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I Want To Volunteer

Thirteen days before his 62nd birthday, Jay G. Dresser, a high-ranking officer, former  airport engineer for the Jackson Port Authority in Jacksonville, Florida, former managing director of the Glynn County Airport in Brunswick, Georgia, and then the owner of a mom-and-pop store in Clayton, Georgia, closed the door to the store and stepped into a new life.

“The Lord has richly blessed me and my wife, not necessarily financially, but with a good life together,” says Dresser, a short-term crew leader in home repair for the past 15 years with the Christian Appalachian Project (CAP). It is his 53rd year of marriage.

“A few years ago, I was working on a construction roof-over and window installation for a young mother,” he recalls. “I would watch the school bus go by, but the children never got off in front of their house. They chose to walk quite a distance. I realized they were ashamed of their home. The next week, the trailer had all new siding, a new roof, and new windows. It looked like new. The children got out of the bus in front of their house. I knew they were now proud of where they lived. It changed their outlook on life. To me that is what it is all about. Helping others is what the Lord has called me to do.”

Dresser often works with some of the 400-500 college students from all over the country who come to Appalachia as volunteers for CAP. Most come during their spring break from college in March, choosing what has come to be known as an alternative spring break over the traditional week at a beach.

“These are the ones who get it,” Dresser says of the students. “They have chosen to do something important.”

Dresser feels likewise about his role.

“I get to see outlooks change, to see people have hope that things will be better. It is my calling.”

If you want to become a volunteer like Dresser, expect to go through a selection process.

“Our volunteer program is a big part of our mission,” says Guy Adams, CAP president. “We have staff who do nothing but recruit volunteers, and we’re much like a selective college. We have a series of interviews and get references. We know our volunteers very well before they come. They are going to live and work together for at least a year. They have to buy into the culture and be comfortable living in the community.”

Once chosen, the volunteers are a critical part of the Christian Appalachian Project.

“They bring a vitality and idealism that helps us stay enthused and focused on all we can do and how well we can do it,” Adams says. “They play a bigger role than volunteers play in most organizations.”

To find out more about the volunteer program, e-mail the Christian Appalachian Project at or call (606) 256-0973.

Read the Kentucky Living September 2014 feature that goes along with this Web exclusive, Bringing Help and Hope.

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