It was love at first sight when the Rev. Ralph Beiting saw Appalachia as a seminarian, but his 40 years of work with poor people haven't been exactly harmonious.

He's been shot at, hit by tomatoes and attacked with chains.Sometimes being a priest didn't help. "The fact that I was a Catholic was offensive to some," Beiting said.

But those were the exceptions for the $10,000-a-year executive for a $26 million-a-year enterprise. He chairs the non-profit Christian Appalachian Project and is pastor of St. Michael Catholic Church in Paintsville.

He founded the Christian Appalachian Project in 1964 with the help of friends, family and volunteers. Today, the project has more than 300 employees and 70 programs. It generates almost all of its budget by direct mail solicitations and satellite enterprises.

"I made it a rule from the beginning that we would not be like a lot of other organizations looking for government funds. We would never go that way. That's why we are still in business," Beiting said.