Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Warmer, Safer, Drier

Fairfield Fixer-Uppers in West Virginia––Senior Pilgrim Fellowship



Rory Smith, Carolyn Doonan, and Kathryn Ekstract get ready to repair and build at a home in Appalachia.

Each summer since 1978, local teens and adults step outside their comfort zone, and outside Fairfield County, to embark on a weeklong, life changing experience. Members of the Senior Pilgrim Fellowship (SPF) youth group at Greenfield Hill Congregational Church spend all year building their community of faith while preparing for the highly anticipated trip. One need not be a member of the church to participate, and all denominations are welcome. All that is required is an open mind and heart, and a desire to serve others in need.

The Appalachia Service Project (ASP) began some 10 years earlier in Kentucky by Reverend Glenn Evans, who decided to connect hard-working teens with some of the nation’s poorest communities. The motto would be “warmer, safer, drier.” What began in 1969 as 50 teens and adults volunteering to repair homes in one small town, has grown nationally to 16,231 volunteers working with 493 families across Appalachia in 2017. 

When Reverend Alida Ward was hired as the new pastor at Greenfield Hill Congregational Church, the importance of maintaining the ASP program was very clear. “When I arrived in 1989, it was a small program,” she explains, “maybe 30 to 40 kids.” Fast forward to June 2017, when five coach buses and eleven vans transported 206 Fairfield teens and 94 adult volunteers to three counties in West Virginia. They spent the next week installing insulation, repairing roofs, and working on any other necessary projects in homes across the region. With even more high schoolers registered to attend in 2018, ASP has become the crown jewel of the SPF program. 

Roni and Mike Widmer have volunteered for ten years, even before their own children were old enough to participate. “I just can’t imagine a year without ASP,” Roni says. “It grounds me. It’s where I feel most at ease and feel like I am being my true self.” Soon, the Widmer kids were joining in. “It was amazing to share in the experience of the week and to compare notes and perspectives,” she says. “I think Mike and I were both a little scared that the trip wouldn’t live up to the expectations we had set in talking about it for so long.” But when son Blake participated all four years of high school, and returned last year as a junior advisor, the same year his younger sister Devenny attended for the first time, their worries were allayed. “I think my heart is just a little bit bigger with every trip I take to
Appalachia.”

Katie Hinkle, a Fairfield Ludlowe senior, will be participating for the fourth time this June. “I always remember hearing about the big kids who went down to West Virginia, and my parents would always tell me about how one day that would be me,” she says. “That day came before I knew it.”  Katie says she is continually inspired by the “amazing leadership”  and other participants on the trip. “They are what truly makes the trip so unique each year and always make me want to come back.” Sam Hawley, a Fairfield Prep senior, is also preparing for his fourth ASP trip. “Prep’s motto ‘to be men for others’ helped inspire me,” he explains. “My mom also encouraged me because she knew about the program from when she was a kid, and never got the chance to go.” He believes the trip gives participants a better sense of humanity, and a better view of the world. His goal is to be “the longest ever to consecutively dedicate a week a year to ASP”.  “I hope I am still doing it when I retire!” 

Ward has high standards for her participants, and sets significant goals for the trip, but she says the main goal is letting people know that they are “capable of great things.” “Getting out of the bubble is important,” she explains. “ASP is a place that lets you accomplish so much and is life-changing for a lot of kids. And, it is life-changing for families to be comfortable in their own homes.” Ward’s personal impact also cannot  be ignored. “There wouldn’t be almost 300 people going on this trip now without Reverend Ward,” says Roni. “The spirit of the trip wouldn’t be the same without her,” she continues. “Alida sets the tone for everything, and it all trickles down. Every single kid, and every single adult on the trip loves her.” They also always looking for additional adult chaperones. 

The program, according to Ward, is about much more than just fixing houses. “ASP is a relationship ministry with housing on the side,” she explains. “The relationships formed are just as important as fixing a roof.” Roni calls Alida “the spiritual glue of the trip.” “Once you’ve opened your heart to the stories of the families you are helping, the love they are sharing with you...you realize there is something bigger than you.”


How they do it?
Each spring, a national team of college students review applications from families in Appalachia, make site visits, and assess the “achievability” of the projects. Come summer, volunteers from all over the country arrive at selected locations throughout Appalachia, and work begins. Meanwhile, Rev. Ward is hard at work in Fairfield organizing transportation, housing, meals, and work crews for her participants. They arrive and continue the projects where the prior groups left off. After the seven week program concludes, families have greatly improved living situations and have made dozens of new friends. For more information about volunteering for ASP, contact award@greenfieldhillchurch.com

 

Add your comment:

Connect With Us

               

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Catch the Vibe Newsletter

See this weekend's events in the area!
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

Seeds of Hope

A Small Garden Becomes a Big Deal

Profiles

Your Guides to Leading Local Professionals

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Edit ModuleShow Tags

January 2019

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Hartford Boat Show (HBS50) features the newest boats on the market including center consoles, fishing boats, luxury cruisers, deck and pontoon boats, sport and...

Cost: $12 in advance online, $14 at the door, $10 Senior/Military one day pass

Where:
Expo Center at Mohegan Sun
1 Mohegan Sun Blvd
Uncasville, CT  06382
View map »


Sponsor: Connecticut Marine Trades Association
Telephone: 860-767-2645
Contact Name: Kathleen Burns
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Learn about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and how he influenced the civil rights movement. Watch short films about King's life and create your own craft with colorful papers and ribbons...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: People's United Bank
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Join the area’s leading investment and financial professionals at the CFA Society Hartford’s Annual Forecast Dinner. The group’s premier networking event of the year will be...

Cost: Individual Member seats are $90 before 1/8, $110 for non-members

Where:
Connecticut Convention Center
100 Columbus Blvd.
Hartford, CT  06103
View map »


Sponsor: CFA Society Hartford
Telephone: 860-604-1411
Contact Name: Rebecca Taylor
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join us to explore adventures in stories about Alice in Wonderland, animals, and games!

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »

More information

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for the reception on the opening evening of the exhibition, Ghosts: French Holocaust Children, on Wednesday, January 23rd, from 6-7:30 p.m. in the Walsh Gallery at the Quick Center for...

Cost: 0

Where:
Walsh Gallery
200 Barlow Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

Join us for a conversation between collector Jeffrey Horvitz and Alvin L. Clark, Jr., (Curator, The Horvitz Collection and The J.E. Horvitz Consultative Curator, Department of Drawings, Division...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield University Art Museum
1073 North Benson Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

A French Affair: Drawings and Paintings from The Horvitz Collection will be on view in the Bellarmine Hall Galleries from January 25 - March 29, 2019; an Opening Reception will take place on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield University Art Museum
1073 North Benson Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Thursday, Jan. 24 Author Talk: Stephanie Land - Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother's Will to Survive, 7 – 8:30 p.m. Maid is showing up on almost every best of, must read, don't miss list of...

Cost: free

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »


Sponsor: Wilton Library
Telephone: 203-762-3950
Contact Name: Wilton Library
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Members and guests are invited to join us for the Election of Trustees, followed by an artist talk by eight photographers with work in the current exhibit. Visit our website at...

Cost: 0

Where:
Carriage Barn Arts Center
681 South Ave.
Waveny Park
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Born from humble beginnings in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport, CT The Alpaca Gnomes cut their teeth in the neighborhood bar scene by playing marathon shows filled with originals and a wide...

Cost: $15.00 - $20.00

Where:
Wall Street Theater
71 Wall Street
Norwalk, CT  06850
View map »


Sponsor: Jeanne Moore
Telephone: (203) 831-5004
Contact Name: Jeanne Moore
Website »

More information

Are you a lifelong with a passion for sharing history? Find out about becoming a Museum Docent! Docents are trained volunteer educators who present guided tours and other education programs to...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Saturday, Jan. 26 Mini Golf Family Day in the Stacks at Wilton Library, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Wilton Library will hold its 2nd mini golf fundraising event. There will be food (each paid admission will...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »


Sponsor: Wilton Library
Telephone: 203-762-3950
Contact Name: Wilton Library
Website »

More information

  Touchon transforms verbal language into handsome geometric compilations, to reveal the beauty and musicality of language characterized by warmly colored shapes, interlocking irregular grids and...

Cost: free

Where:
Canfin Gallery
39 Main Street
Tarrytown, NY  10591
View map »


Sponsor: Canfin Gallery
Telephone: 914-332-4554
Contact Name: Jean-Claude Canfin
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags