Category Archives: General

We LOVE our volunteers!

We really do love our volunteers. We would not be able to be in ministry without our volunteers! This weekend, at our George Bass Brick and Mortar Fund Dinner, we recognized several people who have been dedicated “Fishers of People”.

2017 Fisher of People

Volunteer of the Year – John McCarty

John has been a dedicated volunteer to Mountain T.O.P. since his first year as a YSM camper in 1996. He was then on summer staff in 1999, 2000 and 2002. He has since been a YSM adult camper and helped with construction specific training workshops since 2005. John continually helped during Friends Weekend and with special camp projects.

Fisher of People Hall of Fame Inductees

  • George Bass
  • Lorene Bass
  • Tony Brawner
  • Linda Coleback
  • Dan Jacobson
  • Dr. Sam Young

Thank you for your service and dedication to this ministry and the Mountain!

“All are Equal in the Eyes of God”

IMG_9709Along with recognition of our dedicated volunteers, we were privileged to hear Trish Holliday, daughter of our Founder and first Executive Director George Bass, speak about his vision for Mountain T.O.P.

At the event Trish said, “The cornerstone of his vision was to create a place where there were no second class citizens – a place were those who come to volunteer can experience renewal, growth, and hope – a place where those served realize they are valued and important and all are equal in the eyers of God. That place is right here in the heart of the Cumberland Mountains.”

Thank You!

With donations, pledges, silent auction, and live auction, we raised $5,381.21. Thank you to everyone who helped make the event a success!

Special thanks to those who contributed donations to our dinner and  silent auction:

  • The Dutch Maid Bakery
  • Mountain Goat Market
  • Fiber Farm
  • Pied Piper Creamery
  • Edley’s BBQ
  • Wick’s Pies
  • Bloomin’ Creations
  • Eric Dempsey
  • Mary Ann Cox
  • Fred and Dickie Kaserman
  • Mac Smith
  • David Freeman
  • Thomas Harness
  • Jan Lloyd-Gohl
  • Henry Nunley
  • Reed Bradford
  • Chad Dorton
  • Scott Dorton
  • Phil and Terry Mayhew
  • Glynn Simmons
  • Tony Brawner
  • Stephanie Carr
  • The Bass Family

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Made For This

Ephesians tells that because of God’s rich mercy, love, and grace he made us alive together with Christ. Take in that last part: made alive, together with Christ.

Made alive: what makes you feel the most alive?

That’s a rather weighty question. It’s one, at least for me, that requires a good deal of consideration. It may be my naturally deliberative nature that causes me to heed. But I also think it’s a question we don’t ask ourselves very often, if ever. What makes me feel most alive?

I venture to say that for Christians, our answer will settle somewhere around our relationship with Christ and serving him. I think that we feel most alive when we engage in loving service in a way that makes use of our gifts and passions. For example, right now, as I write this, I am getting more and more excited to share this post with you because I am confident that the Lord gave me an enthusiasm for words. My fingers are typing faster than normal—though that may be attributed to the quantity of tea that I’m drinking—and I am feeling more increasingly invested in this piece. I’m serving the Lord in the way he created me to serve. I feel… alive.

What is it that makes you feel alive?

What is it that completes your statement: “I was made for ______.”

For you it could be singing, or teaching. It could be roofing, or painting. Or shepherding, or cooking, or giving, inviting, consoling, hammering. Or any other of a thousand options. Maybe it has been difficult for you to identify what that thing you have to contribute. One aspect that I really admire about this ministry is that we’re a place for people to do just that. We’re a place for anyone involved to discover their unique place in God’s kingdom. We’re a place for people to take faithful steps and to make holy uncoverings. We’re a place for people to discover that thing that makes them feel alive and frees them to serve in the way they were created to serve. Have you had one of those moments on the Mountain?

This whole concept of a purpose-driven calling and a life-giving service is applicable to Mountain T.O.P. as a whole, too. We—the Mountain T.O.P. community—are indeed a united community of people serving together with Christ the way we were created to. The outcomes report you’re about to read tells this exact story. We started with a great founder, a visionary that knew what Mountain T.O.P. was made to do. And now, we stand on the shoulders of those who came before, carrying out that same mission. We’re still doing what we were created to do.

We’re still meeting the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs of the Cumberland Mountain people.

We’re still repairing homes, building resilience, and fostering community.

We’re still commissioning our volunteers to go and do likewise in the Valley.

This is what Mountain T.O.P. was made to do.

Naturally, we are continuously growing into our calling. We never stop learning how to serve more effectively. Even with over forty years of experience, we are still transforming from one degree of glory to another. We are leaning into the discernment of the Holy Spirit as we continue to take faithful steps and make holy uncoverings.

I ask you as you read this outcomes report to think about what you were made to do. What makes you alive? How can you contribute how you have been created to serve to Mountain T.O.P.’s mission?

By God’s rich mercy, love, and grace, we are doing this together with Christ, through Christ. And it makes us alive.

Rachael Osborn, Mountain T.O.P. Communication and Assessment Coordinator Americorp VISTA

Click here to read the 2016 End-Of-Year Outcomes Report.

Click here to give to the 2016 Giving Campaign.

By the grace of God, we have made a difference.

“If you don’t know where you are going, you won’t know the difference when you arrive some place else.”

This quote comes from some combined wisdom of Yogi Berra, Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, and our office’s Uninspirational Calendar.

We need a destination.

Without a destination, we have no direction.

Without a direction, we have no purpose.

Thankfully, Mountain T.O.P. has a purpose. We have visions and ideas; we have plans and outcomes. And, the best part: we finally have results!

Proverbs 16:9 says, “We can make our own plans, but the Lord establishes our steps.”

Mountain T.O.P. could draw up pages upon pages of plans. We could spend hours creating a vision, sharing ideas, and dreaming up desired outcomes. But, we ultimately have to depend on the Lord to make it happen; we have to lean into the discernment of Christ, graciously asking where his steps are taking us. I am choosing to believe that because these results we have at the end of the summer match those identified outcomes, the Lord is indeed establishing our steps. It is by the grace of God that we experienced success this summer.

He is the giver of good gifts, our great provider, our Shepherd, our sovereign Savior.

I have no choice but to believe that it was by the Lord’s goodness that after one week at Quest, 100% of our youth now believe they are an important person.

I am confident that it is the Holy Spirit that is transforming the hearts of summer staffers to pursue ministry.

I know that the Lord faithfully empowers our volunteers and staff members to truly meet all four needs of our families.

I am particularly thankful he gives us the means to capture not only the stories, but the numbers to prove these divine phenomena—the staff labor, the volunteers who help us with data entry, and the technology to keep track of it all.  

Anyone who has been involved—at any level—with this ministry surely has one story, or one hundred stories to tell. Whether it’s about a transformative experience with the Lord or a deep connection made with a stranger, whether it’s sweat-stained moment or tear-stained moment, it made an impact on you. These are the kinds of stories that raise the hair on your arms because you just know that it was an act of the Holy Spirit.

We cannot deny that stories connect us: they draw us together and help us relate to one another. However, there is more to share. This hard data adds another dimension to the stories that we love to tell. These numbers and statistics complete the picture of ministry that took place this summer. I invite you, as you read through this Outcomes Report, to fill in the space between the numbers with your stories. Partner your Mountain experience with what the numbers say.

We are excited about what you’re about to read. We are excited because the Lord is good and has showed us, for the 42nd time, that he is always able to do more than we could ever ask or imagine.

It is only by the grace of God that we have made a difference. We—you, this Mountain T.O.P. community, this kingdom of God—have made a difference.

Rachael Osborn, Mountain T.O.P. Communication and Assessment Coordinator Americorp VISTA

Click here to read the 2016 Summer Outcomes Report.

Click here to give to the 2016 Giving Campaign.

Meet the Family: Homeowner Edition Pt. II

“Mountain T.O.P. exists for two reasons: to help people grow in their relationship with Christ by bringing people together and to help people realize that everyone has something to offer.”  –Mountain T.O.P. Staff Member

img_8913Here at Mountain T.O.P., we believe that everyone has an asset to give – everyone can participate in partnership. Through our partnership philosophy and asset-based community building, we help individuals uncover what they have to offer. In this edition of Meet the Family: Homeowner Edition, we are proud to partner with Henry and Sue Nunley. They fully embrace Mountain T.O.P. and what it means to work together. Keep reading for an insider’s take on partnership in this edition of Meet the Family: Homeowner Edition.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m Henry and this is my wife Sue. We live in Coalmont, TN. I was born ad rasied just down the street. Sue is originally from Tracy City but she has lived in Coalmont for 25 years now. I like to say, “You can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the girl.” We love this community and the people that live around here.

How did you hear about and start working with Mountain T.O.P.?

We heard about Mountain T.O.P. through our son [Howard]. There have been lots of MTOP groups working at his house for a couple of years now. We have enjoyed them coming over and eating lunch with us in our gazebo.

What impact has Mountain T.O.P. had on you life?

Mountain T.O.P has brought so much change to our lives. They have allowed us to meet so many people from all over the state and country. We appreciate their hard work.

What are your favorite things about this community?

We love our community because of the people. We grew up here and everyone is family. It’s just home to me.

What are you most looking forward to once the project is completed?

We are looking forward to getting back to normal. We also will be enjoying our new floors.

Fun Fact about Henry:

“I put a Hersey’s chocolate bar in my chili. On time I messed up and put a Hersey’s bar with almonds in there. It still tasted good.”


We love partnering with people in the community! Look for more information about Mountain T.O.P. by following us on Facebook.

Meet the Family: Homeowner Edition

“Mountain T.O.P. exists for two reasons: to help people grow in their relationship with Christ by bringing people together and to help people realize that everyone has something to offer.”  –Mountain T.O.P. Staff Member


Here at Mountain T.O.P., we believe that everyone has an asset to give – everyone can participate in partnership. Through our partnership philosophy and asset-based community building, we help individuals uncover what they have to offer. This Fall, we are proud to partner with community members like Wessley Nunley who fully embrace Mountain T.O.P. and what it means for us to work together. Keep reading for an insider’s take on partnership in this edition of Meet the Family: Homeowner Edition.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m Wessley Nunley. Some people call me Wes. I’m from Pelham, TN and have lived here most of my life. I am the youngest of 4 siblings, all of which are sisters. I have lived in several other states for a few years such as Michigan, Alabama and Indiana.

How did you hear about and start working with Mountain T.O.P.?

My sister told me about it. I have lived in this area for a long time and know of the work that y’all do.

What impact has Mountain T.O.P. had on you life?

They have introduced me to so many people. These people could be doing other things but they chose to come and help me. I am very grateful for that. It makes me feel bad but I need help with the projects and I love how people are dedicated to working with Mountain T.O.P.

What are your favorite things about this community?

I would have to say the people around here. If I got on the phone right now, they would be here in a heartbeat. I would do the same thing, too.

What are you most looking forward to once the project is completed?

Rest. I won’t be worrying about my roof and things coming. I can rest easy at night thanks to Mountain T.O.P.

Fun Fact about Wessley:

I don’t eat “dinner” (also known as lunch). I eat a big breakfast filled with a couple of eggs, gravy and hash browns.


We love partnering with people in the community! Look for more information about Mountain T.O.P. by following us on Facebook.

2017 Mountain T.O.P. Program Schedule

2017 program schedule

Early Registration Begins September 1st!

Youth Summer Ministry

Week 1: June 4th-10th// Service Project & Day Camp

Week 2: June 11th-17th// Service Project/Day Camp & Safe Sanctuary

Week 3: June 18th-24th// Service Project & Day Camp

Week 4: June 25th-July 1st// Service Project & Day Camp

Week 5: July 4th-8th // Fish Camp/NHN

Week 6: July 9th-15th// Service Project/Day Camp & Safe Sanctuary

Week 7: July 16th-22nd// Service Project & Day Camp

New Young Adult Opportunity

Who: Anyone 17 years old or older *

What: Choose between Major Home Repair projects such as large scale construction and remodeling or participating with Quest: a adventure style camp empowering youth and build character through challenging elements such as rock climbing or high ropes courses.

11705430_10153378438338805_2584630888470041969_oWhen: July 9th -15th, 2017

Where: Camp Cumberland Pines

How much: $395 adults; $350 students

*Rising high school juniors, seniors and college students are encouraged to attend. 17 year olds must come with an adult. There must be an adult 22 years or older for every 5 under 18 year old youth. Groups may choose to work in YRGs with only members of their group.

Summer Adults in Ministry (AIM) Dates:

Week 1: June 4th-10th//Major Home Repair & Kaleidoscope

Week 2: June 18th-24th//Major Home Repair & Summer Plus

Week 3: July 9th-15th//Major Home Repair & Quest

       Weekend: July 6th-9th //Major Home Repair only

New Week-long Family Mission Opportunity

IMG_3160Who: Families looking to serve together for a week in the Summer

What: Parents and their children can participate in either Kaleidoscope or Summer Plus. Parents can also choose to participate in Major Home Repair. A parent must be with the child(ren) participating in the day camp programs.

When: June 4th-10th (Kaleidoscope) // June 18th-24th (Summer Plus)

How much: $395(1st Adult); $350 (2nd Adult); $75(1st child); $70 (2nd child); $65(3rd child); $60 (4th child)

If you have any questions feel free to contact us at 931-692-3999 or email

The Rest of 2017

The Gathering: January 7th

Friends Weekend: Feb 22nd-26th

Family Weekends: March 24th-26th // April 7th-9th // July 20th-23rd

Spring BreakOut: February – April

Baker Work Weekend: May 3rd-6th

Fall AIM:

       Weekend 1: September 28th – October 1st

       Weekend 2: October 5th-8th

       Weekend 3: October 12th-15th

       Weekend 4: October 19th-22nd

       Weekend 5: October 26th-29th // Fall Festival October 28th

Click here for the printable version of our 2017 Calendar of events.



Reflections from a YSM Day Camp Youth

The third afternoon of day camp, as our white bus bumped onto a dirt road and navigated through the metal-littered front yard to the door of the trailer, the little boy next to me quickly patted my arm. His brilliant blue eyes were lit up with excitement, and he had a huge smile on his face. “Look at my porch!” he exclaimed, still hitting me for attention. “Look at it!! Mountain TOP built it for us! Isn’t it amazing?”

I probably wouldn’t have noticed the porch if he hadn’t have pointed it out, but it was, indeed, a reliable-looking entrance to the trailer. It looked newer by far than the rest of the structure and its accessories (several half-assembled cars and a semi-truck).

The boy, who had just spent an hour bus ride talking to me about how excited he was to assemble fireworks for the Altamont Fourth of July parade and bet me a quarter that he could eat three whole watermelons for lunch, threw his arms around me. “My uncle says that Mountain TOP people are angels. So thank you.” He then hopped up and ran off the bus.

I had never felt so overwhelmed with emotion. I didn’t feel like an angel at all. Throughout the week, as we had done activities, I loved the kids; I felt closer to God, and I did sense that we were making a difference. But, in that one moment, I knew. I saw pure joy in the eyes of a seven-year-old boy who lived in a trailer with eight other siblings, whose uncle was arrested later that week for armed robbery and whose father was in jail for drugs, because someone had built a small wooden structure onto his home. I saw someone who had every right to be angry, to feel alone and to feel stuck; but he was none of these things. He was exuberant over the porch, so proud that he continued to tell me about it throughout the rest of the time that we were there. The porch would not have been there if God had not sent us there; I later found out that the porch was built by a major group that contained several people from St. Luke’s.

The truth was, if we all were angels, we were certainly not the only angels there. The kids who showed us that there is more to life than where you live or how your family interacts, who took selfies and played kickball with us, who offered us rides on their four-wheelers, were the angels. They thanked us for changing their lives, but, honestly, I have never felt more touched by a group of people. Their smiles were inspiring and adorable, and I can recall their sayings and mannerisms well. Even today, I sometimes lie awake at night and think about Mountain TOP and I thank God for calling me to go. Because everyone knows that they are an angel at Mountain TOP.

The Fruitful Mission

by Julie Keel

Associate Executive Director

Mountain T.O.P.


I am confident in our mission.

2007. I can remember sitting in my house in Mississippi when Mom called. “Mountain T.O.P. is hiring and you should apply!” She thought this was the best idea ever. I just shrugged the suggestion off. I was unsure about living in Grundy County, TN. I didn’t know the new executive director. This big of a change wasn’t something I was willing to consider right now. I was in the midst of some big compassion fatigue, and I was looking for a job where I didn’t have to use my feelings as much.

Eight years later I’ve notice something I always knew. I’ve always had confidence in the mission of Mountain T.O.P. Always. It’s not that things have been done correctly for 40 years. It’s more like foundational things here are just right. Really right. For some reason this was apparent to me from the beginning, and I’m even more sure of it today.

Take for instance our partnership philosophy. Long, long, long ago, the people who set up this ministry made sure partnership was fundamental to how we do what we do. I’m not sure how that all happened, but it’s genius.

Let me tell you why I think so…

Partnership is this aspect of what we do that helps us show the value we see in everyone. Everyone has an asset. You might not have every asset you need for the vision of, say, your home or children, but you have some things of value. Mountain T.O.P. provides one very effective way to pool our assets to get the results we want.

Jesus says that he came so that all could have life and have it abundantly (John 10.10). I think that looks a lot like our partnership philosophy. Haven’t you been in a situation where you had to work as a part of a team to get a job done, and if someone didn’t do their part, the job would be somehow lacking? What about the last time you really, really cooperated with the Holy Spirit to use your gifts? That’s the way Mountain T.O.P. works with families, participants, and the community. We all have an asset to give, and with Jesus in the midst of it, the sum total is ABUNDANT.

Mountain T.O.P. doesn’t fix people’s lives or homes. We don’t magically take away the burden that was once there. We do join with families and children, come along side of them, and work with people to create healthier lives and homes. And this has the ability to transform us all in the mean time. We all walk away different, better because of the partnership.

Whenever someone asks me are we really making a difference, I always point them to partnership. Mountain T.O.P. is not a charity. We are a partnership ministry. We try not to do something for someone that they can do for themselves. Everyone has an asset to give, and sometimes our job is helping people uncover it. Because we come as ministers of the Gospel, the net effect of pooling our resources has supernatural, positive consequences. And this is exactly what helps change the underlying culture of entitlement or that this not a good place. I’ve seen it happen with my own eyes. This is why, yes, even one week in our Day Camp can change the trajectory of the life of a child! I could rattle off example after example.

Whether it’s because you have participated in Mountain T.O.P. or you believe in the same things we believe in, “we are drawn together by God, who is about to do a new thing through our collaboration” (Henri Nouwen). After 40 years of (literally) life changing ministry, we are looking for God to do a new thing. We are asking for a huge collaboration: raising $400k by the end of this year. Guess what? We are well on the way. I’m offering you the invitation to be a part of this. I can ask only because, like I said, I am confident in our mission.

Here are a few examples of what we’ve already seen your money do: put shoes on kids’ feet, build up teens spiritually, give a single mom a working kitchen, challenge adults in their faith, put roofs on homes, fund critical infrastructure, give local teens a summer job, proclaim the word of God, influence the career of a summer staffer, preserve the home of a elderly couple, open doors of greater funding, focus a family on God, help us maintain relationships with participants, and empower a father to work.

You can give two ways: online at Or you can mail a check to: Mountain T.O.P., PO Box 128, Altamont, TN 37301.

As always, thanks for listening!

Support Staff Changes and Update

IMG_1897Betsy Galbraith

As of August 31st, Betsy will be departing from the Mountain T.O.P. Support Staff. While serving on at Mountain T.O.P., Betsy was responsible for all administrative functions related to processing group/campers that sign-up for our programs. She then was their main contact until they arrive in camp, so she strived to communicate all necessary information for a successful experience. She was also the primary staff person supporting all aspects of our Children & Youth Day Camp programs. Her passion and love for our day camp programs will be greatly missed on the mountain. We wish Betsy the best of luck in all of her upcoming adventures.

OliviaBioPicOlivia Wickersham

As of September 1st, Olivia will be joining Mountain T.O.P. Support Staff as the Program Manager of Logistics and Program Support. She is the main contact for groups as they are preparing for their time on the Mountain, and coordinates with each group from the start of the application processes through a post-event follow-up to complete all administrative paperwork. Olivia graduated from Indiana University (IU)in May 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Tourism, Hospitality, and Event Management and minors in Business and Marketing. She finished up her degree interning at French Lick Resort as a meeting and event coordinator in the conference services department at the West Baden Springs Hotel. Prior to Support Staff, Olivia has been a camper for eight summers, one summer on summer staff, and most recently served on the Cumberland Pines Kitchen Staff. In addition to Olivia’s involvement at Mountain T.O.P. and IU, she also enjoys exploring new areas, water and snow sports, and considers herself to be the life of any good dance party.