Village Voice - August, 2005

Appalachian Experiences

Appalachian OutreachMy first mission trip was in the summer of 2003 with ten other members of Village.  We started our day with a hot breakfast at a local church, prepared by some of the members.  We then reported to the Appalachian Outreach Center for about an hour where we performed various tasks.  Then it was off to another church to work with school-aged children that are in the free lunch program.  We played, put on puppet shows, and made crafts with the children, then helped with providing lunch and cleaning up afterwards.  Then it was our turn to have lunch at the Samaritan House.  We spent the rest of the afternoon working in the basement painting some of the rooms or assisting at the Outreach Center until 4:00 p.m.  Dinner was served at 5:00 at the same church where we ate breakfast with a worship time immediately following.  I left Tennessee feeling so rewarded that I knew I would want to go on another mission trip. 

When the opportunity came to go back to Tennessee, it was a no-brainer for me.  This time our group was only three, and much to our surprise, we were the only church group volunteering the week of July 3rd.  It seems the 4th of July is a popular time for vacations!  We had our meals at the Samaritan House, just the ten of us, Randy, the acting Outreach Manager, six summer missionaries and us Villagers.

Marion spent his time at the old hospital, operating on donated computers, while Audry and I worked at the Outreach Center.  There’s a drop-off area for donations and the center is blessed daily with many generous contributions.  The donated clothes and household items are brought to the sorting room where they are piled to the ceiling, literally to the top of the ceiling!  Audry and I spent most of Monday opening large garbage bags full of clothes.  We checked each item for stains and tears and made sure it wasn’t totally out of style.  Many of the items are then baled and shipped to North Carolina, where they are re-sorted.  They may end up in other needy countries, or perhaps burned and used a supplement for asphalt.  The items that are not baled are divided into categories of men’s, ladies and children’s clothing, toys and household items.

The next step is to get the clothing onto the Outreach Store racks.  We used one of the buggies (shopping carts) and filled it with one of the categories of clothing.  Then we got the appropriate hangers together, and we were in business.  Audry and I teamed up on our last day and set a goal to empty out the children’s clothes bin.  We’d take a buggy full of clothes out to the store floor.  Audry put the clothes onto the hangers and I hung the clothes on the rack, and as I went along I straightened and gathered other empty hangers. I did my best to get all the clothes on each rack to hang in the same direction….must have been all those years of retail experience that helped me along wanting to keep things organized. I also spent one afternoon color grouping the ladies’ shoes.  We exceeded our goal of emptying the children’s bin, and were able to empty the men’s bin as well. 

It’s very important to keep the racks full, because the families can only come to the center once a month. They are allowed ten items of clothing, including shoes, per family member. Each child is allowed to fill one bag with toys. Each family can take one bag of household items and two articles of linens. And they can have as many books as they would like! This is also when those from Jefferson County can receive their two bags of pantry food. They are allowed three items of furniture per year, but they have to get them at the same time.

Appalachian Outreach offers these poverty relief ministries: Appalachian Outreach Home Repair; Samaritan House (homeless shelter); Clothing, food, furniture distribution; Computer and GED training; Hispanic ministry; Second Source Thrift Store.  In 2002-2003 86 homes were repaired, 123 people were given shelter, 14,530 hot meals were served at Samaritan House, 1,736 items of furniture were given out, 3,354 baskets of food were given out, and 49 people received computer/GED training.

 My inspiration to take part in a mission trip came from Mathew 25:35-40. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I  was in prison and you came to visit. Then the righteous will answer Him, Lord when did we do these things for You? The King will reply, I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me.                                                       

                                                                                                                                               -- Michele Miles