The ASPI board and other local volunteers continue maintaining daily operations and communication. Board president Timi Reedy leads a weekly volunteer day at the main office to follow up on mail, fundraising, and property management. She also maintains contact and collaboration with ASPI Board of Directors, including staying in touch with Father Jack Kiefer who retired to a Jesuit community in Michigan last year and continues remote service on the Board. Former Grow Appalachia coordinator Nancy Seaberg still helps with the garden when possible, and she organized seeds and helped coordinate the donation of bulk remainder seeds to the Rockcastle County Farmers Market again this year. Rockcastle River resident-volunteers Gretchen Collins and Martin Mudd help maintain the Livingston site and office grounds.
ASPI made additional improvements to facilities at the main office in Mt. Vernon, which has a new roof, an expanded net-metering solar electric system, and a new Level 2 electric vehicle charging station thanks to local solar engineers Josh Bills and Jerry Bogie. Josh is a former ASPI staff and board member who works as Certified Energy Manager at Mountain Association (MA), and Jerry is a master electrician who installed our original solar electric system back in 2001-2002. They expanded our solar system from 2.7 kW to 5.52 kW, and assuming all original solar modules are still fully operational, the system size will be 10.98 kW, or four times the original installed capacity when complete. The most recent electric bill shows a surplus of 90 kWhs generated over the billing period. ASPI will host an educational event in the near future, which will provide an opportunity to see the advances made in rooftop solar in the last 20 years and to test the oldest modules and assess impacts of degradation.
In June, ASPI began a non-profit consultancy through MA, which provides support for working with local non-profit consultant Judy Sizemore who is helping the board with strategic planning and fundraising opportunities. Timi and board secretary Tammy Clemons will participate in an upcoming non-profit convening facilitated by MA in December. ASPI received grant support from Epiphany Church again this year, and someone also nominated ASPI for a 2021 Neighborhood Grant from the Starbucks Foundation, which we were one of around 1,300 non-profits selected awarded out of over 7,000 submissions. We are honored and grateful for these community service grants.
ASPI also received several donations in memory of Paul Temple, a graduate of DePaul University Law School, who passed away in August (bit.ly/Paul-Temple-Obit). According to his wife, Paul “visited ASPI several times during law school, and he “very much admired and was inspired by ASPI’s work and mission.” She included ASPI among organizations for donations in his name and thanked ASPI “for the special experiences you gave Paul.” We are sorry to learn of the loss of a former student volunteer and appreciate those honoring his memory with donations in his name.
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, including the Knox County Detention Center, Kentucky River Regional Detention Center, and Sky Hope Recovery Center for Women. ACEKY now extends into other mountain counties, including Perry County, and also started working with men. Sadly this year, ACEKY program coordinator Brenda Richardson lost her daughter Heather Richardson (bit.ly/JH-Richardson-Obit). Heather was a massage therapist and talented artist who worked with the Berea Arts Council as well as ACEKY. We share Brenda’s and the local community’s grief over the loss of such a bright creative spirit, and any donations to ASPI in Heather’s name will directly support ACEKY programming.
This year, ASPI finally resumed its on-site service-learning program for the first time since
the COVID-19 quarantine began. In May, we hosted our first group from Gannon University, which was part of a travel course on “Philosophy of Place” and included five students, the professor, and a campus minister. In October, we hosted almost a dozen students from the Notre Dame University, including a returning student from 2019 who led the group through their Center for Social Concerns.
Both service-learning groups spent most of the week in Rockcastle County, participated in local clean-up projects, and enjoyed a silent hike and evening cookout with resident volunteers Gretchen and Martin at the Rockcastle River site as well as a live performance by local songwriter and musician Mitch Barrett. In addition, Gannon spent a “farm day” working on projects at various local homesteads and completed a footbridge on a trail in the Berea College Forest at Indian Fort Theatre, and Notre Dame participated in a “Wild Health Summit” hosted by local community members. Both groups expressed gratitude for the hospitality, interactions, service projects, and natural environment they encountered throughout their busy week at ASPI. We are likewise grateful for valuable conversations and contributions with the tentative return of the service-learning program.
Last year, Berea College Special Collections and Archives received a Preservation Grant from the Kentucky Oral History Commission to digitize the “Appalachian Historic Forest Conditions” Oral History Project conducted by Mark Spencer and Timi Reedy in the mid-1990s. These video interviews with elder (over 65) Appalachians about their recollections of the forest in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky are now available online. Thanks to Special Collections for collaborating and making these important interviews available to the public.
ASPI’s upcoming plans include further strategic planning; continued support of ACEKY; expanded arts and culture programming; maintaining gardens and landscaping in Mount Vernon and Livingston; continuing structural repairs and maintenance; and expanding alternative energy to include solar and micro-hydro at the Rockcastle River site.
Every year, we are astounded by the persistent generosity of our small network of local volunteers, donations from individuals and organizations, and long-time calendar supporters. Thanks to you as well as all our service-learning groups, local collaborators, and project contractors for their hard work on ASPI’s behalf. We are so grateful for the mutual support and inspiration in our local, region, and global communities, and we look forward to our shared possibilities for the New Year!
Timi Reedy (ASPI Board President) and Tammy Clemons (Board Secretary)