COAP's History
What COAP Is & Does
How COAP Works
COAP Personnel
Directions to COAP
Contact Information

COAP's History

COAP - Christian Outreach with Appalachian People, Inc. - has its roots in a 1977 grass roots interdenominational relief effort, which responded to a devastating flood that caused over $100 million in damages to Harlan County, KY homes. After the area cleanup and relocation of families, it was realized that there was an acute need for long-term, sustainable housing of good
quality for residents throughout the county, many of whom were living in remnants of company coal towns, inside crumbling thirty to fifty year-old houses. In 1980, a Mennonite volunteer, Marlin Yoder, helped to create Christian Family Housing Services (CFHS), which sought to help low-income families with such needs, which in turn led to the formation of COAP in March of 1983. COAP, an independent, non-profit corporation, replaced and subsequently further developed the work of CFHS starting in January 1984.

What COAP Does & Is

COAP's mission is 'to help provide safe, warm, and dry housing with low and very-low income residents of Harlan County;' we do this through the construction of new homes, and the rehabilitation and/or repair of existing ones. COAP is not operated nor owned
by a family, a religious group, or an individual.  We are a non-profit organization, with a board of directors, six staff members, and nine full-time carpenters.  COAP employs a director, a home loan fund manager, a program manager, two housing counselors, a construction manager, and an assistant construction manager.  There are also seasonal staff as well.  We host volunteers, both individuals and workcamp groups, who help in all phases of home rehabilitation and construction, save for foundation laying, plumbing, and advanced electrical work.  COAP also hosts volunteers of all types, including youth, adults, seniors, Christians, non-Christians, churches, colleges, high schools, and fraternal organizations, and serve all kinds of people as well.

How COAP Works

Although there is a long waiting list for work, no advertising nor door-to-door canvas-sing is done; neither are there inspection tours of the area for dilapidated houses.  Most clients hear about COAP through word-of-mouth, based on projects which are done throughout the county, while some read about the organization through occasional newspaper articles.

Families essentially buy new houses from COAP, which designs and builds them, with money loaned to the families from our home loan fund and/or financial institutions, such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Agriculture's Rural Development (RD), or the Bank of Harlan, often with COAP being a pass-through agent.  Through the home loan fund, which is comprised of volunteer fees, loan repayments, and some pass-through money, families are able to receive 0% and 1% interest loans on selected projects.  Rehabilitation work, which is done on clients' already-owned houses, can be financed through RD and/or through COAP's revolving home loan fund.  New houses cost clients in total about $50,000, while rehabilitation projects range between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars.  Monthly payments typically range from $150 to $300 for new homes, and can be as low as $20 for rehab jobs.

Because COAP is driven by an ever-increasing waiting list for housing assistance, we utilize many different support sources, from both the public and private sectors, in order to serve more families.  In the first nine months of calendar year 2001, COAP's support breakdown is as follows:

    Private - 56% (Volunteer Program:  36%, Local Banks and Other:  20%)
    Public  - 44% (Farmer's Home Administration (RD), HUD, Commonwealth of Kentucky)

COAP can not rely entirely on local sources of charitable donations (any donations which are made to COAP are tax deductible, and annual audited financial statements are available by request) to fund itself, as this type of support has been very limited.  This has ostensibly been due to the near lack of a middle class of local residents and the high proportion of absentee property owners in Harlan County.

Regardless of financing, an applicant must qualify on several levels to be eligible for help from COAP.  S/he must have clear title to the land or structure where the work will be done, must have reasonably good
credit, and must have verifiable sources of income, which, along, with the income of the applicant's entire household, must fall within certain limits.  If there are unresolvable problems with any of these, COAP may not be able to help that particular applicant.  Once a client has been cleared for a project, the said house is built or repaired, depending on the availability of workers; the client signs a mortgage and/or promissory note, and begins making monthly payments; and moves in.  The entire process of receiving a new house, from pre-application to move-in, can take several months, while a rehab project may take much less time.

COAP's continuing assistance throughout the housing process includes credit and loan counseling, in addition to hosting meetings between clients and financial institution representatives, processing related paperwork, inspecting and purchansing property, ordering and delivering materials, building or rehabilitating the home, and the overall coordination of the contruction project with surveyors, carpenters, sub-contractors, electricians, plumbers, volunteer labor, and all inspections, codes and regulations.

Because of the timeline involved in building and rehabilitating houses, volunteer groups are assigned on a rolling basis to a particular project by COAP's construction coordinator, who attempts to match the skill level and number of volunteers with both the right job and the right carpenter(s).  All of COAP's carpenters, many of whom have both been with the organization for several years, and all of whom are Harlan County natives, are responsible for directing, supervising, and teaching the volunteers, and for insuring that construction is done correctly and is of high quality.

Through volunteer labor, COAP is able to substantially reduce the cost of each work project, saving clients money, enabling us to do more work and thus serve more people.  Volunteer labor hours are also used to match federal and state dollars, thus bringing more federal money into the organization, which allows COAP to serve more people.  Part of the volunteer fee which each workcamper pays goes into COAP's revolving home loan fund, which allows the organization to make very low-interest supplemental or primary loans to clients.  Volunteers also provide several intangible, but very important things:  friendships with local families, long-term relationships with carpenters, new and different ideas brought into town, and the work, which becomes a visible witness of people's willingness to serve and love.  COAP's volunteers mean a great deal to us; without their faithfulness and hard work, COAP would fall short of our mission.

The entire housing process at COAP, although an involved, detailed one, has worked well, due in part to constant re-evaluation and tuning.  The onus of responsibility, both in the application process and in buying a home, falls onto the client, and although not every client is up to this, it benefits and rewards those who follow through.  The things which perhaps most middle-class people take for granted, such as building equity through mortgage payments, and creating and establishing good credit, are concepts which are new to many of COAP's clients, in part due to the company towns, stores, and related history, culture, and laws of the Harlan County area, which have fostered a climate of indebtedness.  It is a vital part of COAP's mission that we enable our clients and families to understand the implication of long-term debt and to provide them an opportunity to share in the 'American Dream' of home ownership and equity.

COAP Personnel

James Robert Day
Birth: April 27, 1938    Harlan, KY
Death: March 28, 2000   Harlan, KY

It is with profound sorrow that COAP lets you know that James R. Day, one of
our long-time carpenters, passed away after being hit by a car.

James was on his way back to the COAP office after a day of building a new
house with volunteers, when a very strong wind gust blew a ladder off a truck
in front of him.  (There had been winds of 40 mph that day.)  James stopped
his vehicle, and went out to get the ladder, which was in the passing lane of
the road.  Although there were many cars which stopped, one driver apparently
didn't see what had happened, and, while passing the other cars, struck
James, who died soon after arriving at the hospital.

James was a humorous, kind, quiet, intelligent, insightful, and God-fearing
man, whose patience and easy-going nature often were the keys in making some
volunteer's week a joy.  We already miss him dearly.  If anyone has any
pictures of James, we are compiling a scrapbook for both his family and our
organization.  Please send them to us at the address listed elsewhere on this
site.  Thank you.

The poems that follow are drawn from James' first volume of poetry, yet
available by sending $10.00 to COAP.  A second volume is now available,
also for $10.00.


Peace is fleeting and accomplishments are rare if measured in terms of
temporal mortality, but occasional gratitude can be sufficient if tempered by
love and permanent hope.

A Poor Man's Reward

His years were long upon the land;
He grasped each day with calloused hand,
Knowing that his lot was to provide.
To protect his children and his wife,
He would gladly spend his life,
Laying all his pains and problems to the side.

His body was scarred and the wrinkles came,
Still, he owned little but his name;
Through all life thrust upon him, that stayed clean.
No one could stand and honestly say
That he had lived in any way
To betray his pride and integrity, which all had seen.

Strong faith in God had helped him cope,
And his life was never without hope
Until that certain day that we all dread.
He was missed and mourned by family and friends,
But all things here must have their ends;
Now his soul lives on, even though his body is dead.

It seems that a lesson could be learned
From one poor man whose faith has earned
A place to live forever in joy and peace.
Through all his life, through trials and sorrows,
Keep faith in God and hope for tomorrow,
Then certain reward will come and misery cease.

The Volunteers (C.O.A.P.)

You come as children, mild and meek,
With a sacrifice of one full week;
To present yourselves for manual labor,
Desiring to help an unfortunate neighbor.

Equipped with zest and determination,
Overriding your fears in a strange location.
Sunscreen and shorts and brown bag lunch,
Of peanut butter, orange juice, and tropical punch.

You swarm over roofs like busy bees,
Your confidence grows, your anxiety flees.
Adjusted to surroundings by noon, mid-week,
You explore through the trees and mountain peaks.

Questions to ask and pictures to take,
So much to accomplish in the time awake,
The week too short to take it all in,
And you may never pass this way again.

For some, too soon does the time disappear.
You have made new friends in a short time here.
As learning rules ignorance and light rules dark,
Your presence has left an indelible mark.

2001 COAP Staff

Front Row:  Doug Thompson, Carpenter; Audrey Farrow, Housing Counselor/AmeriCorps; former volunteer; Elmer 'Boone' Stevens, Carpenter; Charles Slaven, Construction Manager; Donna Noe, Program Manager; Charlotte Saylor, Housing Counselor.
Middle Row:  Tim Casteel, Carpenter; Tonya Farley, Home Loan Fund Manager; Jack Farley, Carpenter;
Back Row:  Terry Whitehead, Assistant Construction Manager; former volunteer; former volunteer; Steve Ledford, Carpenter; Mike Spegal, Carpenter; John Risner, Carpenter; Frank Stoffle, Director.
Not Pictured:  Charlie Epperson and Johnny Joseph, Carpenters.

Directions to COAP

From points west and north:
Take I-75 South to the first Corbin, KY exit (Route 25 E South).  Take 25 E South until reaching the south side of Pineville.  Turn left onto Route 119 North.  Follow 119 North until it "T's" into Route 421.  Turn right on Route 421 and proceed through the two traffic lights.  The road will then go though a rock cut and over a river; take the immediate next left.  Go to the end of the street, and COAP is on the left.

From points west and south:
Take 25 E North through the Cumberland Gap, from Tennessee into Kentucky.  Stay on the road through Middlesboro, KY, and watch for a right-hand turn onto Route 119 North, before Pineville.  Follow the above directions to COAP.

From points east:
Take Route 421 into Kentucky.  Follow Route 421 all the way into Harlan - watch the curves and the construction!  Proceed until a giant 25' muffler is visible on the right hand side of the road, on top of two poles.  Take the last right-hand turn after this.  Go to the end of the street, and COAP is on the left.

Contact Information

COAP, Inc.
PO Box 1617
Harlan, KY
(606) 573-9853 - phone
(606) 573-7347 - fax

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