If you spend a summer sleeping on air mattresses in unknown schools, you might start to wonder why. You might start to wonder why around a hundred college-aged people have decided to do the same. And you might start to wonder why the work that’s being done is important.  

On another note, which I’m sure is entirely unrelated, I’ve been thinking back to the homeowners I’ve met this summer. Christal and Buddy, a couple from Sullivan County, come to mind.  

When I met Buddy, he had just brought a tool from his house that volunteers needed. The staff told me that he’s usually there, floating around to see if anyone needs anything.  

After introducing ourselves, Buddy told me about the house. It had been built in 1895. The foundation was built with wooden logs that had been cut down from around the house. And the cornerstones were made from stones found in the area. And it is still strong today—ASP is repairing the roof and the walls, not the foundation.  

Then he told me about the porch. The porch was the first thing I noticed when we drove up. It faces straight out to the road from the front door. There are two chairs with red cushions and stairs coming down from the middle. Standing at either side of the stairs are wood columns, mostly creamy tan with streaks of chocolate brown. 

Buddy said Christal’s father built those columns. He cut down cedar trees and fastened them to hold up the porch roof. His handiwork was evident and, later as I sat there talking with Christal on the red cushions, it only added to the welcome she extended.  

Christal told me about how they came to live there in that house. Her father had moved in with Christal and Buddy (not the house with the columns) when he was in his eighties. But then he had the idea to fix up the house they’re living in now.  

“And here he was, 86 years old at the time,” she said. “And the whole field was nothing but brush and things that had grown up. There were trees growing through all the broken windows.” 

He had family who lived right around there. So although the house hadn’t been lived in for nearly 30 years, the area had been well loved by the family.  

“So he came in and he started cleaning it up. And he got the first two or three rooms livable where he had a kitchen and a living room and a bedroom, and he moved in,” she said. And he built the porch columns.  

After a while he started needing help with things. “That’s when we went from our place to this one to help him,” Christal said.  

“We’ve all lived within just about a mile of each other. At the most, a couple of miles,” Christal said about her relatives. “It’s great in so many ways. I cannot think of a negative. I mean, if one of us is down, we’re all there. We’re close. We can take care of one another. We’re there for one another. We still get together quite often. So the bond is still there.” 

They have all helped care for each other. Her dad’s old age still managed to get the better of him, and he passed away. He left the house to Christal and all her siblings.

“All my brothers and sisters said, ‘It’s yours. You took care of him, it’s yours.’” Christal said, “And that was a big sacrifice for them to make, and that’s what family does. We just sacrifice for each other and love each other.” 

At times, Christal and Buddy thought about replacing the house with a mobile home.  

“I mean, there was so many times when it was like, this is too big,” Christal said. “This is too big a project that was too much to do. Neither one of us are well, so we knew that we would never get all this done.” 

Christal even went to look at mobile homes. But she kept thinking of her dad, who always wanted to have a place for their family to gather.   

She also thought of the house and its history. People at church and in the community will tell her they used to eat dinner there or their grandparents grew up there.  

“There’s been so many generations of people that have lived in this home, and that’s important to me,” Christal said. “The character of a home and the history behind a home has always been really important to me. So what could be a better tribute than to remember my dad in this way and to also make this, the last place he lived, the place where his family can gather and have fun and bond, which was the most important thing to him—family.” 

Christal answers all my questions. ASP’s work is important because it repairs homes. It allows families to gather, enjoying each other and honoring those that went before. It preserves their character and history. It builds onto the foundations of wood logs and cornerstones that came before. It aims to let beautiful cedar columns glimmer with welcome. And, especially to this college kid sleeping on an air mattress, that welcome means the world.

Isaac Wood
Story Gathering Intern