Posted by Ray Bastarache on Jul 17, 2017
Several years ago, Lynn Rotarian and local lawyer Harvey Rowe Jr., the President of Panakio Adjusters, was looking for a way to provide service to the less fortunate. For many years, Rowe, the longtime chairman of the Board for My Brother’s Table Soup Kitchen in Lynn, had traveled to places like Quito, Ecuador, and Juarez, Mexico, to work for Habitat for Humanity and once accompanied a youth group on a service trip to Pittsburg. He had read in his church bulletin about a mission trip to Appalachia to work with poor white Americans living in the hills of West Virginia and Kentucky. “I wanted to help these people,”said Rowe, “but I also wanted to understand what happens in the lives of the poor and the psychological impact that spiritual and material poverty has on their children.” So when Rowe returned from first journey to eastern Kentucky in 201, he was determined to actively recruit his fellow Rotarians and friends to join with him in this worthwhile mission. Rowe first approached his friend, Ray Bastarache, past President of the Lynn Rotary Club, to jump on board four years ago and since Rotary Satellite Club members, Bill Reilly and Mike Clancy, have eagerly joined the group. Sally Chapman of Lynn has also made the service trip to Appalachia.
“I had read somewhere that working-class whites are the most pessimistic group in America, more pessimistic than Latino and African Americans,” said Bastarache, a retired Lynn educator and past Head of School at St. Mary's. “When you've received the number of blessings I have in my life, I just saw this as a great opportunity to man-up and try to do some good for humanity. The work is challenging, no question about it, but the reward is great.”

“For me,” added Reilly, a former executive with Liberty Mutual now retired,” it was pretty apparent the first year I came to the region. Manufacturing jobs have basically gone overseas and middle-class jobs are harder to find, especially for young men and women with minimum education. I have seen first hand the impact on in the lives of real people when the industrial economy goes south.” The group left last Saturday from Newton, MA. and drove straight through to Louisa, Kentucky. The ride took just over 14 hours. The Lynn contingent worked on a home in the hills of Blaine, Ky., that required the demolishing of the living room subfloor, patch work in the kitchen and wash room floors, weather stripping around the front door and replacing a window. Clancy, Bastarache and Rowe also dug a trench in front of the home where water settles as the home sits midway off a deep slope. Whereas there is no foundation to the home, floor joists were only 10 inches above the ground so water just seeps under the flooring and rots the wood. Despite high humidity and average temperatures in the 90s, most of the work on the floor was complete as well as the new window installed and floor patching by departure time on Friday. Another volunteer group from some other state will report on Monday and likely be deployed to the same site to finish the job as best it can. Joining the Boston group ere youth organizations from New Orleans, Louisiana; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Lexington, Kentucky.

“Whenever I come down here to Appalachia,” said Clancy, a father of five children who works as a consultant for IBM and travels extensively across America as well as overseas, “I am reminded that wherever I fell on the American socioeconomic ladder as a child, others occupy a much lower rungs. Children of Appalachia cannot depend on the generosity of grandparents for Christmas gifts and parents who rely on criminal conduct to get what their family needs to eat or for shelter. The scarcity that exists here has open my eyes to the to plenty in my one life.”