Week 6 means we’re coming up on the end of the summer for ASP. It’s been such a great time seeing all the work that staff and volunteers have done through the weeks. And this week it was especially fun to see them getting close to finishing projects. Porches that began in Week 1 are getting their final deck boards screwed in. Roofs that leaked in Week 1 are getting covered with tin.
Making it So Far
I was visiting a worksite in Clay County with Pete, a second-year staffer, when the sweet elderly couple asked if we wanted to have lunch. Bill said, “Have you ever tried a peanut butter and bologna sandwich?” When I said I hadn’t, he said, “Oh, well you should try one” and asked Sue to make me one.
So we sat on their front porch—Pete, Bill, Sue, a bunch of volunteers, and me—and we talked over lunch. Bill asked how I liked the sandwich, and I said, “I never would have thought it would work. But somehow it’s good!”
At one point one of the group leaders jerked her hand up towards me, pointing at an unidentified flying object. I was startled, but it turned out to not be anything dangerous. She said, “Oh wow, there’s a hummingbird.”
Then Sue said, “Oh yeah, we get those all the time. It’s because we feed them.”
So we were talking about hummingbirds, and the group leader mentioned how they migrate during the winter. And another group leader, who was on his 20th trip with ASP, jumped in, “Yeah, that’s what amazes me. How something so small could make it so far.”
That’s been on my mind since then, and I think that’s what amazes me about the ASP summer. It’s not a long time, 7 or 8 weeks at the most. It’s four young adults leading about ten projects at each center. Each week of volunteers gets about a week’s worth of work done. Sometimes they don’t get as much done as they had hoped. There’s a lot of small things going into the summer: a small amount of time, sometimes a small amount of construction experience. And yet, somehow, these small things make it so far.
So I was thinking about that this week as I visited homes. About how they manage to get so much done. And how such a small staff can keep going, like hummingbirds, even when they’re exhausted.
At another worksite, I met a couple named Timmy and Jerri. When we walked up their kids were running around having a great time, and when they saw Pete they ran up and gave him a hug. When we went inside Pete introduced us to the parents, and they said, “It’s great to meet you!” And Timmy said, “I have a brother named Isaac!”
At some point I asked Timmy if I could take pictures of volunteers working and he said, “Oh yeah, take pictures of whatever you want!”
The whole time at that house was just exciting. People were talking. Things were happening. Timmy showed us his orange truck that he’s getting new wheels for.
You could tell that those homeowners brought the staffers so much joy. On another visit to their house, I asked Claire, the Center Director, if she minded me staying a little longer to take pictures.
She said, “Oh yeah, I could stay here forever.”
As I took pictures I overheard a conversation between Claire and Jerri, whose daughter’s birthday was coming up.
She told Claire, “Well her birthday is the week after you guys leave. I mean, we could have the party before you leave if you wanted.”
Claire smiled and said, “I mean, you know I’d like that.”
Later in the week I was going on runs with Collin, a second-year staffer and 2023-2024 fellow. He was telling me about a project he’s been managing and was so excited about all the work they’ve been able to do. Then he told me about the homeowner and how much he loves visiting that house. He said, “Whenever I come to this house, it’s always a bucket filler.”
In Such a Short Time
These interactions reminded me that no one involved could really make it this far without each other. ASP couldn’t be repairing these homes without the volunteers: they do the actual repair work. The volunteers couldn’t do their work without the staff: they get them their supplies and organize the work they’re doing.
And it might seem like that’s the end of it. That the work all comes down to those groups of people. But that’s not quite right. The homeowners are such an important part of the summer. When I was about to leave Bill and Sue’s house, Sue said, “You didn’t think you were going to leave here without a hug, did you?” The short visits I’ve had with homeowners have meant so much to me. And that is even more so the case for the staff, who visit them all through the summer.
The staff get to know homeowners like Timmy and Jerri and Bill and Sue. Having such joyful visits every day makes it hard to leave at the end of the summer. It’s taught me that a meaningful relationship can be made in a short amount of time, even seven weeks. That’s what’s amazing to me, that you can make it so far with something so small.
Story Gathering Intern