In 2011, Marihelen was on disability and felt a sense of hopelessness because she knew her home needed repair work but didn’t see a way to get those repairs done. She knew that not doing them would cause additional issues and cost even more down the road, but what could she do? A friend mentioned a program through Jefferson City based Appalachian Outreach that brings teams in to work on homes free of charge. Marihelen was a bit skeptical, but decided to apply after encouragement from her friend. After a home visit, her project was approved as one of the repair projects for 2012! On the day of service, she recalls it was a “whirlwind of activity” but also a “sense of peace” that her home wasn’t going to fall down around her. She ended the week with renewed hope, friends and memories. “I was overwhelmed with gratitude that someone would help a stranger,” she said.
After that week, life continued with its ups and downs, but Marihelen was making it. However, over time she realized something was missing. She felt the need to give back and contacted local shelters to see if she could volunteer. In 2015, she ended up connecting with Samaritan House, a shelter for women and children owned and operated by Appalachian Outreach. Not making the connection at first, she realized when she drove up, this was owned by the same organization that helped her several years before.
After volunteering for a time and learning more about the organization, Marihelen applied for the AmeriCorps position offered in housing services. She now assists clients with the application process for the exact same home repair program that helped her seven years ago. She says she has come “full circle” and knows this is her passion. To those that volunteer, she says, “You may come in and spend a few days, work hard, sweat, and then go home. You may think about the homeowners and the work you did for a little while and you may even wonder if you made a difference. Let me assure you: yes, you made a difference and the seed has been planted.”
Story adapted from "Full Circle" by Marihelen Ballard.
Marihelen is currently serving her second part-time term as an Appalchia CARES AmeriCorps member with Appalachian Outreach. From March 10-16, the nation is celebrating AmeriCorps Week. Find more #MadeInAmeriCorps stories on social media.