Auction helps volunteers create safe havens

First Posted: 3/28/2012

The ultimate goal of an upcoming Appalachia Service Project trip to West Virginia is to help families in need, according to Mark Cianci, Appalachia Service Project adult volunteer, who will provide leadership and pitch in to make someone’s home warmer and safer.

“That’s our goal,” said Cianci, a marine engineer, who has worked on steam and diesel ships for most of his life. And the benefits are twofold as Cianci and three of the youth volunteers described. He added, “Kids get a better appreciation of our country and it (the trip) is a great opportunity for the kids to broaden their horizons.” He became involved with the project in 2003 with his son, James.

On June 30, youth volunteers will depart northeast Pennsylvania bound for West Virginia on a weeklong mission, but they will not know the scope of work for this year’s project until they arrive at their destination. Clarks Green United Methodist Church has sponsored the project for area youth for 17 years and more than 300 have given their time and skills over the years. Other area churches participating include The First Presbyterian Church, Clarks Summit UMC, Chinchilla UMC, The Church of the Epiphany and Peckville UMC, said volunteer Sue Wittmann.

Kevin Minello, 21, a student at Penn State University Worthington campus will participate in his fifth trip. Two roofs, rain gutters and a wheelchair ramp for a handicapped couple are three projects he has worked. “I like to give back to people and help them because being around here in Clarks Summit we have a very privileged life…Every dollar raised at the upcoming auction is used toward an upcoming trip, so the more money raised, the more we are able to do to help the less fortunate.”

Paige Eisenlohr, 17, Clarks Summit, originally offered her help as part of her senior project through Abington Heights High School and she is currently in her second year of service. “I don’t know what I was expecting, but I didn’t expect it to be so awesome. It’s a bunch of really great people…it doesn’t feel like work. It’s so enjoyable, but you’re helping out these people who really need it. I didn’t think things could really be that bad in our country. It was quite a wakeup call to see the houses.”

A typical day for volunteers involves awakening at 6 a.m. to an outdoor morning worship followed by breakfast, giving way to a full day of work at the project site. Workday ends at approximately 5 p.m.

Some of the projects Cianci and volunteers have worked on include site preparation, digging foundations, shingle and tin roofs, and interior work including the installation of bathrooms and plumbing. “You do your work with the idea that it (the project) will be continued by the next group that comes down,” said Cianci. When one group departs, volunteers keep a detailed log of their work, materials used, and what needs to be done for the following week; churches from other areas then step up.

Wittmann said, “The youth members of ASP learn about other cultures right here in the USA. Becoming sensitive to the Appalachia culture is part of our yearlong preparation for the trip. The youth also become aware of the poverty only a few states away. They realize, firsthand, how much less these people have than they do.”

To prepare for their trip, Abington area volunteers train to use power tools and learn simple construction techniques, and volunteers, adult and youth alike, pitch in to plan the upcoming Appalachia Service Project Annual Auction, which this year, will be held March 31 at 7 p.m. at the Clarks Green United Methodist Church, 119 Glenburn Road, Clarks Green.

Youth volunteers solicit donations from area businesses and also volunteer their time for yard work, babysitting, light repairs, painting and cleaning projects. They set up and clean up for the auction and prepare some desserts. Money raised at the auction, the group’s largest fundraiser, will be used for the trip. Wittmann said the fundraising goal for this year’s auction is $4,000, but past auctions have raised that amount or more.

Nichols Village Hotel & Spa, Patsel’s, Lava Day Spa, Sno Cove Resort, Little Red Dog House, Riverfront Sports, YMCA, Abington Vet, Justus Hardware, Tech Aviation, and Lawler’s Affordable Elegance are among the many area businesses that have donated gift certificates or baskets; other prizes include Phillies and Lehigh Valley Iron Pig game tickets. Original art will also be auctioned. “We also have a fantastic week’s vacation at a condo in the Outer Banks, NC…One of the newest contributors this year is the Sno Cove Resort. They have donated a Family Pass for four at the Water Park,” said Wittmann.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and tickets are $5 and available at the door or by calling 586.9447 or 563.8594.

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