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WorkFest impacts lives of families and volunteers

Submitted by evanharrell on Thu, 04/13/2017 - 13:14

PRESTONSBURG, Ky. — Students from Rhodes College recently spent spring break week working to make homes safe, warm, and dry for families in need in Floyd County, Ky. College students from around the country chose to partner with families and Christian Appalachian Project (CAP) to repair homes as an alternative to traditional spring break options.

Katrin Arango, a student at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee cuts underpinning to help with repairs on a family’s home.

“I hope that WorkFest exposes students to Appalachian culture, which is beautiful as it values family, a slower pace, and storytelling,” said Shannon Hoffman, Director of the Bonner Center for Service at Rhodes College. “I also hope that it expands their view when they imagine the face of poverty.”

Hoffman first heard about CAP while a student at Michigan State University. She came to WorkFest when she was a junior in college and returned the next year as a team leader. While on that trip she learned that her application was declined for Teach for America. Other CAP volunteers encouraged her to consider using her teaching experience to benefit Appalachian residents. Hoffman volunteered for a year at CAP as a GED instructor.  

“When I left CAP, I was a changed person who felt called by God to live a life of service,” Hoffman said. “I felt called to dedicate my life to the most marginalized among us.”

This is Hoffman’s fifth year attending WorkFest and her first time bringing students from Rhodes College, which sits in the heart of Memphis, Tennessee. One student was particularly impacted by her time with their participant family and one of their team leaders.

“Katrin was really struck by the strong bond of the family she worked with,” Hoffman said. “Also, she was impressed by Kate Stefanowicz’s leadership on the worksite. Kate, a volunteer team leader, was very knowledgeable about construction. It gave Katrin a different perspective.”

After her experience at WorkFest, Katrin Arango has decided to take a semester off and volunteer with CAP.

Christian Appalachian Project has hosted WorkFest for more than 25 years. Thirty-six institutions took part in WorkFest 2017 which included 307 students and leaders over three weeks. Students worked on projects at 20 homes. YouthFest, a similar opportunity for high school students, is currently in progress and will continue for a total of four weeks.

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