JONESVILLE - Thursday's rains drove the ceremony indoors but did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the hundred or so celebrants gathered for the dedication of the Appalachia Service Project's brand-new Cumberland Lodge at the Jonesville Service Center.
The spacious new facility will provide housing for up to 56 volunteers as well as meeting spaces, break rooms and office space for center staffers, said Executive Director Susan Crowe.
Crowe added that the 7,500-square-foot building is equipped to handle state-of-the-art computer and training equipment for the volunteers who will be serving the area from the home repair ministry.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the facility - the first project of the organization's Front Porch Fund - was held last April, although work only began in June. Two local contractors - Old Virginia Hand Hewn Log Homes and Gene Ely Contracting - served as general contractors for the project, and a large number of volunteers worked together to complete the building, which includes four dorm rooms to house up to 14 volunteers each.
Those volunteers will begin arriving to serve the region next month, Crowe said.
Although perhaps best known as a summer youth program, ASP has grown into a year-round program, involving more adults than youth during non-summer months. The fall-winter-spring ASP atmosphere is more relaxed, the scheduling more flexible, and volunteers can come for a weekend, a few days, a week or longer, said Crowe.
Project Manager Kyth Banks noted that in addition to the contractors and ASP volunteers, the entire Lee County community has embraced the project, with many businesses, individuals and groups pitching in to help in whatever way they could. Banks and others offered their thanks for all who were involved to make the project a reality.
In remarks during the celebration, John Maynard, a member of the ASP board of trustees, said the first summer program in Lee County was held in 1980 from Campground Church near Jonesville. By 1982, the program was moved to the then Jonesville High School, and the next year the group purchased the former Gateway Boys Home property and began renovating the buildings where the center is now located. That marked the beginning of the year-round program in Jonesville.
Linda Honea, external relations coordinator for ASP, said the Jonesville center is one of three year-round centers from which ASP operates. The organization has another 22 summer centers. Volunteers that staff the other centers are trained at the Jonesville center.
The Johnson City-based nonprofit repairs more than 400 homes annually in Central Appalachian Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
John Pearce, chairman of the board of trustees, said while the new facility is a needed resource for the ministry's mission, he hopes it can become a resource for the community as well, as it can be used for retreats and meetings.
ASP was founded 38 years ago by a United Methodist pastor and is affiliated with the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church. However, ASP's philosophy, service and participation are ecumenical.
ASP's addition at Jonesville will increase the organization's outreach throughout Lee and surrounding Virginia counties as well as in Hancock County, Tenn., and Harlan County, Ky.
For more information visit www.asphome.org.