Saturday, March 28, 2015


Hello readers- overall we had an amazing experience in Mullens. From our volunteer work to our nightly reflection groups to our mass and breakfast with the community to our adventures in yoga and line dancing (see pictures below!), we really bonded with the community members as well as each other and continued a decades long tradition between Duquesne and the Mullens community. Here is a reflection from a student, which provides some insight into how meaningful this trip was to its participants.

Our trip to Mullens was an amazing experience. We truly were welcomed with open arms by every person we met, and were able to understand what makes Mullens such a friendly and loving community to be a part of. While building our high tunnel we were able to work as a team and feel a sense of accomplishment for the service we were doing for the community. It has been exciting to follow the progress of the project since returning to Pittsburgh, and we all hope we can return someday.-Jacky Brady, 2015 Appalachia CCME member

Thank you again for checking out our blog. We're so grateful for this experience, to all of our donors who made the high tunnel project possible, to the community members who treated us like family, and to Duquesne for supporting opportunities like these. We can't wait to see what next year's students accomplish in Mullens!

Our volunteer work-Part 2

Hello readers- here's the post you've been waiting for....the one where we tell you all about the high tunnel! RAIL's idea was to start a high tunnel program in Mullens so that its residents could become more self-reliant and learn how to grow and produce their own fruits and vegetables. (For a really cool summary of their ideas check out this news article in the local paper). The money we raised went towards the building and material costs of a large high tunnel and storage shed that would serve as a model high tunnel directly on the grounds of the MOC. The ideas was that Nate, the Americorps leader, would be able to use funding from a research study he was affiliated with to provide jobs to local youth who would attend to this high tunnel as well as use it to teach others how to grow their own produce. We did everything from leveling the ground and digging posts for the shed, to building the walls and roof of the shed, to assembling the high tunnel's frame. It took us two full days of work but look how much we accomplished!!

We've been avidly following the project's progress since we left- other spring break trip crews have come along and continued what we started. We loved knowing that we helped break ground on such a great project! Thanks for reading- check out the next post for reflections on our trip.

Our volunteer work-Part 1

Hello readers- in this post we're going to tell you all about the volunteer work we did while we were in Mullens. We took a ton of really great pictures, so we'll let the photos do most of the talking! :)

On Sunday morning, we left early to attend Catholic mass in nearby Pineville. The parish there is very small (only about 12 people, including the priest!) but very welcoming. After mass we served a breakfast we had prepared and visited with the community members. We had a great time learning about Mullens and the neighboring towns from the people that live there.

After breakfast, we drove to the nearby St. Vincent de Paul to help sort through their clothing and paint donations. We got through their entire back room full of bags of clothing, and really enjoyed talking with the staff at St. Vincent de Paul. Here are some before and afters of our work- their facility was now better organized to help get their donations out faster!!

When we returned back to the MOC, we got to hang out more with the students from Christopher Newport University. We made a big community dinner together and just got to know each other. It was an unexpected perk of the trip that we got to meet such amazing students from another university who were also very passionate about community service. We worked really well as a big group and accomplished so much on the high tunnel project together.  (See next post for more on that project!)

Thanks for reading and check out the next post for pictures and info about our major project in Mullens!

Country Roads, Take Me Home- Trip down to Mullens

Hello readers- in this post we're going to fill you in on our drive down to Mullens and our first day of our trip.

To give you some background, the students who participated in this trip applied and interviewed all the way back in October, so they were very excited come March to actually leave for the trip! There were a total of 17 students, one student leader, one Graduate Student Leader, and one Spiritan Campus Ministry Staff Leader. We had several pre-trip meetings in which we went over logistics, packing lists, the projects, the history of Mullens, and other information pertaining to the Appalachian experience. When we finally met at 7am to load up the vans on Saturday of spring break, everyone was fully prepared to immerse themselves in the culture and community of Southeast West Virginia.

It was about a six hour drive (including lunch and bathroom breaks of course!) and we arrived, we were greeted by the staff of the Rural Appalachian Improvement League, including Charlene Cook and her husband and later on Dewey Houck. We settled in, set-up our rooms, and relaxed while we waited for Nate Tauger, the resident Americorps leader for RAIL/the Mullens Opportunity Center, to arrive. There were mostly girls on our trip, so we all hunkered down in one room with the boys sharing a room with boys from another university (Christopher Newport- more on them soon!) downstairs. It was very cozy!!

Once Nate arrived, he took us on a hike through downtown Mullens and up through the mountains on a trail to an overlook point. He told us about the history of Mullens as well as what he and others were doing to improve the community. It was a really nice way for us to be introduced into the community, stretch our legs, and begin to bond with each other!
After our hike we made dinner, played games, and did our first reflection group of the trip. It was a perfect first day in Mullens!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Adventures in Crowdfunding

Hello readers! In this post we want to fill you in on the crowdfunding aspect of the project. Crowdfunding uses short videos and blogs to raise money for causes via social media. Back in December, our whole group got together to film and produce a fundraising video, which we then uploaded to Duquesne's new crowdfunding website. We set an initial goal of $1000, sent out emails to our friends and family, posted links to the website on all of our social media accounts, and waited to see what would happen. Our initial purpose was to raise money to do individual home repairs,  but as you saw in our last post, we ended up working on more community based projects. We kept our donors updated on the projects so that they always knew what they were supporting. We ended up raising $1000 in less than 48 hours, and went on to raise a total of $2372 in just about 4 weeks. It was an amazing show of support from our loved ones, Duquesne faculty, alumni, and many others. Here's a link to our main video- hope you like it!
Keep reading for more updates!
Until next time,
-CCME Appalachia trip staff and students

Mullens, WV-Project Planning

Hello readers! Thanks for checking out our blog. We did not have internet access during our trip, so we're updating our blog now to talk about all aspects of the 2015 Appalachia CCME trip.
So first, let's fill you in on all of our planning.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day (very fitting) the Spiritan Campus Ministry staff who will be travelling to Mullens, WV over spring break took a road trip down to the site where we will be working to discuss our projects and check in with our contacts there. We met with Dewey Houck, President of the Rural Appalachian Improvement League, as well as organizers who help run the local food pantry. This year, they asked that we focus on donations/projects that will benefit the whole community and not just a few individual families. While in the past we have done home repairs for families, this year we will be doing something a little bit different.
We focused our attention and resources on breaking ground on the first (of hopefully many) “high tunnels” which are greenhouses specially designed to extend the growing season and allow people to grow fruits and vegetables year-round. It is Dewey’s dream that every opportunity for Mullens residents to utilize their own natural resources be taken, and these high tunnels are a perfect place to start. Dewey took us to one of the sites upon which the high tunnels will be built, and we couldn't wait to get down there to start prepping for them! The money we raised will be used to purchase all necessary supplies and materials. We will also be working to help organize clothing and food donations so that they can be sent out to those in need.
We had a great visit with our friends in Mullens and were even more excited for our trip once we knew exactly what projects we'd be working on.
Thanks for your support and keep on reading for more updates.
Peace and love,
Spiritan Campus Ministry Appalachian Trip Staff