Spending spring break helping others: Wisconsin students assist in CAP home repair

Mar. 25—While the traditional spring break for college students means heading south for a week's vacation, several other groups followed — but stopping off in Kentucky to help rural families with home repairs.

For the past three weeks, college students have convened at the Christian Appalachian Project headquarters in Rockcastle County, going out for three days to assist with home repairs for families in the area.

This week, a group of students from the University of Wisconsin — Stevens Point have learned the techniques of roofing.

Under the direction of Clarence Bowles, the home repair crew leader for CAP, a group of five students and four volunteers began the finishing touches to a storage building for a family just over the Laurel-Clay line on KY 687. For two students, the trip to Kentucky was a repeat adventure — with one having family living in Louisville and another who experienced Kentucky's beauty only while driving through to another destination.

But the offer of spending their spring break helping other people enticed the five-member team to the Bluegrass State this week, where they have learned carpentry skills and got a better view of the Appalachian region.

McKenzie Lance is the sole female of this particular group. As a junior, she is currently pursuing a double major in Communication Sciences and Communication Disorders.

The male components of this week's team are John Chapman, who is pursuing his degree in Wildlife Ecology with a minor in Biology. Austin Vonderloh is a sophomore student who is majoring in Music Education, while Mitchell Jensen is studying for a Math degree with a minor in Religious Studies. Zach Fischer completed a year of college before COVID postponed his educational career — he now spends that time volunteering with CAP.

The UW-Stevens Point students said they usually spend their spring break with their families, either going on family excursions or visiting family in other areas.

All students said they were influenced by the Campus Minister Steve Brice.

"The campus minister came and told us about this project and I thought it would be a great experience," Vonderloh said.

Brice is familiar with the work programs, having participated himself in a Kentucky trip in 1987 but with another college. He also praised the efforts of the Christian Appalachian Project and their work to help those in need as well as giving opportunity to college students.

"CAP is about building people as much as it is building buildings," he said. "It's the idea of being supported, where the schools come to work with CAP and help others."

Bowles said the crews had done phenomenal work, especially having no experience.

"This is the first time they've ever been on a roof," he said. "They've been great — all the groups."

This year's projects have recruited college students from across the country to volunteer. The students are housed in the Andrew Jackson (AJ) dormitory at the camp in McKee, KY. Those facilities have dorm rooms, a kitchen, and other living necessities for the students who spend Monday being prepped for their assignments, working three days, and returning home on Friday.

Overall, the students said they have enjoyed their visit to Kentucky. Even though it was not a leisurely vacation, it did build character and give them experience. Two of the group said they might be interested in carpentry, while the two others said they were more led to pursue their planned careers. Chapman, however, said he was fond of the mountain areas and may someday look to live here.

"I'd like to live in Kentucky, or maybe Virginia or Tennessee," he said. "I like the country here and it would be nice to go out in the winter without it being 20 degrees below zero and snow on the ground!"