Appalachia Service Project, Inc. (ASP) provides vital housing services to low-income families living in Central Appalachia, as well as transformational life experiences to those we serve, volunteers offering their service, congregations involved with ASP, and entire communities.
ASP is a Christian ministry, open to all people, which fosters human development by addressing the housing needs of Central Appalachia. ASP is a professional organization, headquartered in Tennessee. ASP hires about 125 college-aged and graduate students to staff approximately 32 Centers located in towns across the mountainous Central Appalachian region where Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia come together. About 15,000 volunteers repair homes for 400-500 low-income families in rural areas of Central Appalachia each year.
For more information, visit the main ASP Headquarters Web site
Cohasset ASP is a group of about 100 – 200 individuals pulled from South Shore towns that have a common goal of getting to know and helping out families in the Central Appalachian Mountains. The Counties we serve are among the poorest in the United States. The Reverend Gary Ritts and his wife Judy brought this mission trip to Cohasset in 1989 with a small group of 28 students and adults. Since then, we have grown to travel to 4 to 6 centers with as many as 200 volunteers. Cohasset students have come to see this trip as a rite of passage.
Cohasset ASP is the largest single organization in the country sending volunteers to ASP. Because ASP centers can host only 70-80 volunteers per week, Cohasset divides itself into several groups of volunteers that can share a center with volunteers from other parts of the country (and the world). Cohasset’s groups are known by the name of the leader in charge (e.g., the RCDC Center and the Lehr Center). Each center is organized as a self-contained unit during the ASP week, and operates from separate ASP Centers across Appalachia. A small team of Center Leaders runs the ASP Center. They are college students hired by the ASP headquarters. These center leaders work collaboratively with the Cohasset ASP leaders and their crews.
Each center is further organized into work groups, or crews. Each crew includes group leaders and student volunteers. Usually there are 4 students, 1 leader-in-training (CIT), and 2 Group Leaders.
ASP’s professional staff typically arranges to use a school as its headquarters in each town where there is a center. The facilities can be any type of school facility, ranging from old to new, elementary school to high school.
Cohasset volunteers typically sleep in a school building in classrooms, gyms or cafeterias converted temporarily for that purpose. Sometimes there is air conditioning, many times there is not. There are strict rules, strictly enforced, that men’s quarters stay completely separate from women’s quarters. Shower facilities vary from modern & adequate to not so modern. Volunteers know to bring comfortable bedding including air beds or foam pads, as well as fans.
Volunteers typically eat breakfast and dinner in school cafeterias that are staffed by paid cooks. Volunteers have chores such as prep and cleanup that keep the center operating smoothly. Each crew prepares its own bag lunches and sandwiches in the morning for consumption at the job site. We supplement lunches with drinks and snacks from local convenience stores. We frequently make field trips to the local ice cream parlor after dinner.
Traveling to and from the ASP Center takes two days. You leave Saturday morning, sleep at a church or school, and arrive at your ASP Center Sunday night.
You work Monday through Friday with your crew on a project at a family’s home. You will inherit a project that is already under way; three or four crews have already worked at the site, and other ASP crews will follow when you leave.
Upon arrival, volunteers unpack, set up sleeping areas and get to know the ASP staff and other volunteers. A Group Leader meeting is held before dinner and families and jobs are introduced via the family files. Family files orient the volunteers to the coming week and what has occurred before. Our first dinner is followed by Evening Gathering (EG). This first EG is centered around meeting each other and preparing us spiritually for the week ahead.
Each day consists of waking early, attending devotions and having breakfast before readying the vans with supplies. Work crews depart for work at the family homes. Then, they return for showers, dinner and EG followed by free time and lights out. Saturday, we pack for the trip home.
We start our return trip North on Saturday morning, arriving in Cohasset Sunday evening.
While at ASP you perform chores, which include cleaning up after meals, making lunches, and cleaning the shower and bathrooms.
You get up around 7:00 AM, have breakfast, perform any morning chores, and go to the work site. You work on the site until about 4:30 PM, stopping for lunch and the occasional break.
When you return to the Center, you shower and have some down time until dinner. After dinner, there are center-wide activities. There are also some evening chores you may be assigned to conduct. After activities, you have more down time until lights-out at 10:00 p.m.
Total cost, outlined in the Participants section of this site, includes a non-refundable registration fee due at the time of registration and fundraising through the sale of shares of ASP “Stock”. Stock sales occur from October through February. This is the most important fundraiser for Cohasset ASP. Stock sales help to increase awareness of ASP among friends, neighbors, family and the community and help foster commitment and financial independence for the volunteer.
All fees and fundraising efforts help cover trip expenses including – bus and van transportation, lodging, meals, and building supplies. Family discounts and financial aid are available for the registration fee – contact your Center Leader.
Past jobs have included:
Repairing roofs, eaves, and gutters
Digging drainage trenches
Installing insulation under floors
Building exterior retaining walls
Constructing and repairing interior and exterior walls
Rebuilding a bathroom
Installing a main supporting beam under a house
Volunteers must have completed 9th grade or higher. All volunteers must pay the trip expenses, complete all paperwork and contribute a minimum fifteen hours of volunteer service work leading up to the trip. Volunteers are required to attend all workshops.
Expect an eye-opening experience in a beautiful part of the United States, making friends with wonderful folks who live in Appalachia and learning more about yourself.
There are many reasons. Some go because their friends are going or their friends who have gone before speak of an amazing experience. Others sign on to boost those community service points on college applications. Underneath it all, we hope there is also a deeper motivation to lend a hand in helping those less fortunate to improve their living conditions. Compassion and a desire to be in service for the betterment of human society rank high on our motivation-scale.
Attending all workshops geared toward preparing us for a gentle entry into a culture vastly different from our own, taking part in the activities with an eager heart and open mind, and seeking to learn and be guided in the most productive approach possible for each of us is our greatest hope for a successful and meaningful ASP experience.
All photos were taken by our trip participants! None of these gorgeous images are stock photos, they are all real people and places captured on film by trip participants including Colin Bell, David Roden and others.