POULTNEY-A group of 24 volunteers from Green Mt. College, Poultney, and nearby Wells traveled in close company to Kentucky and spent spring break at the Red Bird Mission in Clay County doing community service.
Eleven GMC students raised a portion of the $600 per person needed for the trip and the GMC Student Senate, parishioners from area churches, and individuals from the community contributed the rest. Half of the money raised went to supplies for fixing up the homes of people the students came to help.
Joining in the effort was President Paul Fonteyn and his wife, Marsha, GMC trustee Rene Wilbur, and Joe Petrick, Vice President of Student Life. Dick Gray and Earl Adams--skilled carpenters from the area-and individuals from several local churches joined in the mission to help roof a home, rebuild a bathroom, install new windows and doors, build a stoop, and more. Pastor Dave Adams of the Poultney United Methodist Church was the "hidden hand" who regularly reached out to volunteers and did yeomen's work in planning the trip. His wife, Lynn, a registered nurse, also made the trip and helped keep the group safe and healthy.
The Red River, from which the mission gets its name, is named after a local Cherokee chief Red Bird. Raw sewage now runs into the river and litter covers its banks. The fish in the river can no longer be eaten as they are full of worms. One can easily imagine earlier times when the river and surrounding hills were pristine and a source of bounty. The challenge here is daunting but clearly in need of our imagination and help.
"I want to thank you all for coming down here to help us. God bless you all," said Tim, one of the Red Bird Mission team leaders.
Tim lives in Clay County Kentucky, one the poorest counties in the United States, with a per capita income of about $9,000 (putting 40 percent of the population below the poverty line) and an unemployment rate of around 60 percent. This is coal country and jobs are scarce. Tim is quick with a joke and has a passion for fishing; he also knows a bit about carpentry and plumbing. He is very conservative politically and tells us that "we need someone to represent the poor people (in Washington)."
There are a lot of poor people in the Kentucky Mountains, and their needs are many, but thanks to the efforts of our GMC students and staff, along with area residents, a few of these have been resolved and good will from Vermont has lightened the hearts of some of these mountain folks.