Mission Statement: The PV Volunteers are an ecumenical community of diverse individuals. By providing a service experience in a variety of settings, we respond to human need, form relationships and encourage change and growth both in ourselves and with those we serve.
Visit our website to find out more: www.pvprogram.org
We would like to wish everyone a peaceful, safe and blessed Christmas! Embrace and enjoy this time together with family and friends and remember, in a special way, those throughout the world who may be suffering this Christmas.
We are pleased to announce that the PVs have been chosen to receive a $2,500 grant from the Carter Family Foundation. This grant will help us to continue our work in the upcoming summer. The Carter Family Foundation is based in Beckley, WV.
Each month we include a reflection by a volunteer. This month we had no one volunteer to reflect, so I took the opportunity to do so. If you would like to share a reflection on your PV experience, please send us an email and we will include it in an upcoming newsletter and on the blog.
A VOLUNTEER REFLECTIONby Jill Wallace
I’m channeling my volunteer self this month... It has always been a tricky line between volunteer and director.In my heart I am still that 21 year old, first time PV experiencing the wonder of what it means to be a PV.
Maybe it’s the holidays, maybe it’s being stuck inside for several days as Seattle is going through a deep freeze (it was only 14 degrees this morning!); but whatever it is, I have found myself reflecting on how much my life has been changed and impacted by a choice I made 17 years ago and how grateful I am to call myself a PV.
I was recently at a Dar Williams concert and she sang her song “The Hudson.”There is a line in the song that encompasses so many of my feelings toward the PVs.“If you're lucky you'll find something that reflects you, helps you feel your life, protects you, cradles you and connects you to everything.”The PV’s have been that “something” for me.
When I first joined the PVs in college, I was pretty much just looking for an adventure over the summer between by junior and senior years.Little did I know how much that summer would change my life, forever.My eyes were opened to a whole new world.A world where it was my responsibility to reach out to others, to give a voice to the voiceless, to be part of a community, to support and love one another, to open myself up to feel, and to give myself time to reflect on my experiences and actions.I recently was doing a little fall cleaning and came across my journal from my first summer. Reading through the journal and my reflections was a wonderful, affirming experience.It reminded me of the “why” of what I do day in and day out.
After graduation and year of service with the Vincentian Service Corp, I have had the privilege of being fully immersed in the PV experience for the past 14 years.The people whom I have met, the places I have gone have left an indelible mark on my life.It has been a wonderful roller coaster of a ride so far.There has been laughter and tears, struggles and successes.Lots of prayers.Life long friendships have been made and loved ones have been lost.How would my life be different if I hadn’t found the PVs 17 years ago?I cannot even venture a guess…
We are pleased to announce that the PVs have been chosen to receive a $10,000 grant from the McDonough Foundation. This grant will help us to continue our work in the upcoming year. The McDonough Foundation is based in Parkersburg, WV.
The following article was written by our own Joanne Camas, about Brenda and the work we did at her house this summer. So many hours of blood, sweat and tears were put into her house this summer by so many PVs.
Home is where the heart is. And Brenda Lester knows that more that most people: She promised her husband, B.O., that she’d rebuild their flooded home on the spot where he was born and they’d built their own house together 36 years ago.
“I’ve spent the better part of my life here,” she said, smiling through tears as she thought of her husband, who died in March from cancer.
The Lesters’ home was flooded twice, first on Mother’s Day in 2009, and then on June 13 this year. Last year the house was full of mud; this year it was sand.
Now Brenda is ready to move back home, into a refurbished trailer sitting high on blocks and completely decorated and fixed up by the PV Volunteers, a group that’s been helping out in Wyoming County for 12 years.
“I just sat down and cried,” Brenda explains, recalling hearing the news that the PV volunteers would help her. “I just can’t believe that people give of their time and their summer to help other people who need it.”
Brenda is looking forward to putting family pictures back on the walls and making it home. “The water was 42 inches high in our house,” she says. “I lost everything except a few pictures that were high on the wall, one bed, and my breakfast set.” Her family have made her copies of their photos, which will have pride of place in her new living room.
She has also decorated a bedroom bright pink for her granddaughters, and is delighted to have a place to invite them and room for them to stay.
When Brenda and B.O.were homeless after the flood, they had to sleep in their car for several nights even though he was very sick, and then moved around friends and neighbors. “No one ever turned us down,” she says, “but it was embarrassing.” Her husband also found it difficult not to help her out. “He had worked hard his whole life and always helped everyone out,” she says. “He would cry because I was doing all the work and he couldn’t help me.”
She has been living in a FEMA trailer up the road from her home for a year and a half now, and visits her house every day to encourage and thank the volunteers and watch their progress.
On a recent hot, humid afternoon she sat in the shade under her trees, looking at her house and the creek below. Although she smiles, her hands are kneading the bottle of water in her hand, and tears are never far away.
What has she missed most?
“I can’t wait to be in my own bedroom,” she says, with a big smile. “The first thing I’m going to do is take me a long sleep in my good bed!”
The next thing will be to bring back her dog, Brownie. “He’s been separated from me since last May, and I can’t wait to bring him home. I miss him and he misses me, and when I visit him he jumps up on my lap and nuzzles me like he’s saying “Where you been?’” she says, through tears.
The PV Program draws volunteers from around the country to work in Wyoming County every summer. This year volunteers helped Brenda Lester and other people whose homes were devastated by recent flooding, ran basketball and soccer camps for local youngsters, helped organize and distribute food at the Itmann Foodbank in Mullens, and built steps and fixed roofs for people who were unable to complete the work themselves.
As the holidays are approaching, we thought this would be a great time to launch a new initiative. We have now set up a way for people to give to the program while honoring a loved one. You can give a gift of a week of camp to a child in WV or NY, or give a ramp or part of a ramp to someone, or even support a volunteer for a week or a day. The person whom you are giving the gift to will receive a beautiful photo card of the PVs at work, acknowledging the gift. There are gifts ranging from $5 on up, so really for any price range. As always, your donation to the PV Volunteers is tax deductible.
Below is a flier explaining the program. You can click on the flier to zoom in to read it and/or print it. If you would like us to email you a copy or send a paper copy of the flier, please let us know and we would be happy to do so. Please spread the word among your friends, family and even your churches. This is something not only for volunteers to do, but for anyone that would like to give a gift that would truly change lives.
On a side note, if you would like to give a gift for Christmas, regardless of how you are paying, could you email us the information so that we can make sure the cards get to the person, or to you if you prefer, before Christmas.
Thank you for taking the time to read the flier and please let us know if you have any questions.
In our November PV Newsletter we included part of a reflection written by one of our volunteers, Amy O'Dea. Here is the reflection in its entirety:
How can I say what the PV program really means to me?How do you talk about the most influential experiences of your life?Oh how I wish I could put into words how much this program has impacted me.
My life before PV was grand.I was motivated, loved and had nothing to complain about.I decided to go on an alternative spring break my freshman year of college.My motives were completely selfish; I was only going to meet people, have fun and see a different part of the country.I was warned this trip would change my life but never imagined the repercussions.
The PV program was a gateway to a world I could attempt to change.The PV program instilled passion in me to be present to the abused, the addicted, the suffering and the unappreciated.I was taught how to love the lost, the lonely and financially burdened.Appalachia went from being a place on a map to my own personal utopia.Welfare recipients went from being numbers on a page to individuals with names, stories and lack of opportunity.The more involved I became with this program, the more meaningful my life became.
Because of the PV program I find myself in New Hampshire as an AmeriCorps VISTA.I am the statewide youth coordinator for the Red Cross.The PV program gave this Illinois gal the curiosity to ask what else is out there.This program introduced me to a former VISTA who truly changed the world.I was so inspired by this individual who played basketball with junior high students and spent his Friday nights with the homebound population that I signed myself up for a year of service.I try to befriend the friendless, to listen to the unheard and somewhere in between all that I provide leadership opportunities to our future.I have been carrying the PV charisma deep in my heart since I returned from my freshman spring break trip.
The other day I had the high school students I work with for an icebreaker draw what they will look like when they are seventy-five as well as where they will be.Immediately I pictured myself smiling on my hands and knees repairing a home surrounded by majestic Appalachian mountains.I could not picture my life any other way.Why would I want to?The program has done so much for me, why would I ever leave this?
March will mark six years since I came across the best thing that ever happened to me.I almost feel like I am writing a love letter but the truth is I love the PV program.I love this program so much I physically ache for summer to return the instant my car passes through the gates of Glen Fork Elementary School.I love this program so much for giving me a mailbox full of pen pals and a nation full of family.I love this program so much I illogically think I would die without this program.
This program is more than a volunteer program; it is a community and a way of life.This program is my motivation to get out of bed in the morning.This program challenges me to live the life I envision for myself.How empty my life would be without the presence of the best thing that has ever happened to me.
What a wonderful weekend! Twenty PVs from all over came to the Jersey Shore this weekend to catch up with each other, reflect back on the summer and look ahead to next summer. A lot of great ideas were brought up and discussed, and a good time was had by all. Loo for a more detailed account in the next newsletter.
A HUGE thank you to Jo and to Wayne and his wife Kathie for their amazing hospitality. We hoped to add a few picture, but yours truely forgot her camera. If you took pictures over the weekend and would like to share, please email them to us and we will post them to all.
In our October PV Newsletter we included part of a reflection written by one of our summer long volunteers, Lauren Rittenbach. Here is the complete version:
My summer was about Brenda.Brenda lost her home to a flood in spring of 2009.She’s been out of a home for over a year and a half.She’s been living in a FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) trailer for a while now, but before that she and her husband went from door to door asking their neighbors for a place to sleep and shower.Brenda has been down on her luck; not only did she loose her home, but she lost her husband to cancer this spring and purchased a secondhandreplacement trailer that was in unlivable condition.Brenda’s life was stuck in the mud – everything from her possessions from her past life, which were literally buried in mud from the flood, to her state of mind and feeling of entrapment from her familiar responsibilities and lack of housing.
Thankfully enough, Brenda came into contact with the PV volunteers and we were able to help renovate her home!Throughout my seven short weeks in West Virginia, Brenda’s home became my home.I chose to continue my service at Brenda’s because I became enchanted with the idea of providing Brenda with a fresh start; I wanted to help Brenda become unstuck from her mud.
At Brenda’s new home,I plastered, sanded, primed, and painted;installed drywall, paneling, closets, microwaves, molding, trim, thresholds, andlaminate flooring; used jigsaws, circular saws, handsaws, and chop saws; hammered, lifted, pushed, and caulked; and most importantly, learned what it really means to empathize.Before I realized, I had gained so much more from my service to Brenda than I could possibly give to her.It felt so nice to wakeup everyday with a purpose and a goal, to feel like I was working on something with significant meaning.The transformations that took place at Brenda’s home were unbelievable.I became a part of a movement that was greater than myself; I joined the larger PV community at whole which worked in unison to renovate Brenda’s trailer and Brenda’s state of mind.Brenda’s home now looks fabulous – it could be a studio apartment in the city – and comes only second to Brenda’s new, positive outlook of the future.The PV’s work at Brenda’s is a true testament of what teamwork can achieve.
I was also involved with tutoring; every Tuesday I worked with four children who are incredible and talented in their own unique ways.The tutoring program, led by Lori and Eileen, was a great success.Not only did these two women have our students confidently reading (and enjoying) chapter books by the end of the summer, but they worked to build the students’ self esteem as well.The progress that resulted (of both the tutoring program itself and the kids) was inspirational to view throughout the summer.I must add that Aidan’s work with these same children at soccer camp was an excellent addition to their summer enrichment.
Fridays I worked with UGWA (Upper Guyandotte Watershed Association) and the residents of Glen Rogers Manor.UGWA’s focus is on the ways economic activity in the Upper Guyandotte Watershed region negatively affects the quality of water and land, and acts to correct these externalities.To put it simply, environmental misuse and degradation is associated with economically deprived regions; proper trash collection/disposal and environmental maintenance become luxuries when monetary resources are strained.Many Friday mornings were spent outdoors with the PVs collecting trash, testing water quality, and wielding a machete for trail clearing – doing whatever it takes to help UGWA achieve its vision of environmental sustainability.
My Friday afternoons spent at Glen Rogers manor was a heartwarming and heartbreaking experience.The residents at Glen Rogers manor, I discovered, are more than what meets the eye.When you talk to the residents you find that they had past lives; residents were teachers, mothers, fathers, ex-military veterans, wives, and husbands.Some of the residents have even found love in their new home; many are engaged to be married to fellow residents.One of my accomplishments I am most proud of this summer is my suggestion for extended visiting time to paint women’s nails.It was during this time that we were able to learn about the residents on more personal levels.I believe that the residents truly appreciated the pampering and the physical interaction; like my grandma Jo says, “Everyone needs a warm extended hand in one way or another.”
The PV experience, however, is more than just volunteerism.We gather as a community, we reflect, we laugh, we discuss, we theorize, we listen, we feel on deeper levels, we play games, we eat great meals, we stop and smell the West Virginia wild flowers.We rejoice in each other’s minds and abilities.To truly immerse one’s self in West Virginia and to come to love the PV volunteers is to leave a piece of one’s self behind West Virginia.I think that this is what always draws us back to WV – the need to feel so whole again and purposeful and connected as we do in WV with the PVs.We return year, after year, after year to regain – if even for a week – that piece of ourselves that we can never get back, that piece we’ve left buried in the mountains and hearts of West Virginia.
My summer was awesome.It was the perfect mix of activism, hands on dirty work, responsibility, nature, and adventure.I hope to live by the lessons I’ve learned and values I’ve gained.The most meaningful of all my service experience in WV was the time spent talking and listening to the people we hope to help.I’ve decided to continue my service at home by spending time as a hospice volunteer; though I have yet to serve, I am currently waiting to be matched with a hospice patient.I also have chosen to pursue a career that involves community development.I love the PV ideal of acting locally to enact change and social justice for the underserved; I wish to work on the state and municipal government levels, evolving policy and making decisions that pertain to economic and community development/re-development, land use, environmental protection/conservation, waste disposal, housing, agriculture, employment, health, women’s empowerment, and education.
Thank you to all of the volunteers that made my summer particularly wonderful.Special thanks to Jenny and Jill for providing me with this life changing opportunity!I hope everyone has an excellent year. Please keep in touch.See you in West Virginia!
-The Fishers, a PV family from Seattle, have embarked on a year of service in Kenya. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers during this year. You can follow their amazing adventure on their blog: http://fishersinafrica.blogspot.com/
-PVs come through to help "one of their own." Nine PVs gathered in Cincinnati to help Jenny and several members of her family to put a new roof on her house. Sounds like the job was done in record time, so that all that came were able to enjoy the sites of Cincinnati!
... and that means change in routine for lots of folks. We hope you had a wonderful summer and are enjoying the transition in to fall and all it's splendor! We had a WONDERFUL summer and that is thanks to many of you. Both summer programs in West Virginia and Bedford Stuyvesant went very smoothly, a lot of phenomenal work was done and the PV Community bond grew even stronger. Thank you for your commitment to "Be a Part of It," building, serving and believing!
Also summer related, check out this link for some reflections from volunteers put together by our own Bob McGarry. Thanks Bob!
Fall also means it is time to start thinking about attending the Fall PV Evaluation/Reunion Weekend. Mark your calendars for October 16-17th. This year's event will once again be graciously hosted by Jo Welter at her house in Bradley Beach, NJ. We hope you can make it! Please RSVP to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We were greeted this morning with a beautiful sunny morning. Camp continues to go well. The kids are having a great time and really enjoying being outside today. It is hard to believe tomorrow is the last day : (
Today in the smallest age group they made toucans...
A one camper took a nap....
The middle age group continued learning about the rainforest through puzzles and word searches...
And the oldest group finished up their week long project of making mirrors..... (thanks George!)
This morning we woke up to a torrential downpour, that we soon found out had flooded the basement where we do lunches. In true PV fashion, volunteers rushed down, fixed the loose pipe and started mopping, sweeping and scooping out the water. Everything was cleaned up and dried up by the time camp began.
Despite the continuing rain, the camp has picked up kids each day. Today the kids went into their groups early to work on rainforest projects since they couldn't go out back for recess. The children continue to be a joy to work with and they seem to be enjoying themselves. Enjoy a couple of pictures from today.
What a great night the PV Potluck turned out to be. We are so thankful to be part of such a wonderful program. In total, we had 45 volunteers come and share in a meal and in fellowship. We hope to continue this tradition each summer. Enjoy the pictures!