Warmer, safer, drier: Volunteers improve homes for less fortunate

Written by Gillian Smith
 | Thursday, 31 July 2014 19:28


While most people were spending their summer weeks enjoying the beach and the nice weather in early July, over 100 people traveled south to help those less fortunate.



Over 120 people traveled with Holy Family Church to West Virginia, where they spent the week helping build closets, paint rooms, put up sheetrock and improve the homes of families who were not able to improve their homes on their own. The trip was set up through the Appalachia Service Project (ASP), which is a weeklong trip for high school sophomores, juniors and seniors who are interested in volunteering their time and energy to the project.

This year, Holy Family sent the largest group of volunteers ever to two counties in West Virginia, where they were split up into groups of five or six students and two chaperones. Each group met the family they were working with and spent the week improving their home and bonding with the family. Each family applied for help through ASP and were chosen based on their need. 

Duxbury residents Tom and Patty Guilfoile spend each year working with ASP setting up fundraising events in order to ensure a safe a productive trip for the volunteers. It costs $900 per person for the week and volunteers are required to raise at least $450 through letters sent to family and friends, asking for donations. Volunteers meet monthly during the year to learn how to use specific tools, the importance of safety training and sensitivity training. 

Lisa Segal, official photographer for this year's ASP trip, traveled down for her second volunteer trip this year and said she feels especially welcome by the church. 


“I am Jewish, so I am not a member of the church, but I asked if I could volunteer and they were more than welcoming,” she said. “The people were are helping truly have nothing and it’s incredible to have the opportunity to give back.”


On the trip, the volunteers piled into 17 vans and traveled from Duxbury to Maryland, where they stayed overnight and then traveled the rest of the way on the second day. The work started on Monday and they spent the next five days fixing roofs, constructing second bedrooms and help- ing the families stay “warmer, safer and drier,” as is the ASP motto.

"The homes are not what we would expect to live in," Segal said. "They have no electricity, no running water and so much mold that you wouldn't believe it." 


Segal worked on the home of a single mom of two young boys who Segal said was working very hard to provide a safe home for her children.


“She clearly loves her kids; they are her priority,” she said. “She is afraid to let her children out of the house because of the area they live in, so it was nice to have the opportunity to help provide a safer home for them.”


Many volunteers will participate in ASP for all three years, traveling to different areas of Appalachia and working on different home improvement projects. The project was brought to Holy Family Church by Mike and Joanne Protasewich, who had participated in the project with a different congregation. In the many years that Holy Family has participated in the project, the number of volunteers in- creases each year as more and more students wish to help out. 

“It’s very special,” Segal said. “Most of the people we help are very grateful and it’s a wonderful opportunity for us to make a positive impact on their lives.”