As the pandemic wanes with vaccination rates on the rise, it is good to be getting back to normal. People are glad to be back in the classroom, the office, their favorite restaurants, and (most importantly) back to ASP work sites.
As I talked with volunteers this week, one of the first things they told me was “It’s good to be back”. For many volunteers, serving with ASP becomes as much of a tradition as holidays or family vacations, with some groups volunteering almost as long as ASP’s 52-year existence! This week, I was curious to ask volunteers: What makes serving with ASP most meaningful to you?

For Alex, a Helping Hands volunteer traveling between centers this summer, the most meaningful thing about serving with ASP is the opportunity to help teach others. Though a chemist professionally, Alex fixed things around his house growing up and gained additional expertise through humanitarian projects with other organizations. During his first summer as a volunteer, Alex was so helpful that a staffer at his center asked him if he would stay the rest of the summer. After a few weeks at home, Alex thought, why not! He returned to help staffers finish their last week of projects and has been making the trip over from Virginia to serve as a Helping Hands volunteer ever since.

When I asked Charles, a volunteer from Maryland for 9 years, what made him most excited to return to ASP, he gestured to the youth on the worksite. “That’s what makes it most meaningful to me”, he said. From the ramps his group builds in Maryland in preparation for the trip to their last day on site in Appalachia, Charles loves to see how ASP brings youth together and empowers them to serve. (He also admits that he never could stand sitting still, so what better way to keep busy than to serve with ASP?)

Beth has been volunteering with ASP for 13 years. Part of what brings her back are the mountains and the serenity, but what she really appreciates about ASP is how it recenters her. When life pulls Beth in all different directions, coming to Appalachia and serving others helps her refocus on what is important. Beth explains that an ASP trip is not something that is easily described; it is something that has to be experienced. “You won’t regret it” she says.

Without our wonderful volunteers, ASP would not be able to touch the lives of so many homeowners throughout Appalachia. This week, however, I found that ASP’s work is just as transformational for volunteers as it is for homeowners. They return year after year because serving with ASP recenters people, empowers them, and brings them together. Now that is a tradition worth continuing.

Sarah Allen
Story Gathering Intern