Olney, MD Students Repair Homes in Appalachia

Olney, MD — High school students recently packed their bags and headed to a once-bustling coal town, Chavies, Kentucky, for a week of community service, mending homes and lifting hearts.

The forty students and thirteen adults from Oakdale Emory United Methodist Church raised money to participate in a program called Appalachian Service Project (ASP). They worked with families to repair homes “warmer, safer, and drier homes”: strengthening foundations, patching leaks, building walls, repairing stairs, digging ditches, painting exteriors, and connecting with residents. Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJheAV8J-Uk

The Director of Design at Summit Design Remodeling, Chris Hambrecht, joined the students as an adult mentor. He noted that some families could barely live in houses they owned because the buildings were literally collapsing around them, and they lacked the funds or the ability to fix them.

Others had become trapped by their houses, such as one elderly woman who couldn’t safely leave her home due to unsafe and unstable stairs outside the door of her trailer. One of the Oakdale teams built her a brand new porch and set of stairs.

Chris’s group worked on a house that was ravaged by termites: “We took down two exterior walls and rebuilt the floor system. Then we put in new footings and rebuilt the walls. The families were willing to lend a helping hand with the ASP teams, and those that were able came out to work with us.”

Through the service, students saw the harsh reality of depressed economies in Appalachia after the coal and logging booms. As of the 2009 Census, Chavies, KY, had a poverty level of 27.7%, which is nearly double the national average of 14.3%. From hundreds of applications from families in need, ASP is only able to help about one in ten.

“Seeing this kind of poverty was really eye-opening for the kids and for myself, seeing how much we have in this area in wealth and jobs compared to other parts of the country,” Chris explained. “The kids learned that not everyone lives in affluence, and not every kid has an iPhone, Xbox, or HDTV in their room. They have very little in Chavies by our standards, but they are happy and grateful for what they do have. We are very blessed in this area and sometimes we need to be reminded just how much.”

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Summit Design Remodeling is a full-service design/build remodeler centered in Old Town Fairfax, VA. In Metro DC, we serve all of Northern Virginia and Suburban Maryland. Services include kitchen remodeling, bathroom remodeling, basement remodeling, room additions, carports, garages, porches, sunrooms, decks, custom cabinets, built-ins, bars, universal design, and more!

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