Ashley Messur of Cicero caulks around a window she is installing on a home in Mann, W. Va, as part of a mission trip through the Appalachia Service Project. Messur was one of 18 volunteers to take part in the trip through the Cicero Methodist Church.
Cicero Amanda Coyle was 15 the first time she went on an Appalachia Service Project mission.
It changed her life.
Now, she’s using the project to change the lives of teens here in Cicero.
“I used to live in New Jersey, and I started going on ASP when I was a teenager,” Coyle said. “Then I grew up, got married and moved to Cicero, and when I started attending Cicero Methodist Church, I asked the pastor if I could do it because I wanted to bring it to the teens here in Cicero.”
ASP is a national Christian organization that uses volunteers to repair substandard housing in Appalachia. Founded in 1969 by United Methodist Minister Rev. Glenn “Tex” Evans, its mission is to make homes warmer, safer and drier for their inhabitants.
The region of Appalachia encompasses the spine of the Appalachian Mountains from southern New York to northern Mississippi. It includes all of West Virginia and parts of 12 other states: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. The ASP serves 24 counties in West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, where poverty is rampant; 26 percent of families in the service area live at or below the poverty line, and 55,541 households have a median income of less than $10,000. That’s more than double the national average.
What accounts for this devastating poverty?
“Fundamentally, Central Appalachia's problems stem from the fact that in an 80-county area, 72 percent of the surface acreage and 89 percent of the mineral rights are absentee-owned,” said the website for the ASP. “Historically much of this land has been greatly underassessed and undertaxed. As a result of this undertaxation, local municipalities have had very little revenue to finance adequate educational systems, construct and maintain water and sewage treatment facilities, provide for county landfills, roads, and basic health care.”