APPALACHIA – (March 27, 2023) Students from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, recently spent their spring break in Eastern Kentucky, making homes safe, warm, and dry for children, their families, and seniors in the region. University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point students joined other college students from across the country who are participating in Christian Appalachian Project’s (CAP) annual WorkFest, an alternative spring break program that addresses substandard housing in Appalachia.
This year, all of the home repair projects for WorkFest in Knott County and Floyd County are to help families devastated by last summer’s flooding. They need assistance to make much-needed repairs. The floods, which devastated 13 Kentucky counties, left destruction in its wake, and families are still struggling to recover eight months later.
“There are still a lot of families that haven’t been able to move back into their homes, or they are living in homes that are not really safe, warm, and dry. That’s our mission: to get them back in their homes,” said Bryan Byrd, assistant director of Home Repair for CAP. “We have several families still on the waiting list for repairs. We couldn’t make this kind of progress without these student volunteers and skilled volunteers who join CAP staff to provide supervision and training.”
CAP does a lot of Disaster Relief work but normally in areas where there isn’t an opportunity to follow up because of the distance from CAP’s primary service area. This year provided a unique opportunity for CAP staff to help in the communities where they live and raise their own families.
“This is in our backyard, we’re glad that we get to help families that we have been with since right after the floods,” Byrd added. “We formed relationships with these families when we were doing muckouts and it’s a blessing to be able to help them finish the work that was started all of those months ago.”
This year McKenzie Lange, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, returned to Kentucky for her second WorkFest trip. She worked on the home of a family of five who narrowly escaped the rising flood waters that devastated their home. With nowhere else to go, the family is now living in an emergency management camper until their home is repaired.
“Hearing their story shows just how much they’ve been through, yet they are so motivated and still had hope of being able to move back in their home,” Lange said. “That’s really motivating for us to come in here and do hard work throughout the week so they are one step closer to being able to move back in.”
Steady work has been made on the home thanks to the many hands of WorkFest volunteers over the past three weeks. During their week of service, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point students helped install new drywall, bringing the home repair projects one step closer to completion for the family.
“We’re only one little blip on the radar coming here for a week, but just being able to play a little role and, for this family specifically, being able to come in and help them get back on their feet and move back in their home, it means a lot to them” said University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point senior Joshua Brown about his first WorkFest trip. “They are very grateful. For me to be able to step in and take my time and help give back to them, it’s pretty cool.”