Operation Compassion Makes A Difference In Appalachia

By , February 11, 2002
People waiting outside for Appalachia Dream Center Hot Meal Program to open.

People waiting outside for Appalachia Dream Center Hot Meal Program to open.

The purpose of Operation Compassion starting a Dream Center in the poverty stricken area of Appalachia was to make a difference in the lives of senior adults, single parents, children and the homeless. Less than one year after the dedication of the Appalachia Dream Center, it can be said that a difference is bring made. During past ten months, Appalachia Dream Center, under the direction of Michael C. Hartwell, has made a definite impact upon the people of rural West Virginia.

People waiting in line inside the Dream Center to be served their hot meal.

People waiting in line inside the Dream Center to be served their hot meal.

Much as been written about the flood that hit the area hard last July. Appalachia Dream Center was first to respond even before the state government! The tireless efforts of Michael Hartwell and his staff, mostly volunteers, made the difference in the survival of a number of families and the restoration of their homes.

Articles have been written heralding the Merry Christmas Appalachia program the past year. Over 2,500 families were impacted by the Dream Center in just a couple of days. Many families were blessed that would have been without any gifts for Christmas.

A father and his baby waiting to receive their hot meal.

A father and his baby waiting to receive their hot meal.

However, the program that has had the greatest impact on the region is the hot meals. For the last several months, Appalachia Dream Center has been producing and serving more than 700 meals each week. Most of these meals, each week, are going to feed children hot breakfast before school and a hot dinner before going home in the afternoon and senior adults that are able to come to the Center. A large number of these meals are delivered to the homes of senior adults that are shut-in or unable to come to the Center and delivered to homeless individuals sleeping under bridges or vacant buildings. In some instances, these homeless are families with children sleeping anywhere they can night after night.

Three volunteer workers serving hot meals.

Three volunteer workers serving hot meals.

The cafeteria located in the Appalachia Dream Center can accommodate approximately 500 people seated at one time. There is plenty of room for people to come and relax as they are served their meal from one of ten volunteers. Each day, at least ten volunteers show at the Dream Center to prepare all the meals for the day. Then those same volunteers begin to serve everyone that comes to the Center that day. Michael Hartwell stated, “The volunteers are the backbone of our operation. Without them, there is no way I could do all the work it takes.” Hartwell continued, “The dedication of my people goes beyond wanting to help; these volunteers are here because they love each senior or children that comes in the door.”

Michael Hartwell, Coordinator of Appalachia Dream Center (center) with four volunteer workers ready to unload truck full of food for Hot Meal Program.

Currently, the volunteer staff is comprised of senior adults and church members from the local church – Verdunville Church of God. However, recently the Appalachia Dream Center was awarded a Community State Worker, paid by the state of West Virginia, to help alongside the volunteers. The possibility also exists for the center to receive more help from community state workers as it grows in volume of service rendered to the community.

Operation Compassion started with a dream of building a center of hope and help for a region of the U.S. that was sinking in poverty – Appalachia. With a heart to help the hurting of this world, John D. Nichols, President of Operation Compassion, put into motion a plan to initiate what is now known as Appalachia Dream Center. David Lorency, International Field Director of Operation Compassion, developed the logistical components and organized the opening operation of the Center and Michael Hartwell serves as the Coordinator of daily operations. Because the efforts of these men and countless volunteers, it can be said that Appalachia Dream Center is making a difference!

Tim Burdashaw
Communications Coordinator

John D. Nichols, President
Operation Compassion

Anyone interested in donating finances or products or providing a corporate lead may contact:

Operation Compassion
David Lorency, International Field Director

114 Stuart Road, NE
Suite 370
Cleveland, TN 37312
423.728.3932 – Office
423.596.4200 – Fax


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