Summer is always the busiest time at the four Sharing with Appalachian People (SWAP) locations in Kentucky and West Virginia. Groups of all sizes and ages converge on the sites, bringing their enthusiasm and energy to this unique home repair program.
Several new staff members have joined the SWAP team since last year, each bringing their own experiences and expertise. Fern Nafziger is serving as location coordinator at the Hindman, Kentucky, site. Heather Gross has begun serving as one of the location coordinators at the Harlan, Kentucky, site.
Nafziger, from Archbold, Ohio, was ready for a change after completing her master’s degree in architecture. A desk job didn’t seem appealing - she wanted something in which she could feel good about personally investing. “I opted for a position where I could give something back, work with people, use my skills, and gain hands on experience,” said Nafziger. “This position was perfect.”
Having heard about SWAP from church and family members, Nafziger is excited about using her architectural design skills to help others. “I hope to make a lot of homes ‘warm, safe and dry’, build relationships with people in the community, and create a lasting impression on those who come to volunteer,” she said. “Learning the dulcimer, listening to homeowners’ stories, square dancing, putting up my first trailer cap (tin roof ); these are only a few of my favorite moments and they keep adding on.”
Gross, who lives in Harlan, brings not only a local connection but also valuable experience. Gross first got connected with SWAP when she served as a chaperone for a youth group in 2007. According to Gross, she “fell in love with the program” during that week, which prompted her to work as SWAP summer staff last year and now to accept the location coordinator position. “Over the past five years that I’ve lived in Harlan, I’ve seen and experienced povery first hand,” said Gross. “I hope that as a location coordinator I can improve people’s quality of life and encourage others in my own community to become involved and make a difference."
Gross was also involved with the community this past year through a local play. which brings light to sensitive issues in Harlan such as mining, racism and sexism. “Because of my experience with the play, it has given me more confi dence to talk with staff , volunteers and homeowners about these types of issues in Harlan,” she said.
In addition to her work during the SWAP season, Gross will be working half-time with Holy Trinity’s tutoring program in the off-season.
For more information about SWAP: swap.mcc.org