Marion, Smyth County designated as Appalachian Trail Community

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iphone 9.23.13 053About four years ago, Jerry and Sherri Thomas saw an opportunity for the youth of their church to take on an ongoing mission project. They became trail angels.

Sherri grew up near the Appalachian Trail and often encountered hikers who came to her home seeking directions or other aid. With her church, Valley View Baptist in Sugar Grove, so near the trail, she recognized the potential for its members to help the hikers and share the gospel.

On the Saturday following Trail Days in Damascus, they hosted a hiker feed, which has grown every year.

Then, they expanded their mission to include trail magic, leaving a box at a trail intersection with snacks and bottled water. Last year, Jerry said, more than 1,000 hikers signed their register.

“It’s just an act of kindness,” he said. “We want to encourage people to be trail angels.” Jerry said people shouldn’t think of the hikers as bums. Many, he said, are professionals or college students.

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