Hello, and happy Monday! I am so excited to be starting off the first week of volunteers with this blog post! I am returning from a few days at home, but I am glad to be back in Appalachia with my favorite (and only) coworker, Taylor, visiting our first counties of the summer and gathering stories of the people we meet along the way. We arrived in Harlan County, KY, yesterday evening and met some of the volunteers for this week before settling in and catching up with the staff.   

As we are starting this new week full of unknowns and the beginning of many centers’ week 1 of volunteers, I felt compelled to share some encouragement from a homeowner we spoke with last Monday. Ms. Mary is an elderly homeowner in Lee County, Virginia. ASP has completed several home repair projects for her, one of which my fellow Story Gathering Intern, Taylor, helped with as a volunteer earlier this year. Because of Taylor’s connection to her, we had the opportunity to spend an afternoon sitting on her front porch— where we listened to inspirational stories of her time and home here in Appalachia.    

One of those stories, in particular, struck a chord with me. Ms. Mary, when asked how she came to own her current home in the hills of Lee County, dove into a recount of how her home came to be. The nice man who was the previous owner of her land graciously allowed her to pay for the property in small portions– granting her the opportunity to become a landowner. Additionally, one of her family members stumbled upon the mobile home she currently lives in by coincidence, and he came to Mary, offering it to her. That in and of itself was an absolute blessing, but though she now had a home, she had no way of moving the home onto her land. Another caring man in her community was willing to help Mary transport her home to its current location. She said it happened quickly. The next thing Mary knew, her home was on her own land, and the man didn’t even charge her for moving it. Mary finally had a home she could call hers on land she now owned, and she gave all the credit to God’s faithfulness. Several people– most of whom probably didn’t know one another– all played essential roles in providing a home for this sweet lady to live in.   

The story of Mary being blessed with a home from the ground up, without having the resources to provide it for herself, tugged on my heart. To see the kindness and generosity of people in her community who helped her acquire a place to call home was awe-inspiring. Her story shows the true value of community and the power of individuals coming together to help those in need– which ASP does so passionately.   

aspire to be kind to those around me, giving what I can and helping how I may, similarly to those who helped Mary along the way. Just like in Mary’s story, where the people around her helped to supply a house for her, we too are starting this summer of volunteerism and leadership with the capacity to leave a significant impact on the lives of homeowners in Central Appalachia.  

As I said earlier, this is the first week of volunteer efforts for many ASP centers. Just this morning, volunteers began working on home repairs. I am sure they will face struggles as they navigate their projects. I am sure the staff will face challenges as they adjust to stepping into their roles and the responsibilities that accompany them throughout the summer. I am sure Taylor and I will also encounter some difficulties as we learn the best routine for our travel, job duties, and documentation of the work completed by ASP this summer. And I am sure that you, too, will face your own obstacles as you go throughout this week, but I want to provide you with some encouragement.  

Today is a new day, a fresh start, an opportunity to begin anew on anything you want– no matter how small that initial step is. Zechariah 4:10 says, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” No matter how small that first step is, please take it. Pursue change, pursue growth, pursue newness in your life. Today, let the work begin, just as it is for ASP volunteers.  

aspire to be willing to begin– no matter how small– as I know we all must start somewhere.   

I urge you to remember that no matter where you are and no matter what you’re doing, you are exactly where you’re at for a purpose. God has a reason for placing you where you are right now– even if it doesn’t feel like it. Take that first step – no matter how small of a start it might seem – because I’ve seen firsthand this past week that some of the greatest stories come from small beginnings.   

Talk soon! 

Sarah Brassfield

Story Gathering Intern