By Brianna Stephens
At Christian Appalachian Project (CAP), we often consider our community of employees, volunteers, donors, partners, and participants one big family. Through our ongoing efforts to live out our mission of building hope, transforming lives, and sharing Christ’s love through service in Appalachia, we create deep relationships and memorable experiences with the people in our region that last a lifetime.
One-year volunteer and AmeriCorps member Avery Ford’s most memorable experience at CAP is the deep relationship he built with a participant, Jenni, while serving through the Home Repair program. Ford described Jenni as a strong-willed woman of deep faith, who only a few years ago conquered cancer and isn’t letting anything stop her now. Jenni loves her dog, sitting on her porch, but, most of all, she loves her grandson who roams back and forth between her home and her ex-husband’s home next door.
“Her home, built in the 80s, sits at the head of the holler where she loves to keep an eye on everyone and everything going on,” Ford said. “Since moving in six years ago, she has tried her best to take care of the home, but between cancer and a fixed income, things proved difficult.”
A long list of repairs was needed on Jenni’s home, including new band board around the base of the home, new windows, new soffit, new metal fascia trim, new stairs, landing, and railings, and new steps and roof for her back porch. CAP’s Home Repair crews, with the help of short-term volunteers, tackled the project over the course of a few months.
Jenni’s smile grew more and more with each repair that was made to her home. After CAP finished putting the new roof on her back porch, Jenni was so happy she was able to sit out on it during a thunderstorm to listen to the rain without the roof leaking. Jenni’s grandson was full of excitement when he saw the new siding being put on his grandmother’s home was a deep blue, his favorite color. “I must say, her house looks really sharp with the deep blue siding and bright white trim,” Ford proudly noted.
Throughout the project, Jenni always sat on the porch, talking with Ford and the volunteer crews while they worked. She shared how grateful she was for the work that was being done and how much she enjoyed the company. At least one day a week she would make a home-cooked meal for the volunteer groups. Chili and cornbread, soup beans, peanut butter sandwiches, and fried potatoes always brought the people working a little bit of warmth on cold days.
“Jenni’s the kind of person that is just enjoyable to be around, full of wit, charm, and real-world wisdom that just brightens your day,” Ford said. “It was bittersweet the moment when we finished the work on her house … we were proud to have completed the repairs for her, but we knew we would miss spending time with her each day because we loved being with her just as much as she loved having company there.”
Because of the support of our donors, CAP’s Home Repair program and volunteers like Ford can tackle substandard housing in Appalachia and make homes safe, warm, and dry for children, their families, and seniors in the region.