Our friends at Big Creek People in Action in War, West Virginia, one of the groups Americans Helping Americans has been supporting for nearly 20 years, has made a big impact on their community.
With our help, they have repaired what seems to be every other house on the streets of War. Together, we are also making sure as many students as possible are able to have school supplies.
But what truly impresses me is the community they are building, and how we have been a part of that in War and towns across Appalachia.
Like many other coal towns today, War has had a hard time trying to find a new identity as coal companies downsized their work force. But Big Creek People in Action is taking on the heroic task of ensuring there is a sense of community in their town.
They’ve used surplus supplies to build a community gathering outside their office, which is a renovated elementary school that has been closed down for years. They’ve planted a garden, built a gazebo, and even constructed a stage in the parking lot that has been used for bands to play during their Mountain Music Festival, free for everyone at the town! Eight bands played and the whole town showed up in support!
The memories that the children will keep are priceless and the joy the community can share is simply amazing. I believe the architects behind festivals like these are the unsung heroes of Appalachia, and I’m glad to say they are our partners.
I see providing basic needs, home repairs, education and more as our main goal at Americans Helping Americans. At the same time, we also want to create a sense of community throughout Appalachia that has been lost over the years. This is why we support grassroots organizations like Big Creek People in Action. Your support doesn’t only make you a hero for Appalachia – it creates a sense of community for our American neighbors.
Every year, close to 100 home repair projects are sponsored by Americans Helping Americans and this year is no different. I participated on a few sites, making sure handicap ramps were built, roofs were patched, and kitchen floors were repaired. I met some interesting people along the way like my good friend from South Korea: Ko.
Ko travelled over 7,000 miles to help us fix American homes in Tennessee, which doesn’t happen a lot. He doesn’t speak a lot of English, but we bonded over hard work and completing tasks.
If Ko carried 6 two-by-fours, I had to carry 8. If I was hammering 10 nails a minute, Ko had to do 15. I thought how brave someone must be to go to a different country, immerse yourself in the language, and work on a construction project like ours.
He doesn’t know this country. He doesn’t know these communities. He doesn’t know these people he’s helping. All he knows is that it’s not right for someone to be unable to get into their own home due to financial reasons or for a child to be interrupted while studying in their room due to water leaking through the roofs because money is too tight to fix it.
Ko flew in like Superman to save a home and in a few weeks, he will fly back to what I’m assuming is his Fortress of Solitude.
To make more heroes like Ko, a gift to Americans Helping Americans can bring them to repair sites across Appalachia.
I can’t wait to fix homes with Ko again… and hopefully play more games.
Sam was 49-years-old when debilitating cancer struck. It forced him to be confined to a wheelchair to get around – and that included even getting in and out of his home.
His father, aware of the nonprofit, Of One Accord, in Rogersville, Tennessee, turned to the organization for help in having a handicap ramp constructed for his son who had worked hard all his life.
From there, Of One Accord organized a group of volunteers from the local Crossroads Assembly of God congregation which pitched in to build a porch ramp, making it possible for him to enter and exit his home on his own.
Thanks to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans®, we are able to provide the funding necessary to construct handicap ramps, repair roofs and rotting floors enabling the elderly and disabled residents such as Sam to remain in the homes they love for as long as they desire.
In March, a total of 48 students from the University of Richmond, Notre Dame University and Rider University spent their spring breaks in McDowell County, West Virginia instead of on a beach in Florida or skiing in Colorado.
For several days each, these young men and women got up early, worked hard all day and slept in bunk beds in a dormitory in a former high school – all to make for a better home for a stranger.
Each year, Americans Helping Americans® partners grassroots organizations in rural Appalachia, such as Big Creek People in Action, to assist them on their home rehabilitation projects so elderly and disabled homeowners can remain safe in the homes they love.
These dozens of students worked to lay laminate flooring in the living room of Christy, a mother of three with severe diabetes and other health issues.
They repaired the kitchen floor of Melinda, whose husband has a serious illness and their son has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.
They replaced the insulation and sheetrock for a woman living “in an old cabin down by the lake.”
For Shelly, who survived cancer once and is battling it again for second time, they tore out her rotting kitchen floor and replaced it with a new one with new linoleum.
None of this would have been possible without the supporters of Americans Helping Americans® who made it possible for us to provide the funding to Big Creek People in Action, making it possible to buy the linoleum, insulation, sheetrock and other materials necessary to the do the job.
This month, Big Creek People in Action has a church youth group coming in this month to replace a leaking roof for a disabled couple on a fixed income who never could afford to have their roof fixed on their own.
And through August, school and church groups are scheduled to come to McDowell County to lend a helping hand and today we are asking you to help our fellow Americans with a gift that leads to people like Christy, Melinda and Shelly being able to stay in their homes.