As a member of our CAP family, you’ve likely read stories about our Disaster Relief program and the work we do together to support families struck by natural catastrophes. CAP’s Disaster Relief program organizes volunteers to respond to the needs of those impacted by a natural disaster. Responses may include everything from home and property clean- up, to providing and distributing emergency disaster supplies. After recent flooding in West Virginia left hundreds in need of urgent assistance, CAP sent teams in to help the victims recover (read more on page 1). In 2014, thanks to your generous support, CAP was able to serve over 6,200 participants through this program.
We are proud to share that, as of December 2014, CAP is recognized as a Weather-Ready Nation (WRN) Ambassador for our efforts to prepare the nation in readiness, responsiveness, and overall resilience against extreme weather, water, and climate events.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), to be officially recognized as a WRN Ambassador, an organization must commit to:
- Promoting Weather-Ready Nation messages and themes to their stakeholders
- Engaging with NOAA personnel on potential collaboration opportunities
- Sharing their success stories of preparedness and resiliency
- Serving as an example by educating employees on workplace preparedness
Not only is CAP serving alongside the NOAA as Weather-Ready Nation Ambassadors, but Robyn Renner, CAP’s Director of Disaster Relief, also serves on the Kentucky Weather Preparedness Committee’s East Kentucky chapter. This committee is composed of volunteers from emergency management, National Weather Service, broadcast media, and private sector communities. Their mission is to promote, educate, and increase weather awareness across the Commonwealth.
CAP is also committed to using our reach throughout the Appalachian communities to educate people across multiple programs and improve readiness for any disasters that may come. CAP will be sharing Disaster Relief Preparedness Activity Books with all children during summer camp as a fun way to spread awareness to the next generation. Home Repair volunteer groups will also receive informational handouts and a briefing about disaster safety and any current and relevant tips.
To learn more about the NOAA’s Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador program, visit noaa.gov/wrn.Share
Driving down the backroads of McCreary County, Kentucky, you will most certainly encounter a few things. You will observe the beautiful wildlife and nature that surround what many people here call home. If you stop for directions, you will be met with kind faces and helpful people. And if you travel far enough from the main roads, you will likely see the signs of poverty. At its heart, Appalachia is a vision of starkly contrasting beauty and brokenness. The people here are strong and humble, but the struggle to survive and thrive in this region is significant.
Two people attempting to ease the burden for individuals facing such challenges are long-term housing volunteers Janean Shedd and Vinnie Birch. Currently, the duo is hard at work in the yard of Timothy and Susanna. This elderly couple’s home has a laundry list of repair needs, and ever since the housing crew leader on this site suffered an injury at home, Janean and Vinnie have been tasked with addressing the home repairs on their own.
From the moment the sun rises each day, Janean and Vinnie work tirelessly to build a deck, stairs, and a ramp for Timothy and Susanna’s home. Observing their interactions throughout the day, it becomes immediately evident that these volunteers consider the participants to be family. Their love and respect for this couple influences everything they do — from their consideration for Timothy’s safety as they choose materials for the ramp to the conversations and laughter they share over lunch in the yard. For now, this region is Janean and Vinnie’s home, and the folks they’re assisting, like Timothy and Susanna, are their neighbors. There is still much work to be done on this home, but Janean and Vinnie are committed to finishing this project for the sake of their new friends.
Janean is from Ashburnham, Massachusetts. She came to Christian Appalachian Project (CAP) with the desire to serve others. During college, she wanted to attend CAP’s WorkFest event but never had the chance. After graduating, she volunteered for a year of service in St. Louis with the Vincentian Service Corps. Janean realized at the completion of that year that she wasn’t ready for her volunteering days to be over. “CAP was still on my radar at that point,” she says. “I was already doing housing repair work on the weekends, and I felt called to serve in a more rural setting, so CAP seemed like the perfect fit!”
Her first long-term stint was from 2010 to 2011, and when this service year ended, she immediately began to devise a plan to return. She was back for a couple of months in the summer of 2013, and then again this past winter. “When I started in February, I only intended to be here until the end of March,” she says. “But when March rolled around, I felt called to stay longer. Now I’m here until next December!”
Janean is discovering a lot about herself and the nature of service during her time in Eastern Kentucky. She explains that she is still adjusting to the slower pace of life and work: “I am a doer and a mover, and I find it hard to sit still. Being patient and taking the time to get to know the people with whom we interact is a vital part of CAP’s work and mission. I would like to think that I have learned how to wait, stop, and listen.”
Through her experiences in the Housing Program, Janean has been reminded of the importance of gratitude. She has come to value things like the stable floor in her home, heat during the winter, and all the other aspects of her life she — as we all do — takes for granted at times. She gains new insight and perspective every day, from fellow volunteers, CAP employees, our participants, or even those she passes on the road on the way to work. “There is an appreciation of time and life in Appalachia, and the longer I live here the more I share this appreciation.”
As far as working side by side with Vinnie, she says she couldn’t ask for a harder worker to serve beside, or a better friend: “I think that CAP volunteer life helps to create deep bonds more quickly than in other situations, due to the attitudes of those drawn to CAP and the devotional times we share every week.”
Vinnie, an Albany, New York native, was led to CAP when he felt called to make a radical change in his life to serve others. “After being in school for so long, I had the strong desire to spend some time giving to others in a more substantial way,” he says.
Prior to his decision to become a long-term volunteer, Vinnie felt that choices he was making in his life were not significant enough to affect genuine change. Vinnie explains: “I began to see this as an opportunity to really let my faith direct me. And I felt that God was asking me to step into a new challenge.”
And everything was indeed new to Vinnie: his temporary home, the people with whom he shared it, and the types of hands-on work projects in which he is currently engaged. He quickly fell in love with the people and mountains of Appalachia, though he has been most affected by the constant opportunities for service. “One of the greatest lessons I have learned so far is how humbling of an experience it is to serve others.”
Vinnie had never participated in any building or construction projects before he became a volunteer, so it has been both challenging and rewarding to spend every day in CAP’s Housing Program. He is amazed by the willingness of so many participants to work right alongside him, contributing as much as they are able to the success of the home repairs. “Having the participants with me as I am struggling to complete repairs on their home is simultaneously one of the most humbling and beautiful experiences I have ever had,” he says. “They trust my inexperienced hands with their home, something so near and dear to their hearts, and they are grateful for any progress I am able to make. The participants have faith that my work will be sufficient to protect them and their families, but it is work that can only be done through Christ.”
Due to the unusual circumstances of the past few weeks and the necessity to proceed without a housing crew leader, Janean feels very lucky to have Vinnie as her crew partner. She explains, “I don’t know that I could be doing this without him.”
When asked about working with Janean, Vinnie says, “Janean is a really enthusiastic and hard worker. She is also very invested in Appalachia and its community. Out of the volunteers I have worked with, there has been a consistency of teamwork, and Janean is no exception. It makes the mission of CAP tangible when people work together to serve as neighbors in various ways to the people of Eastern Kentucky.”
Vinnie has been impressed with everyone he has met in the CAP family, and he is inspired by their dedication to the mission. “Even though I’m a housing volunteer, I am also someone who works as a member of a community dedicated to serving the people of Appalachia. I have seen people adjust their role many times in order to serve the broader mission of CAP instead of solely playing their prescribed part.”
Janean is particularly encouraged by the collaborative, fluid manner by which CAP attempts to feed, clothe, and provide shelter for the participants. “As volunteers, part of our dinner conversation usually centers on our days, and so we get to hear stories of those in our communities and help each other brainstorm ways to help other programs.”
Janean enjoys looking out at Eastern Kentucky’s breathtaking landscapes while on lunch breaks at job sites almost as much as she enjoys getting to know the people who live there. She says the people of Appalachia have stolen her heart: “There is such a tie to the land and to family. The communities are formed by close-knit kin. The people I have met here in Appalachia are strong, capable, loving people. They are fiercely independent, and strongly inclined to defend their own. They are also ready and willing to welcome you in at a moment’s notice, to treat you like family, and to offer you even the last can of food in their house if you are hungry.”
She respects the humility with which the people live their lives and how they have learned to survive and make resources last. She admires the strong family ties, and the sense of tradition that permeates their lifestyles. She marvels at the way they pick back up and carry on after major disasters. She is comforted by the willingness of people to help their neighbors in times of distress. “Community truly exists here,” she says. “I also cherish the spirituality of the people. They are very focused on God, and seem to trust God completely, in both good times and bad.”
Vinnie has also developed a love for the mountains and beautiful forests, and he loves the plant and animal life. Like Janean, he has enjoyed the overall atmosphere of the beauty of Appalachia and its people. “The quality that I admire most, and I have witnessed it in almost everyone here, is the ability of people in this region to sustain themselves. It seems everyone I encounter has had experience doing home repairs and living off the land, and everyone has some knowledge of the wilderness. I’ve been blessed to learn a lot about these things from the people I have met in Appalachia.”
When Vinnie served with CAP’s Disaster Relief program in Floyd County, responding to flooding that occurred in August, he was deeply touched by the experience. One home he visited belonged to an elderly woman whose daughter was assisting her. The daughter spoke with Vinnie and painted an image of the body of Christ, explaining that “when one part of the body becomes injured, a sort of bruise is sustained. And just as blood flows through our bodies to heal an injury, the blood of Christ flows through the body of Christ to heal any injured part.”
Vinnie firmly believes and is constantly reminded that the work he does as a volunteer at CAP, and as a Christian, provides healing for the members of the body of Christ whom need it most.
As the sun sets, Vinnie and Janean pack up the building tools and supplies to end their day with Timothy and Susanna. The family knows that each sunset will bring with it a new morning, and that new morning will bring these two young people back over the hills and down meandering roads to their home. When the smiling faces and waving hands of these volunteers emerge from their CAP truck, they will be greeted not as a building crew, but as neighbors.Share
Imagination is a constant theme throughout Christian Appalachian Project’s Child Development Centers. Hand-drawn pictures line the walls, and under the pictures are captions that depict what the drawing portrays. Of note is a picture covered with warm-colored, abstract splotches, titled “A Lawn Mower.” Countless other pictures follow suit, each capturing the beautiful, imaginative mind of a child.
Along with the students, teachers with the same level of enthusiasm flood the classrooms, constantly encouraging the learning environment that builds fine motor and communication skills to help create a strong future of students.
With locations in Parker’s Lake and Mt. Vernon, Kentucky, these facilities provide all-day programs for the students in their communities.
Both centers provide extra activities to help the participants become even more involved with the program. The students get to go on field trips, they are assigned homework crafts that encourage them to work with their parents, and they have the opportunity to go to school dances, where they wear their favorite dress clothes and dance the evening away. There is also an Infant and Toddler Program, through which CAP home visitors travel to homes and work with families to enhance the home environment. The home visitor will support the parents by providing information on early childhood development and identify materials to be used for learning experiences at home. The goal of this program is to provide support and encouragement to family members as they learn to empower themselves as parents.
The programs involve a high level of interaction between the teachers and students, and assessment scores reflect the value of that personal care. According to the Brigance Kindergarten Screener, a screening tool used statewide at kindergarten entry to assess whether a child is ready to hit the ground running at the start of his or her education career, more than half of all students who go through a CAP Child Development Program are ready for kindergarten.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children accredits Eagle Child and Family Development Center, and Mt. Vernon Child Development Center is not far from obtaining that title as well.
This is all thanks to an excellent staff of volunteers and employees. Becky Kana is the manager of the Mt. Vernon Child Development Center and has been with CAP for 33 years. She has always worked in childcare, but it was not until about 10 years ago that she started working at the Family Life Child Development Center. She sings its praises wherever she goes.
“This program is really important,” Becky explains. “When it began, it was kind of out of the norm. People started to realize that the time between birth and kindergarten are crucial learning periods, so the numbers in enrollment started to go up.”
Brinda Campbell manages the Eagle Child and Family Development Center located in Park’s Lake and has been working for CAP for 10 years. She began her service with CAP working in adult education, teaching G.E.D. classes to those living in the area.
“Once other adult education programs started moving into the area, the number of students in my classes started to go down,” she says. “It was a sign from God when this position became available, because I knew I wanted to stay in education. I get to see my staff go above and beyond with the families. They feel what the families feel, and it is sincere.”
Both women really enjoy working with the children and the families of the community. Watching the families learn and grow is one of the most rewarding parts.
Many success stories come out of the programs, but one of the most recent is about a participant named Haley, who attended the Eagle Child and Family Development Center when she was younger. Now a senior in high school, she is still heavily involved.
“I started working as a full-time volunteer when I was 16,” she says. “I’ve worked in the Early Steps Program with the one- to four-year-olds, and I’ve stapled and filed a lot of papers. Now, I work with a peer-tutoring program for ages five to 18. I also worked as a junior counselor at Camp AJ.”
Haley says that being able to identify with participants is very important: “Working at summer camp really helped me to relate to the area more. Even though Eastern Kentucky is small and this is where I am from, there are many different types of people that live in the area. I was able to see that at camp. It really helped me when it came to tutoring the students because I knew a bit more about where they were from.”
Haley says her favorite thing about CAP is how it resembles a huge community. “People bring together items that they have to give to those who are less fortunate. They all want to help, and that is the commonality.”
Haley plans to attend the local community college to take her general education courses, and then transfer to a university after that to study veterinary sciences.
Overall, the Child Development Centers are a crucial program to CAP. Serving the communities by providing high-quality early education sets the foundation for a high graduation rate, which is important for growth in these communities.Share