Community Service Opportunity: Mission Trip to Appalachia


Every year, St. Joseph’s Church in Mendham partners with Good Neighbors in Kentucky for a Mission Trip to Appalachia, which is the region from Northern Georgia and Alabama to Southern New York. This is a yearly trip that occurs every June and involves all members of the community. This is an amazing way to gain community service hours while embarking on a fun and life-changing journey.

The mission trip is specifically to Paintsville, Kentucky in the heart of the poverty-stricken Appalachia region. Kailee Saunders, a West Morris Mendham High School student volunteer, will be embarking on her third trip this June, and during an interview, she explained the purpose of the program. The collective volunteer group is split into smaller groups and each is assigned to a family in the town. These families fall into the socioeconomic status of the working poor, the parent or parents and/or guardians in the family have a job and work, but they do not make enough money to adequately sustain themselves and children. Their houses tend to be heavily worn down, some aspects are falling apart and are in desperate need of repairs. “So basically, we come in and try to fix things up for them to make their houses more livable” Saunders explains.

The work the volunteers do directly helps families and children in need. Saunders specifically details, “last year, my group built a room for one of their kids so the kid didn’t have to sleep on the couch anymore.” The volunteers engage in many different types of structural projects, she explains, “another group fixed a roof that was falling down, another group added an addition to a home.” While many of the families are in need of typically laborious tasks, some are in need of simpler improvement. “A few years ago we painted someone’s house because the paint was chipping off” Saunders explains.

While the trip to Appalachia is only once a year in June, there are many other opportunities throughout the year for fundraising opportunities for the mission. Saunders details, “we have our nail fundraiser, we have bake sales, we have a lot of opportunities throughout the year that makes it more than just a one-time event.” The fundraising is essential in the program in order to pay the transportation to Appalachia and the materials for the volunteers to sufficiently improve the conditions of the homes that need it.

Despite this service trip being centered around the church, anyone is capable of earning a spot in the highly popular trip to Appalachia as long as you sign up early enough. In fact, “it’s a first come first serve basis” Saunders informs. The application process for any service opportunity can sometimes be painful to complete, and at times impossible unless one contains experience in the particular event. In many cases, applications may ask for endless amounts of experience or pages of requirements. However, this mission trip to Appalachia is very quick and easy, at least according to a current volunteer, Kailee Saunders, “The application is super easy, you just fill out you’re work experience, which you don’t have to have any as far as like building and stuff.” Even though the majority of the volunteer hours are spent furnishing houses or fixing roofs, you hardly need any experience in building at all as you can be taught by your peers and leaders in Appalachia.

Photo courtesy of Kailee Saunders.