Featured Charity: Christian Appalachian Project (CAP)

This interdenominational non-profit organization is dedicated to assisting the most at-risk, under-resourced populations in Appalachia.  Currently hosting its annual WorkFest® and YouthFest® programs, while providing disaster relief to March 2nd tornado victims, see how your support can help Christian Appalachian Project achieve its mission.

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What does your organization do?

Christian Appalachian Project (CAP) is a faith-based service organization dedicated to assisting the most at-risk, under-resourced populations in Appalachia by easing hardships today and developing vibrant leadership for tomorrow.

What makes CAP unique?

  • Its “high-impact” operational scale: It is the largest charity in the nation solely focused on serving people in need in Appalachia. Its Operation Sharing® program alone accounts for the distribution of corporation donations of food and household supplies, valued at over $100 million to distressed communities throughout Appalachia- improving the lives of over 1.5 million each year.
  • Its personal and holistic approach to social service: It simultaneously operates 22 individual outreach services including, housing repair, disaster relief and programs geared for all ages from pre-school to seniors (including individuals with disabilities and learning disabilities.) This allows staff to take a comprehensive look at individual and family challenges and needs, while working seamlessly from a united front.

Where is your organization located?

Although CAP’s headquarters and home has always been Eastern Kentucky, the organization operates throughout the 13-state Appalachian Mountain “corridor”, which stretches from New York to Mississippi.  CAP’s service area also includes Arkansas and Missouri from the Ozark Mountain region.

Eastern Kentucky, CAP’s primary geographic target, has the distinction of being home to 12 of the poorest 25 counties in the U.S., as measured by median household income.   Most of the region has known nothing but poverty for decades, which is why it is so frequently referred to as generational poverty. 

How have you responded to the economic crisis?


The economy has caused a tremendous increase in demand for CAP services, including our food pantry, outreach services and emergency assistance.  Through Operation Sharing®, we have increased our efforts asking for more targeted goods and this has helped us meet the rising demands without any significant increase in costs.

Another way CAP is helping is through the Appalachian Home Catalog, which was developed as an economic development program to promote job creation and business growth through partnerships with select local craftsmen and artisans.  Through this venture we hope to help local businesses grow and stimulate the economy for the Appalachian region.

Is there a time during the year when you need more help than usual?

While CAP’s 22 programs operate 12 months a year, there are two seasons where our impact kicks into high gear: 

  • Each March-April, CAP’s WorkFest® and YouthFest® programs involve teams of college students and younger youth during spring break for our housing repair “blitz”.  During this period each spring, CAP employs over 80 work-teams totaling more than 1,000 volunteers through these programs: http://www.christianapp.org/2012/02/workfest/
  • The Christmas holidays are also very busy because of CAP’s longstanding tradition of gift-sharing for families in economic distress. Through its Family Advocacy program, CAP finds “Christmas Basket” sponsors for over 900 families, culminating in a Christmas gift-giving celebration in a local community center or church.

Winter and spring also tend to be the most challenging times of the year for those who utilize our services, because of higher utility costs and the increased threat of natural disasters (flooding, tornadoes, and winter storms).

How can I help?

Like most charities, financial gifts are the most important means by which individuals can contribute.  On top of its regular human service programs, CAP must also be poised for impending emergencies.  Earlier this month, Eastern Kentucky was struck by several severe tornadoes—at least one being a category F-3.  19 people lost their lives.  CAP immediately mobilized its Disaster Relief services, enlisting between 150-175 volunteers each day since the storm devastation, to offer relief and clean-up services for victims. The cost of outfitting volunteers with protective clothing, replacing consumable supplies, emergency tools and equipment has been enormous.  The rebuilding process will be even more costly.

How can my company help?

Many companies have donated cash and supplies to aid in CAP’s current Disaster Relief services for Eastern Kentucky’s tornado outbreak on March 2, 2012.  Others have sent volunteers to assist in sorting donated clothing and loading delivery trucks.  A company of any size can therefore become involved through donations of cash, non-cash items or by volunteering. In addition, as a Human Services organization, with the assistance of any company, CAP can continue to educate the public about the struggles and solutions of poverty in the most impoverished area of our country.

Over the past year and a half, Texas Roadhouse has sent two employee teams from their corporate headquarters in Louisville to upgrade a child development center in McCreary County, KY and a summer camp facility near Prestonsburg, KY.  The result was inspirational and life-changing for both of our program participants as well as the volunteers involved. 

What kind of impact will my donation have?

CAP’s cost of fundraising is one of the lowest among all charities, at 6%.  Over 90¢ out of every donated dollar goes directly to benefit program participants.  CAP seeks to leverage every dollar donated.  It accomplishes this by operating primary services out of program-hubs, from which services can radiate into multiple adjacent counties.  By housing multiple programs together CAP is able to conserve its shared space, personnel, equipment and vehicles. 

Furthermore, providing holistic services works best when the various programs arms can interact closely from a united front.  Allowing volunteers to participate directly in human service programming is another way to conserve while also enabling CAP to expand its service outreach.

CAP has helped untold numbers become taxpayers instead of recipients of public assistance. This has happened because of our self-help focus. For example,  one individual we assisted more than 20 years ago had a husband who became permanently disabled. We enrolled her children in one of CAP’s child and family development centers and we assisted her in completing her GED.  With additional education and training, she has served as a teacher in one of CAP’s child and family development centers for more than 12 years.

What do you wish more people knew about your organization?

  • CAP’s mission is funded primarily through individual gifts and not government support.  Less than 5% of our budget comes from federal or state agencies.
  • CAP is NOT a Catholic organization!  While started by a Catholic priest, it has always remained a truly interdenominational organization, never requiring faith allegiance as a condition of receiving assistance.

What makes your organization successful?

CAP is successful because it is a mission-driven organization with passionate individuals, both staff and volunteers, who are committed to serving people in need in Appalachia.  Our advice to other charities would be to stay focused on your mission and to find individuals who share a passion for that same mission and will put it into action.

Do you have any current or upcoming events?

Each spring CAP celebrates four weeks of WorkFest® followed by a month of YouthFest®.  Both are alternative spring break community service programs and attract close to 1,000 students—from high schools, colleges and churches—who participate in rehabbing the homes of Appalachian families, elderly individuals and folks with physical challenges.

Want to learn more about Christian Appalachian Project?

Web Site: www.christianapp.org

Phone:  (859) 269-0635

Mailing Address:  CAP-Development Office, PO BOX 55911, Lexington, KY 40555-5911

CFC#: 32231

E-mail: mstratford@chrisapp.org


Connect with Christian Appalachian Project on:

Higher Achievement Facebook www.facebook.com/ChrisAppProj



CAP Volunteer Video: http://christianapp.org/vol/2009/08/volunteer-with-cap/

Economic Development Merchant Catalog: http://www.appalachianhome.org/