When Elaine Fennewald drives eight hours to serve with Christian Appalachian Project (CAP) as a short-term volunteer, she feels like it’s a spiritual retreat. She has served at CAP’s Grateful Threadz Thrift Store for the past five years.
“I always feel like I’ve been to the Promised Land after coming to CAP,” the Missouri native said. “It is a spiritual retreat for me. I am uplifted by just being in the presence of the volunteers and staff. I would encourage others to volunteer because the payoff is so much greater than what we normally do day to day.”
The mission of Grateful Threadz is to provide quality, affordable, and gently used clothing to people in need. Fennewald’s service trips to CAP last three weeks at a time, and she helps sort, steam, and price clothing at the store. Because of COVID-19 restrictions and protocols, Grateful Threadz has been closed during the pandemic. Fennewald has still offered her help in keeping the store organized until it reopens.
“When Elaine comes to visit, whether it’s for a week or longer, she is always a great help,” said Sherri Barnett, manager of Grateful Threadz Thrift Store and Grateful Bread Food Pantry. “She comes in like a little tornado and accomplishes so much in so little time. Not only with the work she does, but her upbeat attitude and cheerful spirit is always a blessing and a breath of fresh air. Even after not being able to serve as much because of COVID-19, her recent visit to serve was as if she had never been gone.”
Fennewald has a heart for service and has volunteered her time with several organizations. She learned about CAP from another volunteer she served with in Colorado. After hearing the volunteer’s experience in Appalachia, Fennewald was inspired to serve with CAP. She said serving with CAP has been a special experience.
“I enjoy the people I work with. They are in the same ‘head space’ as I am in terms of giving back,” she said. “I love the people of Appalachia, and the people I’ve met through the thrift store. They are friendly, joyful, and kind. They may be facing challenges, but they are so appreciative for what we do, and the joy they have is contagious.”
Fennewald always looks forward to making the eight-hour journey to Kentucky to serve because Appalachia has turned into her home away from home. “I always say I feel like I’ve come home when I come to Appalachia,” she said. “CAP is the best place to give back, to touch other’s lives, and to have them touch yours.”