By Debbie Adams
Vinton Messenger Correspondent
ASP is a “Christian ministry, open to all people, that inspires hope and service through volunteer home repair for poor families in Central Appalachia.” The ASP vision is that substandard housing in the region will be eradicated and that “everyone who comes in contact with this ministry will be transformed.”
Thrasher Memorial United Methodist Church in Vinton, VA, has been involved with ASP ministries for 20 years, supporting their programs both financially and by sending teams of volunteers to assist with home repairs. Gifts to ASP from churches such as Thrasher provide ASP with personnel, materials, support services, and equipment to carry out their mission.
On Dec. 10, Walter Crouch, the President and CEO of ASP visited Thrasher Memorial to accept a check for $20,000 which was raised by the Thrasher congregation to help build a home in Rainelle, an area devastated by flooding in June 2016.
ASP has made a two-year commitment for “Rebuilding Rainelle” in Greenbrier County. Teams of ASP volunteers had already been repairing and rehabilitating Rainelle homes for two summers, “so the ministry already had a bond with the community before this most recent misfortune, when 90 percent of the homes and most of the downtown businesses were either damaged or destroyed. In fact, when floodwaters engulfed the town, three ASP work crews were stranded with the families they were helping with home repairs at the time.”
Crouch said the original strategy called for volunteers to construct 50 new energy-efficient and low maintenance homes and to complete “major repairs” in 60 more.
Crouch, in turn, presented Pastor B. Failes of Thrasher with a certificate recognizing Thrasher’s 20 years of service to ASP. Failes had asked those who had been involved in any ASP project to wear their ASP t-shirts to the Sunday services to show “the impact the 20 years have had on the church as a whole and how many people have been touched through this ministry.” The presentations were made at each of Thrasher’s three services.
Thrasher members Bonnie and Dave Jones were recognized for leading ASP mission teams, both youth and adult, from Thrasher for 19 of those 20 years. Another ASP mission trip is planned for summer 2018.
Crouch announced that ASP will soon be celebrating its 50th anniversary and that the “consistent Golden Thread” despite changes in staff, volunteers, and families served annually, has been the churches like Thrasher who are steadfast in their dedication to supporting the ASP ministry.
Over the years since ASP was founded in 1969, 400,000 volunteers have helped 20,000 families.
Crouch said that in the past year, 75 new homes have been built in Rainelle, in Sevier County, Tennessee, and through the New Build Appalachia project.
ASP addresses substandard housing using volunteer labor in Central Appalachia, specifically in the states of Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. Repairs are made using volunteer labor and at no cost to the homeowner.
The ASP mission originated in 1969 with Glenn “Tex” Evans, a United Methodist minister, who became one of the first people to connect the energy of youth with the needs of the poor. He recruited 50 teens and adults to repair homes in Barbourville, Kentucky, where they worked onsite during the day and worshipped at night.
The ASP website, www.ASPhome.org, says that “ASP is more than just a building program. Because when you change the lives of others, they have a way of changing you. After a few days of hard work repairing homes with ASP, your hands will grow a little tougher, your arms a little stronger, and your relationship with God a whole lot deeper. And you’ll return home to your community with a passion for service, a renewed compassion for other people, and a fresh appreciation for your place and purpose in this world.”
“By transforming faith into ASP service, volunteers respond to a specific need – housing,” say ASP organizers. “By putting aside their own needs and desires, ASP volunteers free themselves to share talent, love, and concern with the people of Appalachia and with one another. More important than construction know-how is a willingness to enter the communities and homes of Central Appalachia breaking down cultural, social, and economic barriers – accepting people right where they are and just the way they are.”
ASP believes that “God calls people to serve others as volunteer partners in ministry and we will encourage their growth in faith as they answer this call.” The theme for the ASP anniversary year comes from Isaiah 6:4—“Whom shall I send?”
“This Christmas someone will be safer, warmer, drier because of Thrasher,” said Crouch in presenting the certificate to the church.