Students embark on annual service trip to poverty-stricken West Virginia

By Karen Schweizer
March 14, 2002

Mary Laver

The annual service trip Project Appalachia focused on the hills of West Virginia and allowed students to participate in service work over spring break.

Several towns in West Virginia are floundering. Excessive strip mining, floods and loss of jobs have left the communities in a bad place. However last week, a program that is a twenty-year tradition created by the Campus Ministry, now the Wolfington Center, helped alleviate some of those problems. Students and staff traveled to West Virginia to help residents by working on three major community projects.

According to students the work they did was hard but rewarding, Cabrini decided to focus on the town of East Bank completely instead of splitting the focus with Union this year. Several people commented on the incredible scenery of the town, while one student Jamie Matozzo said that in areas “everyone had a dog,” and that stray cats prowled the grounds freely.

In one project, workers were to rebuild a porch for a local thrift shop called The Mustard Seed. The Mustard Seed is an important store because it also distributes foodstuffs to the community. The food is given out to families in the community who are in trouble. “The most expensive thing in the thrift shop was probably only a quarter,” Matozzo said.

Other students worked with the Southern Appalachia Labor School, a task force of high school dropouts and Americorps volunteers. The group worked to rehabilitate an eighty-year-old house in Page, W. Va. “We did plastering, drilling, building and sanding,” said Mary Laver the projects coordinator. “Everyone got this white plaster dust in their hair.”

One student, Josh Dzielak described the work that he did with his group, and fun that he had. “We had to be inventive,” he said, “We had to paint a ceiling without a brush. So we took tape and taped a brush to a broomstick and painted. By the end of the week after all of the painting, our sweatshirts were completely coated in paint.”

Finally, students worked with the West Virginia Presbytery as they worked to clean flood damage to a house that needed to be used to board future volunteers. Over the summer, floodwaters devastated the area and even swept several local houses down river. “Bat droppings had to be cleaned out of the attic,” Laver said.

To cap off the week Cabrini volunteers did not forget old friends in Union, the town where former Project Appalachia members worked in. One night they joined together for a night of fun and a potluck dinner. A goat was born that day to the Appalachia’s friends and it was named “Cabrini.”

Wolfington Center Update:

 Tuna fish and peanut
butter drive to benefit
Patrician Society in
Norristown until
March 26

 Search X Retreat
April 12-14

 Mass, every Sunday
7 p.m.

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Karen Schweizer

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