Happy Summer! My name is Taylor Beam and you can expect to hear about my journey as Appalachia Service Project’s Story Gathering Intern every Friday for the coming weeks. Stepping onto the porch this summer marks my third time working with Appalachia Service Project. I have volunteered twice in the past, which allowed me to find hope in service work and a path to uplift those in need with an organization whose mission deeply resonates with me.  

After finding out about this position, I knew it was the perfect opportunity for me to continue working with ASP in a way that is more suited to my abilities. You see, I am not a handy man, but a mere English major who has hopes of uplifting the work of ASP and Appalachia. Through this blog sharing my experiences and holding interviews with homeowners, community members, and volunteers, I can contribute my journalistic skills while bringing in my passion for stories and culture to relay the multifaceted experience that is ASP. 

Oftentimes, ASP volunteers and staffers are asked to think about their why and determine their calling within service. My why has always been rooted in my identity as an Appalachian. I was born and raised in central West Virginia. Both sides of my family have lived in West Virginia for generations. The mountains sit at the root of me. My calling is to stand up to fight for them and those who keep the mountains alive. 

I grew up in a holler, provided with the privilege to be brought up surrounded by lush green landscapes and gentle, yet strong folks. The struggles and triumphs of homeowners I have served while volunteering with ASP are echoed by my neighbors and community members. Their love for the mountains and sense of pride in their region is also shared by myself and those around me.  

Though Appalachia is regarded with such care by its inhabitants, the effects of exploitation creates tension within these hills. While volunteering with ASP or going out into my community, it is sometimes hard to let that light shine through and take in the beauty of this place without thinking about all the negatives that loom in the background: drug epidemics, substandard housing, insufficient healthcare. Despite these issues, the beauty of Appalachia is potent and persists through art, communities, forests, or even hot dog stands.  

Think of Appalachia like a bee. The mountains are our origins and have shaped who the people of these hills are, but they can’t be separated from the sting of reality which creates the need for ASP and organizations like it. The rich, sweet people and culture are the honey that pools together in the hive that couldn’t have been possible without the bee and its stinger. ASP does the important work of ensuring that the honey is safe and tended to by mending the pain of the sting through making homes warmer, safer, and drier and transforming lives.  

So, I hope to give y’all a taste of the honey this summer. I will work to translate the wondrous experiences, people, and quirks of Appalachia that are illuminated by a summer of service with ASP, still taking care to acknowledge all the reasons that our work is necessary, transformative, and uplifting for central Appalachia.  

Taylor Beam
Story Gathering Intern