By: Rose Rucoba – Staff Writer
Thursday, Oct. 8
9:00 a.m.: Today I woke up with that feeling you get right before you go on an adventure. Some may not think of a service trip as their idea of an adventure, but it is for me. Service and volunteer work is one of my passions, and I had not gone on a service trip in four years—so I felt like I was returning home in a way.
Unlike previous service trips, however, I had no idea what to expect from this trip. I first found out about the Buckhorn trip on the UD website. I knew I didn’t want to go home for fall break. I wanted something new and different.
The Buckhorn Children and Family Services trip caught my eye for two reasons. First, it was in Appalachian Kentucky, which I had visited before on a service trip and knew it was beautiful country out there. Second, the description included working with kids, which I find enjoyable and important.
At the trip info meeting, I learned that a UD grad named Jennifer Kuss worked at Buckhorn and had gotten in touch with the school to send a group of students down to help and do some sort of a painting job. I also learned I would be the only first-year student going, but other than that, I was going into the trip blind…which made it all the more adventurous.
I met the group at the van and once we were all gathered, we got acquainted. Shayna Niese, a senior, was our group leader. The others included sophomores Olivia Scott, Gabby Koebel, Carlos Rodriguez, Grace Barry, Allison Harmon and Allison Altomare; junior Mary Grace Brandt and senior Maria Finan.
We squeezed everything we had into the van and got on the road.
3:50 p.m.: We arrived at the town of Buckhorn and started to unpack and explore. The Buckhorn Children and Family Services facility consisted of a main office building with a cafeteria, a gym and rec area and house of boarding rooms.
The boarding house we stayed in was two floors of apartment-like rooms. There was a kitchen and common area with a TV and two bedrooms, both filled with beds and bathrooms.
We later found out that Buckhorn Children and Family Services provides psychiatric and counseling services for youth and families. The facility includes cabins in an area a few miles away, where teens can go and live for up to six months to get the support they need.
Upon arrival, the staff told us we were to paint the dormitories of one of the girls’ cabins during our time there, but that they weren’t expecting us so early and had no work prepared for us for the afternoon.
We unpacked and rested for a while, then decided to investigate the area.
4:30 p.m.: We hiked to a state park with a playground and lake park not far from Buckhorn. The trees were just starting to show their autumn colors and the air was crisp and cool. Later, we took a trail through the spectacular Appalachian Mountains.
I immediately fell back in love with the land.
Friday, Oct. 9
9:00 a.m.: We woke up to get to the cabin and start painting.
The cabin was small, but had about 10 rooms for the girls, a kitchen area, office, rec room and a beautiful view of the misty Appalachian Mountains.
A staff member named Brandon showed us around and helped us set up. He supervised us while we worked and made us all laugh with his Southern accent.
We were given all our supplies and worked in groups of two and three per room taping, painting and scraping spots of paint off the floors. We jammed to iPhone music playlists, talking and laughing.
5:00 p.m.: We made great progress on the painting and only needed to touch up the next morning. The staff provided lunch for us, but we were on our own for breakfast and dinner, so we stopped work for the day and went back to our room to start dinner.
11:00 p.m.: We all went to bed good and tired (and covered in paint).
Saturday, Oct. 10
10:00 a.m.: We all got to sleep in an hour before heading out to the cabin to finish painting. We brightened up the girls’ rooms with a fresh coat of white paint.
12:00 p.m.: There was a mad scramble to clean up as the girls came back to the cabin, but they were all very thankful for our work and invited us to eat lunch with them.
The UD grad, Jennifer Kuss, chatted with us, and, soon, it was apparent how passionate she and the other staff were about working with the girls.
Jennifer explained to us how she worked to counsel the girls one-on-one and how the program took girls from all over the state with various problems. ranging from physical abuse to substance abuse to behavioral problems.
She told us that the program wasn’t prefect and the job definitely wasn’t for everyone, but the girls grow to love the staff and they, in turn, grow to love the girls.
Jennifer also discussed planning another trip to Buckhorn for UD students in the spring. While the plans are not ready yet, she told us there is always work to be done and UD students are welcome anytime.
2:00 p.m.: We headed back to the main building to play basketball, volleyball and a killer game of kick ball with the girls.
All the girls were so thrilled just to have us there. They were open and trusting and and made us laugh. While we all felt like we could have done more during our stay, it was enough for all of us.
5:00 p.m.: We went back to the cabin to have dinner with the girls who lived there. We talked until the sun started to set.
11:00 p.m.: There was no doubt: This trip had made an impact on us. We went to bed, once again good and tired, but covered with a little less paint than the day before.
Sunday, Oct. 11
10:00 a.m.: A thick layer of fog rolled through the mountains as we loaded up the car. As we wound through the twisting roads, I knew we had helped those girls just by putting smiles on their faces.
While I was sad to leave the mountains behind, I knew I couldn’t stay and that Appalachia would call me back again.
Photo by Rose Rucoba.