Congregations join together to lend a hand in Appalachia


July 10, 2002|By Heather Tepe | Heather Tepe,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

USING HAMMERS, saws and drills, members of two congregations that meet at Wilde Lake Interfaith Center helped improve the lives of families in Virginia through the Appalachia Service Project.

Since 1969, high school youth participating in the program have spent part of their summers offering assistance to low-income families in rural central Appalachia. The teens are trained in home-repair skills and receive sensitivity training to help them understand the culture and the needs of those they serve.

After a year of preparation, 32 adults and 65 youth members of the congregations from St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church and St. John United Methodist-Presbyterian Church spent the week of June 22 to 29 in Tazewell and Wise counties making repairs to the homes of poor, rural families.

For the third year, Vincent Marucci of Dorsey Hall coordinated the program for both churches. Marucci's family, including his wife, Kathy, and daughters Michelle, 19, Stacey, 16, and Kristen, 13, have participated in the program.

"What we try to get across to the kids is that service is a lifelong kind of a thing," Vincent Marucci said. "Helping others is something you can do regardless of what your skills or gifts are."

The teen-agers spent the week hauling building supplies, digging footers for additions, repairing roofs and installing plumbing. At night, they slept on the floors of Pocahontas High School in Tazewell County and Appalachia High in Wise County.

Kathy Marucci said the experience is an eye-opener for many teens. "They get a real feeling for how lucky they are to live in Howard County from an educational and financial standpoint," she said. "The kids here just have so much more opportunities than the families there."

Before the trip, the teens researched the differences between Howard County and the counties where they would work. "They look at the per-capita income, how many hospital beds there are, the number of teen-age pregnancies, the number of single mothers, how many people are on welfare and how many live below the poverty line," Vincent Marucci said.

"Many of the homes we worked on are trailers, and some of them are wood frame -- maybe a two-bedroom house, if they're lucky," he added. "Some of the homes don't have indoor plumbing."

Ryan Coffman, 18, made his fourth trip with the Appalachia Service Project. Since participation in the project is limited to high school-age youth, this was the Wilde Lake High School graduate's last year in the program.

"You get to go down for a week and see a situation that you would never see in Columbia," Coffman said. "The poverty down there just doesn't exist here. You get to help people and see it happen. You know you are impacting their lives in a very direct way. I'm going to miss it."

Vincent Marucci said he is proud of the contributions the teen-agers make through the project. "I believe that these kids are truly exceptional," he said. "They do represent what is great about America and about our kids. A teen that does ASP, their life is changed forever."

Longfellow parade

Temperatures that soared to nearly 100 degrees couldn't stop the Fourth of July parade in the Longfellow neighborhood. For the 32nd year, folks young and old came in their red, white and blue finery, decorated cars, boats and bicycles, and marched to celebrate Independence Day.

The Fourth of July holds special meaning for Jim and Dottie Binckley, recipients of this year's Good Neighbor Award. Their daughter, Betsy Binckley Gordon, was born on a Fourth of July.

The Binckleys have been involved with Longfellow's parade since its inception and have seen some changes over the years.

"In some ways, the parade has less satire and more politicians, but that doesn't bother me at all," Dottie Binckley said. "I just like the idea that somehow, with very little organization, people just show up. It's a `build it and they will come' kind of syndrome."

The grand marshal for the parade was an empty convertible, honoring Col. Ronald F. Golinski. A sign on the side of the car read: "In Memoriam -- Col. Ronald F. Golinski, USA Retired. Husband, Father, Son, Brother, Soldier, Golfer, Friend and Longfellow Neighbor. Killed September 11 at the Pentagon."

Columbia Association President Maggie J. Brown was on hand for the parade. "I was in the very first one, and I have never missed one," she said. "It's a great day. It's tradition. New people catch the fever and join every year. It's great."

Forest Platt of Kings Contrivance pulled his daughter, 9-month-old Kimberly, along the parade route in a wagon festooned with bunting and crepe paper. Platt's father spent 37 years in the Army.

"We always went to the parades, and we understood what the meaning of the day was," Platt said. "Because of Sept. 11, we're looking back and wondering what our freedom and our independence mean today. Those who died in that terrible tragedy will be remembered today."

Slayton House exhibit

Slayton House Gallery in Wilde Lake village will hold an exhibit, Midsummer Medley, from July 18 though Aug. 10.

The exhibit includes original artwork by Fran Hands of east Columbia, Elizabeth Asner of west Columbia and Alice Woods of Baltimore.

An opening reception will be held from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. July 21. Refreshments will be served.

Information: 410-730-3987.

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