After a wonderful couple of months, we are writing our last blog for the summer. We decided to make this a tag-teamed effort between Lauren, the writer of “Rhodes on the Road,” and Isaac, the writer of “The Porch Rocker Almanac.” We just couldn’t resist coming up with a name that combines our two titles. So as the summer comes to an end, please enjoy “All Roads Lead to the Porch.”
Over the last couple of years, the Story Gathering Interns have used their last blogs to answer the questions they had been asking people throughout their summers. We want to continue this tradition that Sarah Allen began in 2021, and Addison Pozzi continued in 2022. We’ve had a great time this summer and wanted to share our experiences behind the camera with you!
How did you hear about ASP?
Lauren: My brother has volunteered and been on staff with ASP since early high school. While I grew up knowing about it, I never really knew exactly what it was. One day in February, while walking home from class, I was on the phone with my brother discussing how hard it was to find internships as a first year in college. He recommended that I apply for this job and bada-bing bada-boom, here I am!
Isaac: Unlike many of the staffers I had never volunteered with ASP before I applied to work here. Instead, I first heard about the organization from a friend who worked with them last year. She said it was a fantastic experience and that they did great work. So, when I saw the job posting for Story Gathering Interns, I jumped on the opportunity!
How has ASP impacted you?
Lauren: I don’t think that I truly realized the extent of the environmental issues in Appalachia. Between the impact of the mining industry across the region and the rebuilding efforts in East Kentucky because of the flooding that occurred last year, the gorgeous mountains we get to work in have been hit hard and will continue to struggle. I am leaving the Summer with a renewed passion to study environmental law, and I hope to return after college to work for communities most impacted by natural disasters and the effects of environmental degradation.
Isaac: One of the things I was most excited about was meeting people who had been living in this area for a long time. Meeting the homeowners proved to be one of the most impactful parts of the summer, being welcomed into their homes and getting to hear them talk about what they love about their counties. On top of that, I got to meet a bunch of staffers who come from all sorts of places and backgrounds, all of whom chose to spend their summer serving. As you might guess, they were all fantastic people who I learned a lot from, and having such a great time with them had a huge impact on me.
How has ASP helped you grow in your faith?
Lauren: Strangely enough, my faith wasn’t most impacted by devotion or church this Summer. As our fearless leader, Chelsi Crockett, told me last week, “There are little pockets of beauty in the world that further your faith without reading scripture.” That sentiment was so true for me this Summer. I found faith in relationships and hugs and laughter on the floor. I found it in siding and ladder safety and my sixth rendition of “Come Thou Fount.” I mean, who can drive a mountain highway at sunset and not have a religious experience? ASP has taught me to seek my faith in the mundane and small ways, and I have grown to covet the little reminders of love all around me.
Isaac: Staffers, volunteers, and homeowners. Between those three groups of people, there are a lot of faiths, denominations, and backgrounds represented. Seeing them all working together was very powerful. The work brought all sorts of people together, even if those people might disagree about certain beliefs. This summer grew in me the idea that varying beliefs do not have to keep people separate. Instead, doing the work of God might make for a good first priority, not least because it brings together the Body of Christ.
Why should others apply to work with ASP?
Lauren: ASP is truly an experience that you have to come and try for yourself. It’s impossible to explain and impossible to forget. I have never experienced a job that entrusts young people with so much responsibility while also producing so much tangible change. We are hands-on, in the field, making our own change. It’s beautiful, it’s hard, and I wouldn’t trade this past Summer for anything else.
Isaac: ASP will grow you in so many ways. It will grow your decision-making. It will grow your professional competencies. It will grow your conversational skills. It will grow relationships with others. It will grow your awareness and appreciation of this beautiful region. It will grow your capacity for love. And it will grow the amount of fun experiences you’ve had!
Isaac’s Bonus Question: What has been your favorite restaurant this Summer?
Lauren: Hands down the Patio in Jonesville, VA. It’s an ASP staple for a reason, I had the best grilled cheese of my life there, and I will always recommend getting a milkshake (I get an Oreo and Caramel milkshake every time). Beyond that, they have great burgers and an amazing grilled chicken salad—truly something for the whole family.
Isaac: Dutch Treat. Chelsi, the leader of the Story Gathering Team, took us to Dutch Treat, an Amish restaurant and grocery store, during the first week of training. It was an absolute blast. The sandwiches there are some of the best sandwiches I’ve had. And they had aisles of homemade treats. I bought a loaf of zucchini bread that was incredibly delicious. It became my lunch for the next several days.
Lauren’s Bonus Question: What has been your song of the Summer?
Lauren: My song of the Summer has been Ruston Kelly’s “Mockingbird.” The lyrics speak about pushing through tough times toward a brighter future, all against the backdrop of an amazing harmonica solo. This song pairs amazingly with mountain backroads and is amazing to sing after a long, tiring day.
Isaac: I’ve been on a huge Chris Stapleton kick this summer. It’s been a great time, and he’s got a lot of good ones. But if I had to choose one, I mean, how could I not choose “Traveler.” You can’t get much better of a road trip song. And this summer has been a lot of road-tripping.
Well, that is all that we have for y’all! We hope that you have enjoyed reading along with us this Summer and that you are just as excited as we are about the next. The ASP community has truly been a blessing, and we are so glad to have been a small part of it.
See you later alligator!
Lauren Rhodes & Isaac Wood
Story Gathering Interns