Hudson -- The teachings of Christianity are filled with examples of followers going forth to help others in need.

Recently, another example was added to the list as 11 college-aged students and two adults journeyed to one of the poorest sections of America to help others in need.

The volunteers were members of the First Congregational Church of Hudson who took part in the 45-year-old Appalachian Service Project. The group returned to Hudson last month from a week-long service project to the Guyan Valley in Brenton, West Virginia.

"The Appalachia Service Project was started by a Methodist minister 45 years ago and is focused on helping folks to have a home which is warmer, safer and drier," according to Trip Kern of Hudson, one of the adult leaders on the recent project. "We served two related families through trench digging, to keep water from running under each home, and building new steps and a covering for porches attached to each home."

This was the first trip for college-aged students, according to Karen Joshi, connections ministry coordinator. High school students annually travel to Appalachia to help with ASP, she added.

"What we found was the kids go away to college then want to continue the ASP experience," Joshi said. "There was enough of demand to be able to go on the second trip for college kids only, plus do our traditional trip with high schoolers."

The church plans to make the college-aged trip an annual event.

Kern called the families helped "wonderful" and said they "enjoyed stepping in and helping on our projects."

Both residents and visitors enjoyed the camaraderie of the project and making new friends, Kern said.

"I recall a lot of goofing around, laughing and smiling during the week together," Kern said. "The realization is that people, regardless of where we are from, have so much more in common than we often realize and the result is new friends for life."

The Ohio State University student Yesi DeLeon-Mettee, of Hudson, was one of the church members who worked on the project.

"I loved the family I worked with," Yesi said. "The woman always wanted to talk to us and she always had great stories about her, her husband and her kids. Her kids were great, too. They raced cars and her son killed a few copperheads for us like it was no big deal."

And while the students worked to help the families, they also took time out to enjoy being with friends.

"I got to spend a week with my friends, went to Dairy Queen every night and played card games until the ASP people told us to go to bed," she said. "But I also got to help out an awesome family by keeping their home safe for them to live in."

This was Yesi's fifth service trip with the ASP. Her previous four were with the high school group.

"ASP is amazing," she said. "It is such a great way to help others. It's fun and you have a humbling realization of how lucky you are to have all the opportunities you have when there are others so close to you who do not."

Another plus for Yesi was helping people while using her favorite power tool -- the circular saw.

"I love helping people," she said. "I get to get down and dirty every day of that week and build up homes for families that really need it. I go because it is always so much fun bonding with my crew and the family."

Project members help fund their journey with assistance from the church, Kern said.

"What a great mission experience, combining the chance to build a new relationship with a family in West Virginia and also help this family with a project which enables them stay warmer, safer and drier during the year," Kern said. "The ASP staff is fantastic, using their gifts to help align projects with the skill set of the crew volunteers."

According to Kern, "God's blessings were multiplied thru this experience of building relationships with folks that could use some help down in West Virginia."

Kern added only about 1 in 5 applications are able to be helped.

He asked that readers "consider heading south to help."

As the group prepared to leave, the family had a special goodbye planned and gave the crew hats, T-shirts and candle holders commemorating the West Virginia stay.

"We normally provide a gift for each family before departing, but our wonderful surprise was finding out that our family had thank you gifts for us, too," Kern added.


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