Even as we watch the leaves finally turn into a rainbow of autumn hues and enjoy the cooler, wetter weather, it’s hard to believe that 2019 is almost over! The year has been challenging and exciting in several ways, and we are always grateful for the continued support of longtime donors, calendar customers, and dedicated volunteers throughout ASPI’s 42 years of service in the Appalachian region.
As some may recall, ASPI underwent a leadership transition this summer when Executive Director Suzi Van Etten and Board President Shane Barton left their positions to pursue other meaningful projects and sustain important family relationships. We are grateful to Shane and Suzie for their near decade of service and their commitment to ASPI’s mission of practicing and promoting simple and sustainable living and livelihoods in Appalachia.
Meanwhile as of June 1, the organizational leadership and oversight shifted to ASPI board members Timi Reedy (President), Tammy Clemons (Secretary), and newly elected member Father Jack Kieffer. ASPI’s day-to-day operation and communication is currently supported by a solid volunteer corps of board members, local residents, visiting service-learning students, and social media promoters. The learning curve has sometimes been a challenge, and we are still recovering from the 2017 fire and loss of the Solar House, which was our first structure built in 1980. We have also suffered repeated vandalism on the Rockcastle River properties, all of which are in need of refurbishment as residential dwellings, an educational center, and a picnic/camping area. However, as long-time volunteers, we are all inspired by the possibilities for continuing and expanding our valuable work and supporting our communities.
Service-learning students from the University of Notre Dame returned again this fall for an alternative break experience as part of a semester-long “Appalachian Seminar” course through the Center for Social Concerns. Timi and Tammy have helped host day-long projects in their Clear Creek neighborhood for ASPI service-learning groups in the past, but this year was the first time that Timi served as the overall service-learning coordinator for their entire week of programming. Here’s what she had to say about the experience:
“I cannot say enough about the Notre Dame students this year. They were engaged, hard-working, loving, and thinking critically. They made a huge impact every day in our community, and in Pineville, Kentucky where they worked on a community center for people in the community, especially children, who were struggling because of family members who have overdosed, are incarcerated, or in recovery. In recent years, we have several Notre Dame students return for another immersion experience, and as we get to know them better, they are beginning to feel a deep sense of connection with ASPI. When we were cleaning out a River dwelling this year, they found a paper written by Notre Dame students from 1977, and it was like treasure to them, fostering an understanding of long-term deep connection. They were wonderful!”
Here is a little quote from a card they left for us:
“We sat in a classroom and heard all the tales of a strong and loving people and their home in the hills, of life on a mountain range far away, and of connections forged in dark Kentucky clay. We learned of passion and purpose, of resilience and life. But no classroom could prepare us for what we would find. We met people whose perspectives have changed ours forever. In short, we learned more in one week than we could’ve ever imagined. And we thank you for teaching us to live in a new fashion: to walk with intention, to care for creation, and build something beautiful in our broken nation.”
We know many of you have been asking about the availability of the 2020 Simple Lifestyle Calendar. We understand that the ASPI calendar is an important part of your holiday gifting traditions, we’re sorry for the delay and are happy to announce that PayPal ordering is now live on our website: http://www.appalachia-spi.org/calendar.html. There is also a downloadable paper order form on the website for those who prefer to send a check. Thanks for your patience as we navigate leadership transitions, some health issues, and technological challenges.
As 2020 approaches, we are looking forward to the possibility sharing ASPI’s stories with a regional audience at the 2020 Appalachian Studies Association (ASA) conference at the University of Kentucky in the spring. We have proposed a panel to highlight ASPI’s historic accomplishments and possibilities for future collaboration and engagement in the region, including ASPI founder Father Al Fritsch, current board leadership, long-time volunteers, and staff as discussants. The 2020 ASA conference theme is “Understories: Growing Hope and Resilience from Commonwealth to Global Commons,” and we think ASPI has much to contribute to this topic and practice.
There will be additional opportunities for folks to share memories, ideas, and hopes for Appalachia-Science in the Public Interest as we continue revisiting our past, preparing for the future, and working to connect Appalachian people, knowledge, and ecosystems in solidarity with global communities striving for justice and sustainability. We are grateful for your continued support and shared commitment to sustainability and justice in the Appalachian region and beyond. We are excited about what we can do together with your donations, calendar purchases, and volunteer support!
Timi Reedy (ASPI Board President), Tammy Clemons (ASPI Board Secretary), Fr. Jack Keiffer (ASPI Board Member), and Mark Spencer (ASPI Graphic Artist / Calendar Designer)