• youth-2017
  • YPM-INM-AC-2017
  • tsir-ypm-2017
  • morgan
  • youth-2017-2
  • YSF-2017-change-challenge
  • YPM-INM-AC-2017

By Paige Neidrich
Clarks Summit UMC

The majority of people live their lives knowing that people less fortunate cannot obtain
the everyday objects that they are graced with. While people are certain of this fact they do not
truly understand the concept until they have seen it for themselves. Many people get this
experience just by talking to the less fortunate or volunteering at a soup kitchen, but my awaking
was this past July when I went down to West Virginia to rebuild homes for those that could not
afford the repairs on their own.

In September 2009 my friend told me about a trip that she took to West Virginia to repair
homes through the Appalachia Service Project and invited me to come to the meeting that
week. At first the project seemed too much for me. The thought that I would be in charge of
fixing someone’s home scared me away. If I were to make one mistake I could be the reason that
the family in that home had a hazardous environment to live in. I decided to attend the meeting
and, at that meeting I found out that repairing these homes was not something to be afraid of
because it was a miracle to the families we were helping.

Throughout the year my Appalachia Service Project group worked hard to raise 10,000
dollars so that we could make it down to West Virginia on this trip. In July 2010 we were finally
packing up our bags in one of the five vans to get on our way. The trip down was exhausting.
Driving took so long that we had to stay at Virginia Tech overnight. At Virginia Tech a small
amount of people, including me, from the group took a half a mile hike up a steep hill to the
memorial site of a shooting that took place at the college a couple of years ago. For most people
the connection between the names on the stone and what happened to them was not truly made. I
could not make that connection either. That night was just like any other night and then it was
back on the road.

The vans finally were within ten miles of the town we were staying in when on Sunday
July 4th at 12:30 pm we passed a scene I will never forget. Time slowed down as we drove by the
event out the van window. A car had flipped over into a ditch. Cops were just getting out of their
cruiser with cameras in their hands. No ambulances were in sight and there was no movement or
noise from the car so we all thought everyone was safe. The cry came as we were out of view of
the scene. A battered woman’s cry pierced the air and made the whole world silent as it lasted. A
sob that only lasted a second will last forever in my mind.

We drove on to see that the town we were staying in looked just like every other town.
All of the houses were finished with decorations and gardens surrounding them. At this point I
was starting to doubt how much this town truly needed us. All of the houses where just like
homes all other Clarks Summit and I could not see any problems, until we left the main part of
town on our first work day. As we drove to our work sites the homes that we went by stopped
my heart. There where families of ten living in a one room house, homes that were completely
missing roofs, and one home’s front wall was completely missing. When a person sees life like
this they start to truly understand how fortune they are; it was no different for me.

My group made it to our destination to see what house we had to fix up. For the rest of
the week it was my team’s job to build a wheel chair ramp onto a small trailer. There were times
on the job when life was not made simple for us. On the second day of work we needed water to
mix cement. The problem was that our house had no outdoor water source. We had to stop work
for two hours to try to find an alternate water source. As soon as we were about to start filling
barrels of water from a store to take to or house to use, a man up the hill throw down to us what
had to be the world’s longest hose. On day three we discovered a major problem. The house we
were working at had two nests of Brown Recluse Spiders. This discovery stopped all production
for an hour as we tried to clear the area of all the poisonous spiders. The rest of the week we all
had to be on our toes, if we saw even the slightest motion we needed to be ready to attack or be
attacked. Even with all of our setbacks my group of five people dug sixteen two foot holes,
cemented posts into them, and created a deck in five days.

Throughout the week there was a store that we all liked to go to and take our lunch break.
The store was named Jason’s country corner after the owner. The first time we came into Jason’s
a man walked up to us with popsicles and offered them to us. For an hour we talked to him about
what we were doing there with Appalachia Service Project. We found out that this man was
Jason and he loved what we were doing for his town. Knowing that what we were doing really
did matter to the community showed me that this truly was a miracle trip not just for the families
but for the entire community. On our second to last day we went to Jason’s one last time before
we were going back home. It was on this trip to the store that an employee started talking to me
about a recent death in her family. She proclaimed that she lost her cousin on the Saturday we
came in when her cousin’s car flipped into a ditch just out of town. The realization of this
accidents connection came fast and hard. The car that I saw flipped, the woman’s scream that
can never be erased from my mind know had a name and family.

When we got back to work that same day we were surprised to find the owner of
our house outside waiting for us. Most of the groups met the owners of the house on the first day
of work, but the owners of our house were two deeply sick people. The man in the family had a
terminal illness but did not know what it was. He could not get out of bed never mind come out
to talk to us. The woman was fragile and looked like her weight was around 90 pounds. When
we finally met her we gave her a gift of a knitted hat and blanket. The love and appreciation on
her face was unlike anything I have ever seen. An object that most people would not think twice
about had this woman shaking as tears ran down her face. As we started to talk more we found
out the most devastating news. The women we were working for had three sons that all died
within a six month period of one another. One of her sons got beaten to death three years ago and
that started the chain. Her second son then died in a quad accident two months after her first
child died and her last son killed himself after the tragic deaths of both of his brothers. She was
the strongest person I have ever met and I know that I will forever remember her story and be
thankful for what and who I have in my life.

Appalachia Service Project is a way to open your eyes to what is around you. Some
people came back from this trip having not learned anything, but most come back changed. On
the way back home I was able to make the connection between the names on the stone and who
they are. I learned to make that connection between listening and hearing, and seeing and
understanding. I have become a better person with the way I have learned to love and care about
every living and non-living object I have in my life.

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