A newly minted college graduate, Louisa Gould had just one more thing to accomplish before beginning her post-graduate life. She wanted to volunteer. More than 30 years ago, in 1987, her mother volunteered with Christian Appalachian Project (CAP) after her own graduation. Her mother often reminisced about the families and elderly participants she met while serving at CAP’s Sunshine Center. “It was very valuable to hear those stories growing up,” said Louisa. Those stories put CAP at the top of her list when she began her non-profit search. “There were many other organizations doing valuable work, but they were office jobs. It was appealing to be able to immerse myself in the local community and get to know people here,” she elaborated. Louisa wasn’t daunted by the fact that she had never been to Appalachia and was excited to learn about the region. And so, after graduation, she committed herself to AmeriCorps service in a region of the country sight unseen.
If you had watched Louisa on her first day at the pantry you would have seen her sorting donations, doing quality control, organizing donations, and delivering boxes of food out to the cars. She’s been making an impact from the very start. Sherri Barnett, Manager of Grateful Threadz and Bread, says that volunteers and AmeriCorps Members like Louisa make a huge difference in serving the community. “Volunteers who jump in and work hard make it possible to serve the lines of participants who need our support,” she said. “They are invaluable to us.”
Creating authentic relationships and learning about local culture was very important to Louisa, and she was excited to be assigned to the pantry where she would be interacting with people from the community. “Coming down here, I knew what service I would be doing, but it didn’t really fully register until I brought food out to my first car,” she recalled. “Serving in the pantry, you get to experience firsthand why CAP does what it does.” As carload after carload of participants travel through the pickup line she could see that many of the participants had been worn down by the pandemic. She knew that their load was lightened as they drove away with boxes of food. “It is so powerful to interact with the people we serve, and see the tangible difference we are making in the community,” Louisa recounted.
Living in intentional community was another selling point for CAP, and although she has just begun her service, Louisa has already begun to see the benefits of living with her fellow AmeriCorps Members. “My favorite thing about living in community is feeling like I have a solid support system I can count on if I ever need anything,” she said. Shared beliefs have helped her housemates quickly form friendships and settle in to a place far from home. “I already feel so close to my housemates through the meaningful conversations we’ve had thus far, as well as their mere presence in our common living space whenever I’m home,” she explained.
Louisa plans to make the most of her time while she is here. She and her housemates have been making plans to explore the region even further. They are making a list of local rivers and waterfalls and making plans to visit nearby cities Lexington and Louisville. Louisa is soaking it all in as she gathers her own stories and experiences. She plans to make the kinds of memories that she will want to share for years to come.