Campbellsville University social work students, faculty travel to Harlan County, Ky. area for education and ministry

Dec. 14, 2016
For Immediate Release

social work students

By Kasey Ricketts, student news writer

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – A group of Campbellsville University social work students and faculty recently traveled to several communities in Harlan County, Ky. to learn and serve Nov. 15-19.

The group stayed in Lynch in a renovated house that is part of Meridzo Ministries founded and operated by Lonnie and Belinda Riley who also have several additional ministries in the area.

This is the third-year Carver School of Social Work and Counseling students have traveled to Harlan County the week before Thanksgiving. The big event is a community Thanksgiving dinner on Friday evening. This is sponsored by the United for Jesus Ministry that is housed in an old school in Cumberland that is used to house groups who come to serve in the area. The Carver School group stayed there the first year they served.
All day Friday was spent preparing a full Thanksgiving dinner open for anyone in the surrounding area to come and eat. Over 300 meals were served that included those who came Friday evening to eat at the school, take out boxes that were distributed and then leftovers on Saturday.
United for Jesus, which was founded by Henry and Teresa Hughes, also received a large tractor trailer that was loaded with items for a community give away that took place on Saturday morning.

The students helped with the unloading and arranging of the items in the large gym and then helped with the distribution on Saturday morning. Groups of about 25 can come into the gym, and they have 15 minutes to select the items they wish to take with them. Many come very early to be first in line to enter the gym.

“We helped unload the truck that was full of everything you can imagine and brought it inside to the gym. The gym floor was covered in different items for the community to come in and take,” Trey Tefft, a senior social work student from Elizabethtown, Ky., reported. The gym was filled with items such as furniture, toys, clothes, shoes and other household items.

TOMS, a well-known shoe company, had donated a large pile of shoes for the giveaway.

“One of the cool things that happened here was that there was a piano for someone to take and I thought ‘who would want one of these?’ Then the next thing I knew it is getting taken away. There was a grandfather who came in and said his grandson had wanted to learn to play, and God had brought them this gift,” DeJa Young, a senior social work student from Louisville, Ky., said.

“So many in these communities are so trusting and strong in their faith,” Tefft said.  “It honestly made me come to realize maybe I don’t trust faith enough. They pray and ask God for something and trust it’ll happen – but then it actually does happen, like with the piano story.”

The students also spent one day working in a coat giveaway through Freedom Ministries run by George and Robin Lewis which is also part of Meridzo Ministries.
“The coat giveaway was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip,” Chesney Lancaster, a junior social work student from Clarksville, Tenn., said.

“I realized when I go shopping for something, like a new coat, I’m concerned with the look and style. The people who came, however, walk up and just want something that will fit them. They just walked away happy knowing they now had a coat.”

“A lot of the time people think social workers are there to just give, give, give, but we hope we are doing more than just giving, that we are empowering these individuals as well,” Kelly Joplin, assistant professor of social work, said.

While in the area, the students also traveled to different parts of the county to better understand the history and culture of the area. They experienced the coal mining industry of the past by actually going into a mine that is a tourist attraction in Lynch.

They also learned more of the history of the county by spending part of a day at the Pine Mountain Settlement School. And they learned of some of the challenges of the county by visiting a treatment facility for women and going to the highest point in Kentucky to view mountains left bare through mountain top removal mining.

The Carver School students and faculty are no strangers to traveling. Most recently, a group of 30 spent 11 days in New Mexico on the Navajo reservation doing construction work and working in the community with some of the children.

“Sometimes it is hard to get community members to trust us. They are used to having people just come and go.  I don’t know how to fix everything, but I want to do my best to help as much as I can, and I hope they understand that,” Paige Pickerl, a senior social work student from Wheaton, Ill., said.
For more information about the Campbellsville University Carver School of Social Work contact Dr. Helen Mudd, Dean of the Carver School at hkmudd@campbellsville.edu or (270) 789-5045 or Debbie Carter at dwcarter@campbellsville.edu or (270) 849-7234.

Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university with more than 4,500 students offering over 80 programs of study including 19 master’s degrees, six postgraduate areas and seven pre-professional programs.  The university has off-campus centers in Louisville, Harrodsburg, Somerset and Hodgenville with instructional sites in Elizabethtown, Owensboro, and Summersville and a full complement of online programs.  The website for complete information is campbellsville.edu.