The colorful falling leaves and autumn weather are a beautiful reminder of how everything changes and fertilizes a dormant future. Needless to say, 2020 has been quite a year globally, regionally, and locally. ASPI has served the Appalachian region for 43 years and counting, and even this notorious year did not stop our work. We continued operating this year without any paid leadership or support staff, and we were able to provide housing and contract labor for some local folks, fiscal sponsorship of programming, and in-kind donations.
First, we want to acknowledge and honor the passing of two important and devoted ASPI folks. For many years, Martha Bond was the dear and faithful administrative assistant who was the face behind the office and the voice behind the phone at ASPI (see her obituary and her online services). Joey Kesler was a former ASPI board member and long-time volunteer who also produced the early days of Father Al Fritsch’s Earth Healing program on WOBZ in London, Kentucky (see his obituary). We will forever miss both Martha and Joey and are grateful for their tremendous contributions to ASPI and the local community.
Even though some plans were cancelled or postponed, ASPI made strides in refurbishing facilities and continuing support for important projects. This year, we welcomed Scott Roberts and Brittany Burns as the new tenants and caretakers of the Cordwood house and Nature Center on the Rockcastle River, and Timi coordinated improvements of the River properties in collaboration with them and some local project helpers. In addition to general interior and exterior clean-up, both the Cordwood house and the riverside picnic shelter have new roofs. The cordwood trailer still needs substantially more work before it is inhabitable, but the River facilities overall are sparkling compared to the vandalism and disrepair in previous years. We moved a large tool shed from the old Mt. Vernon community garden to the office property. We also shared leftover seeds from previous Grow Appalachia programming with several local farmers and families, and we donated bulk remainders to the Rockcastle Farmers Market. The ASPI office just received a fresh exterior paint job and some minor repairs.
Thanks to Nancy, Scott and Brittany, Jacob Mudd, Bugz Fraugg, Jonny Wells, as well as occasional volunteers Jack Herranen and “Snoopy” Moberly for their hard work on ASPI’s behalf. Thanks also to all our supporters near and far who helped pay for new groundskeeping equipment, materials, labor, etc. through calendar sales and donations!
ASPI continues fiscal sponsorship of ArtsConnect Eastern Kentucky (ACEky), a collective of Kentucky artists providing art-related programming for incarcerated women in and out of jail and rehabilitation centers. ACEky received a 2020 Bridging Divides Grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women, which supported “a series of arts workshops to groups of women incarcerated in the Knox County Detention Center, and graduates and residents of Sky Hope Recovery Center for Women.” We look forward to our continued partnership with ACEky in support of art for healing and social change.
We also successfully partnered with Berea College Special Collections to apply for a Preservation Grant from the Kentucky Oral History Commission to digitize the “Appalachian Historic Forest Conditions” Oral History Project. These oral histories are housed in Special Collections as part of a collection of archived organizational materials from ASPI donated several years ago. In the mid-1990s, Mark Spencer and Timi Reedy conducted these video interviews with elder (over 65) Appalachians about their recollections of the forest in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. According to Berea College Sound Archivist Harry Rice, the digitized collection “arrived just as things on campus were shutting to the public.” We look forward to listening to and sharing this rich and important project in the future.
ASPI’s mission of practicing and promoting simple and sustainable living and livelihoods in Appalachia is more important than ever in a world where people are learning new ways of living, making do, and even doing without. We are grateful that the organization was already adapting to lean revenues and staff support and relying more on a small network of local volunteers, donor support from both individuals and organizations, and loyal fans of the calendar. As always, we are also grateful for and inspired by what is possible with mutual support in the local community, region, and our broader base of contributors!
Timi Reedy (ASPI Board President) and Tammy Clemons (Board Secretary)