Tucked between two Appalachian foothills in West Virginia is a place unlike all others. It stretches over 125 acres of beautiful, rural property, and its buildings are simple yet prominent. As the gravel road unfolds before it, a white barn announces its name, Nazareth Farm, an association of the Roman Catholic Church, located in the Diocese of Wheeling/Charleston, formed in response to and rooted in the Gospel and Social Teachings of the Church. It is a place where high school and college volunteers and a permanent staff of nine people experience a life based on four cornerstones: prayer, service, community, and simplicity.
Since its inception on June 24, 1979, Nazareth Farm has grown into an organization that has become an important part of the Doddridge County, West Virginia community. The hands of Farm volunteers have fixed hundreds of area homes that were previously in disrepair. In 1999 alone, approximately 700 volunteers have served over 30 families and individuals. Repairs range from leaky tin roofs being patched, walls receiving a facelift of new paint, cold homes filling with heat after a new blanket of insulation was installed, and shaky entranceways becoming stable thanks to a new porch being built.
Not only does the Farm believe in repairing homes, but also in touching lives. Therefore, volunteers are encouraged to make a special effort to spend a part of the workday talking with the individual or family. Likewise, the owners are encouraged to lend a hand if they are able. Many of the people in Doddridge County are elderly and deeply appreciate the company that the volunteers from the Farm provide for them, sometimes even more than they appreciate the repairs to their homes. Each of the families and many other residents of Doddridge County are invited to the Farm for Community Night as well. Meeting the people in the area is important for volunteers, and they enjoy the Tuesday evening dinner and gathering with the community members just as much as the resident enjoy meeting them and sharing a meal and prayer time with the Farm.
Simplicity is an important aspect of life at the Farm, and it has many implications for daily life. Volunteers are asked to leave behind radios, televisions, hair dryers, and many other conveniences that are often taken for granted. These things, when removed from their lives, provide quality time for conversations with others and with God. As part of a simply lifestyle, yearlong staff members live on a stipend of $100/month. While it is a challenge, it emphasizes the simplicity that is embodied by the staff at the Farm and forces them to rely on each other for entertainment and to live their lives with only the things they need, and not necessarily the things they want.
Nazareth Farm seeks to rebuild broken homes and to build lasting friendships in the community. After twenty years, the Farm has made a positive impact in the area it serves as well as the lives of thousands of volunteers. The work at the Farm will continue as long as it is needed.