Being, Learning, Serving: Floyd Voluntours

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This is the fourth year that SustainFloyd has hosted a group of spring-breaking students from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

Our name for the week is FLEX–the Floyd Experience. The sponsoring organization’s name is VOLUNTOURS, a function of         * Via International.

The student group is divided into three “teams.” Every day there is a “home team” in charge of setting up meals, taking care of livestock at Riverstone where they are housed this year and general housekeeping at the home base. The two other teams today spend their time at the Blue Ridge Chinese Medicine Clinic helping SustainFloyd Community Advisor and local farmer David Grimsley in the medicinal herb gardens; and the third group will be providing grounds and trail work at Smartview Picnic Area under the guidance of Blue Ridge Parkway staff.

Tomorrow night the group will be informed and entertained by Radford University’s Ricky Cox, who teaches in their Appalachian Studies program and is a well-known author, local historian, and Floyd-native musician-entertainer.

Thursday night, we’re hoping for good weather for a big bonfire dinner at the beautiful picnic spot at Riverstone on the banks of the Little River, where all will have the opportunity to share the stories of being, for a week, a member of our community.

Other daytime service involves Angels in the Attic, Seven Springs Farm, Jason Rutledge horse logging demonstration and discussion, and Spikenard Honey Bee Sanctuary.


*Via’s service-learning opportunities include Mexicali, Tecate, San Diego, New Mexico, Guatemala, Central Mexico, Sri Lanka–and Floyd Virginia.

Here’s what their website says about the experience students might expect in Floyd:

Hidden away with a backdrop of the beautiful Appalachian Mountains, Floyd Virginia is on to something unique and new. Experience a resilient community, complete with rich history and many expressions of sustainable local initiatives…

…what can a community do for itself? What is true self-reliance? You will be engaged with community members who are interested to share their experience and invite you into their community life.

This program has the potential benefit of touching participants with a deep sense of the authenticity and significance of the Appalachian Mountains and the people who live there. The real service comes in the breaking of old ideas and stereotypes about people from Appalachia. Additionally, there is a service rendered by better understanding the global effort to balance the needs of humanity with the needs of the Earth.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I’m just gaining an appreciation of your blog. Seems you do a bit of everything here, all laced with a deep appreciation of your community. I dropped in to view some video, and was captivated with the country dancing! I have very little time (always doing catch-up with my blog), but I will be back here again and again to view everything. Thanks, Fred!

  2. Very worthwhile effort on the part of the community and the school! I know you will participate, but how?