Mantua – A group of four adults and five high school teens from Mantua’s St. Joseph Church participated in the Housing Repair Program based at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Clintwood, Virginia, the week of June 18-25. Volunteers made the 400 mile, seven-hour trip to the western tip of Virginia for the week-long experience to help low-income residents maintain decent housing for their families by doing household repairs at owner occupied homes.After arriving and attending Mass, the group settled in. On Sunday they traveled to The Breaks Interstate Park to enjoy site-seeing and recreation in the area before work began on Monday.
Paula and Ann Toothman and Jay D’Aurelio worked mostly at the home of a women named Faye. Tasks included replacing her whole floor next to the window, repairs to the under pinning of her trailer and landscaping improvements, and painting trim on the trailer and the wood work on her deck. She was very friendly, sharing stories about her life growing up and things from a time gone by.
Greg D’Aurelio, Corey Riggs, and Dane Engelhart worked mostly at the home of Lucille and Bob. They braced up their porch/deck, put siding up on one side of their house, and scraped the house to get it ready for the next group of people. The homeowners were also very social with the group, making them cookies and fudge!
Mike Shilling, Patrick Myers, and Ryan Bell worked the farthest from town at the home of Catherine and her husband. Their responsibilities included adding to an existing deck and ramp to accommodate a gurney for the gentlemen of the house who is not doing so well. They also dug a ditch to handle water run off to the side of the mountain.
Not only did the experience include some hard work, but also meeting new people, learning new things, local site-seeing, and discussions around Appalachian issues. The group heard a coal miner speak and enjoyed a parish pot-luck picnic which included storytelling and folk songs from Ken Childress and Jimmy Mullins. They also took a trip up to Birch Knob Observation Tower, once the site of a fire tower that allows one to see Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and, on a clear day, Ohio. On another evening the group traveled to nearby Pound, Virginia to enjoy “Pickin’ in the Pound”, a bluegrass jam session held at the town hall. Several members even joined in with dancing, singing, and guitar playing. On Friday volunteers enjoyed music and dancing at the Jettie Baker Center, a theatre in Clintwood that was built in the late 1940’s that now features various entertainment.
All in all, St. Joseph volunteers had a good time. They worked hard and played hard. Each year Appalachian Experience participants genuinely feel a sense of accomplishment helping the truly needy of this area be safe, warm, and dry. Not only did they work hard but they’ve acquired friendships and a camaraderie with those they worked for and with.
Members of St. Joseph Parish have been taking part in this program since 1998. High School teens and adults are welcome to join us in future trips as we follow Jesus’ example and use our gifts to reach out to others! Watch for details in future bulletins about how you can become involved in 2012. For more information about St. Joseph’s Appalachian Experience, including details and photos from past trips, please visit www.stjosephmantua.com/appalachian.htm or contact Kathi Trares at the Parish Office (330-274-2253 or firstname.lastname@example.org).