This week, I got my first experience meeting with homeowners in Appalachia. Clara Leonard, ASP’s Content Specialist, and Gabi Clark, an ASP fellow, took me to visit a home that ASP had already done repairs for. The persistent rain that has been plaguing Jonesville since my arrival let up. The sun was out, and it was giving off the kind of heat that soaks into your bones.
We met with Billy and Sheila, a couple that has had a relationship with ASP since 2019. They met us at their front steps and guided us to their patio to talk. Their cats were moving in and around the chairs, nuzzling legs. About a dozen wind chimes hung outside, and they were all playing at once in the slow breeze.
Sheila was all smiles when she told us about her relationship with the staff and volunteers: “Family. They’re all our family. We try to keep in touch on Facebook, and there have been some that said they’d visit again.” And so far, several have visited. She mentions Ken, a volunteer from 2019, who had come back to see them. Another staffer, Kaitlin, has stopped by a couple of times, once even bringing her parents along.
Billy really lit up once when we moved inside. There was pride in his eyes when he showed me all the repairs done to the house, both by ASP and himself. ASP built a new addition to their home and replaced the carpet with wood flooring. Billy did the flooring in the living room. ASP added a handicap-accessible shower for their granddaughter. Billy has been replacing the drywall in several rooms. But by the way he described each renovation, I didn’t know who had done which repair at first because he often attributed each construction project to “we”. We did the flooring. We built a shower. We are working on the drywall. Billy saw his repairs and ASP’s repairs as working in tandem with each other, one and the same.
Load-up day is today. Training in Jonesville is complete. Staffers are saying goodbye to the friends they met on The Porch and heading out to their counties. The real work of the summer is about to begin. But I challenge them to remember that we are not working for homeowners. Rather, we are working with them.
ASP, at its core, is a conversation. It’s a collaboration. It’s a partnership. It’s a shared story.
Come sit on the patio. Show us what we can work on together.
Story Gathering Intern