Project Appalachia: not your average spring break

By Ashley Weyler
March 17, 2005

Matt Gizeskowiak

This past spring break, while many Cabrini students were flying to exotic places such as Cancun, the Bahamas or even just relaxing at home; some traveled to Richwood, W. Va. for Project Appalachia, an alternative to the normal spring break trip.

A group made up of 18 students, leaders Matt Grzeskowiak, a junior and education major, and Ashlee Lensmyer an English/communications major and senior, Campus Minister Laura Gorgol and the Director of Athletics Leslie Danehy, ventured out to West Virginia for six days to work in communities of various towns.

Grzeskowiak participated in the trip for the first time last year in 2004 in hopes to meet new people and to have a good time. “This year I attended to accomplish the same goals, but I wanted to make it a priority to get to know the people I was serving. Also, I wanted to learn about the injustices faced by those that live in West Virginia as well as learn about the culture and character of the state and what makes it such a beautiful place to live,” he said.

They worked at a home of a man whose work garage, which he used to repair lawn and garden motors and equipment was destroyed by flood damage the previous year. The large amounts of mud in his garage made it an inadequate place to work. “We helped him shovel out the large amounts of mud and established his garage as a functional place to work,” Grzeskowiak said.

The group also worked in the Richwood Area Community Hospital. Much of their time there was spent painting patient rooms, hallways and offices. Grzeskowiak said that although painting a hallway or room is a small task the hospital was hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and could not afford paint supplies and painters to paint the hospital.

One evening, the mayor of Richwood, Bob Henry Baber, came to the house they were staying at to meet them, thanking them for the work they were doing, and to share his plans to rebuild the city as a town that people want to visit and live in.

“In the evenings we reflected on the day’s work we did, what things we saw in our daily routines and had discussions focusing on spirituality and social justice,” Grzeskowiak said. They also participated in many activities that the locals of Richwood would do including attending Bingo one night and attending a local roller skating rink another.

“I had been on Appalachia before when I was a sophomore and I knew nothing about what I was getting into before I went, and truthfully didn’t really care…I went to meet other people that we were going with. When I got there I was shocked and had a hard time dealing with what I saw and from then on I

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Ashley Weyler

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