Building for better days: Appalachian Service Project back at BMS

Joe Gibbs Racing Erik Jones works with Appalachian Service Project volunteers on the Bristol Motor Speedway campus. (E. Jones / Facebook)

For nearly 50 years the Appalachia Service Project has been building and repairing homes for families in need in our region.

This weekend they put college students with construction skills at Bristol Motor Speedway for a race of a different kind.

When the green flag drops on the racetrack, it's full speed ahead but there's another green flag waving at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend for the Appalachia Service Project's Race to Build.

Abraham McIntyre, Appalachia Service Project

"Iowa State, Auburn, and Middle Tennessee State University, all three racing to building three homes for three families here in central Appalachia," said project spokesperson Abraham McIntyre.

Nathan Pals is from Iowa State winners of last year's event.

"This is a humbling experience for all three of these schools, and just being able to use the skills and experience that you have to be able to give back to people that can't help themselves," Pals said.

He says organization and communication brought his team to victory lane feeding off the energy and excitement of the NASCAR races nearby.

"We have four leaders selected to do certain tasks, and then everyone just kind of fills in where they feel like they're going to do their best so, no one stands around, whenever someone's bored they'll just jump in wherever they see themselves fit," said Pals.

Heather Brown is the director of the School of Concrete and Construction Management at Middle Tennessee State University. It's the first time her students have been a part of the race to Build at Bristol.

"This is our first time being invited. Iowa State obviously being the defending champion, they're happy to have a home state school, and we do get involved with Habitat for Humanity, a similar organization in middle Tennessee," said Brown.

She says the best part comes from stepping back and realizing how building a home can change lives.

"Being able to see a homeowner realize their dream, and us be a part of that...that's really why people get into construction. These kids grew up loving to build, loving to see the end product of their work," she said.

Beyond this event, the Appalachia Service Project gets involved in other ways.

"We have a program called New Build Appalachia, and that's new homes, replacement homes for families that are living in substandard housing, that are really in a home that they shouldn't be living in, so we can actually replace that home. We've got about 10 of those projects going on through the year," said McIntyre.

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