Belmont approved the College Service Project, a new organization on campus whose mission is to repair homes for people in impoverished areas, on Oct. 7.
College Service Project’s parent organization is Appalachia Service Project, which exists to repair homes in Central Appalachia. Belmont’s CSP chapter is the 12th college chapter to bring this concept and apply it to the community surrounding its university.
“It’s about home repair, not only in Appalachia but in collegiate communities as well. It’s all about developing student leadership and dedication to lives of service,” said Clara Leonard, president and founder of the Belmont chapter.
Leonard served on ASP’s summer staff in Greensboro, West Virginia this summer.
“When you’re in such a service-oriented place for so long, I would definitely say it was the happiest three months of my life just to be able to serve so many people,” Leonard said. “One thing that ASP is really adamant about is that we’re not just a construction ministry. We’re a relationship ministry with construction on the side.”
ASP distributes home repair applications to nonprofits, social service departments and other service centers in communities in great need. Then, staff members evaluate homes and find projects fit for the capabilities of ASP volunteers, Leonard said.
Freshman and Vice President Emily Riggle and financial officer Emma Lentz have been weekly volunteers for four years at ASP. Riggle and Lentz worked in Sullivan County, Tennessee over the summer.
“It really lit the fire beneath me to go out and serve and create these relationships with people in areas where they do need outside help to help bring things together and bring a new hope in their lives,” said Riggle.
ASP is equipped to work on flooring, plumbing, roof, insulation and siding projects. But the work is not limited to these tasks, and a team had to renovate an entire home because of black mold in the walls, Riggle said.
One team even reframed walls to make a wheelchair-accessible home for a 4-year-old boy with cerebral palsy, Leonard said.
As a native of North Carolina, Leonard’s eyes were opened when she realized the gravity of the poverty that existed miles outside her town and just hours outside Nashville, she said.
“A lot of people here are passionate for missions, but they really want to go Africa, go to Haiti, go to Uganda, go to some country really far away,” said Leonard. “That’s great, and that can be so good, but sometimes people want to do those things because they don’t realize that they could drive two hours east and do so much for people so close to home.”
CSP will take the home repair in the Appalachian area and bring it to the Nashville community.
“You see beautiful parts of Nashville residential life, but there’s so much more work that needs to be done,” said Lentz.
The group plans to distribute home repair applications, partner with local churches and Habitat for Humanity, raise funds for ASP and increase awareness. Most importantly, it will focus on the hands-on service of home repair in both Nashville during the school year and at an ASP center for a weekend or alternative spring break trip, Leonard said.
“We live in the Belmont bubble, and if you go out a little ways there are definitely some areas that just like service,” she said. “I want to be able to share that with the community here, because knowing Belmont and knowing people here, all of us have this passion here. It’s something I love about Belmont so far.”