coast. But to a busy young mother of three small, active sons living in a trailer home abutting the tracks, that same train is threatening, particularly to her one-year-old, a flurry of motion who isn't old enough to see the train as a danger. All that would be needed to provide that mother the assurance of protection for her family would be a railing and a gate to keep the children on the front porch and not out where they can unexpectedly wander onto the tracks. This would seem to be an easy thing to make happen, but in the coal counties of West Virginia, money is scarce. The jobs are gone from the mines, and the husband in the family struggles to find work. To support needy families such as the one described above,
Parishioners from two Centreville church communities, the St. John's Episcopal Church and the Fairfax Chinese Christian Community (FCCC) traveled to Fayette County, W.Va. to participate in the Appalachia Service Project (ASP) during the week of July 25.
The ASP, which began in 1969, has grown to as many as 15,000 volunteers each summer, who work on homes throughout the central Appalachian region. ASP volunteers go to impoverished communities to assist families with the greatest need. They may be asked to fix a leaky roof, mount new windows, repair antiquated plumbing, insulate a house or install a flue and stove in a home that has never had heat. The 23 volunteers from St. John's Episcopal Church and the FCCC were divided into three crews who worked on four home sites during the week.
The base for the activities of the week was the community of New Hope, in Fayette County. Once a prosperous and vibrant town, the economy collapsed when the coal industry fell on hard times. The last coal truck rolled out of New Hope in the 1970s, ending an 80-year industry and leaving the inhabitants with few economic opportunities.
College-aged ASP staffers provide guidance and materials for the jobs. Most of this year's Centreville volunteers were in their second- and third- year at ASP. All who have gone agree that it was one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives.
Skills in home repair are always welcomed but are not a requirement.
For more information contact St. John's Episcopal Church or visit ASP's Web site at http://www.asphome.org.