Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Poverty in Appalachia


Presbyterian Bloggers Unite is a new forum created by PCUSA Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow for bloggers to address particular issues. In May it is poverty.


On the first day of each month, in order to build awareness, strengthen community and spark action Presbyterian Church (USA) bloggers will post their thoughts and musings addressing the following questions:
- how would you define describe POVERTY and its impact in your community?
- how has or has not your community of faith addressed issues of POVERTY?
- what are the greatest hopes and challenges that you think face your community, larger church and the greater society in dealing with issues of POVERTY?
This is an opportunity to highlight the Appalachia Service Project.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Appalachia Service Project (ASP)!

It all began with one man's simple vision: to match high school youth groups with families in need so their homes could be made warmer, safer and drier. In this first issue of The Front Porch for 2009, you'll read how that man -- Rev. Glenn "Tex" Evans -- founded ASP and helped its roots grow deep during the first decade from 1969 to 1979.

Our theme for this momentous anniversary year is Putting Faith Forward -- because even now, as we look back and rejoice at the amazing work accomplished by Tex and ASP over four decades of sweat and toil -- and love and compassion, we realize there is still much to do!

The communities we serve here in Central Appalachia have poverty rates that are three times the national average ... and today we can only afford to help ONE out of every 10 families that apply to us for home repair assistance.

This program enables youth groups and other volunteers to learn about poverty in Appalachia, to connect with people who experience it, and to make the connections between faith and poverty.
Fundamentally, Central Appalachia's problems stem from the fact that in an eighty-county area, 72% of the surface acreage and 89% of the mineral rights are absentee-owned. Historically much of this land has been greatly underassessed and undertaxed. As a result of this undertaxation, local municipalities have had very little revenue to finance adequate educational systems, construct and maintain water and sewage treatment facilities, provide for county landfills, roads, and basic health care....

....Hunger and malnutrition are a hidden disaster for many of the region's poor. Rural residents pay up to 30% more for their food from local merchants who cannot offer the prices found in most major supermarkets. Pride and physical isolation coupled with lack of public transportation keep many people from applying for food stamps. In a ten-county area in southwestern Virginia, 90,197 families qualified for food stamps in February 1992; however only 51,649 received food stamp assistance.

The people of Appalachia are rallying to preserve the beauty of their land and to provide future generations with stable employment, public utilities, strong educational systems, safe housing, and affordable medical care. Mountain pride runs deep. Love of the land is what brought people here and love of the land is what brings those who have left back. We encourage you to come to Appalachia to enjoy the grandeur of the majestic mountains, to listen to the people who live here, to share their joys and struggles, and to experience first-hand the work of the Appalachia Service Project.

This year ten of our youth and four adults will be going to Mingo County, West Virginia, to participate in a week-long workcamp. This is the first time our congregation has been involved and I hope it will be a yearly event.

ASP is headquartered in Johnson City, TN and we are incredibly fortunate in that the director of ASP, Rev. Susan Crow, and her family attend our church. Two ASP staff members, Michael Clark and Becca Knight will join our congregation this Sunday. The pressure is on for us to do a good job!

Check our photos of the auction for which our congregation raised $4000 to send our work team! Scroll down to ASP Auction.

My hope is that this experience will make an impact on our youth (and through them our congregation) regarding poverty in our own backyard.



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