BY JENNY TOTTEN, COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR, THE HUB
Even just 4 years ago, Debra Davis was still teaching middle school in Wyoming County, WV, but she’d been working on a plan to rebuild her community for a decade. Her little town of Oceana had been rocked hard by prescription drug addiction and had few resources to deal with it.
Her involvement came as a direct result of the children in her classroom. As Debra describes it, “There were dark secrets that were hidden, the kids in my classroom kept coming to me asking where they could go for help, and so I realized I was somebody who could be this person.”
In 2005, One Voice was founded to “help our communities and our families do better.” What started as an ad hoc gathering of community members to help provide a safe place for addicts where they would not be judged, quickly spiraled into direct referrals for detox centers. Something was working – people wanted to get clean, yet their families were falling apart while they were in detox and so once again, One Voice responded.
The group of community members, which by this time had grown considerably, quickly mobilized to stabilize these home situations. The organization, together with Wyoming County Schools, started to feed children over the weekend in these homes.
Today, the Food for Angels program serves 1000 youth in the county weekly, and successfully fed every child during the recent teachers work stoppages.
Community members can support the program by purchasing food off of a list at the local Goodson’s supermarket, while direct monetary donations are used to purchase bulk food.
As Debra puts it, whenever there is a crisis, everybody responds, but then afterwards, we forget about what is still needed. One Voice is committed to being consistently present in its communities. As such, the organization is turning its focus to more of a sustainable model with train the trainer curriculum related to recovery coaching and entrepreneurship activities.
As of today, 33 coaches have been trained across 7 counties; the organization supervises social work interns from West Virginia University, Lindsay Wilson College, Marshall, and other higher education institutions; and One Voice serves as a site for the day report center – providing that much needed give back and service hours for individuals in everything from alternative sentencing to those on probation.
In the future, One Voice is planning on opening an education and training center on Main Street in downtown Oceana – front and center to the community. Although this facility will of course offer recovery meetings, recovery coaching, and counseling, the thing Debra and the community are most excited about is the opportunity for job training programs and workforce development. One of the largest hurdles here is that businesses don’t want to hire felons, or former drug users – it’s part of the stigma.
The One Voice community is responding again by giving those in recovery a chance to learn to discover what they’re most excited about, and then turn that into a business. They are planning on partnering with CoWorks, Inc. out of Huntington to provide technical assistance and one on one business coaching. It’s a win win for everybody – Wyoming County gets more businesses, and these individuals are able to use their talents and skills to help rebuild the local economy.
When I asked Debra what the secret sauce is to her work, she laughed and said, “I’m not sure, we all just saw something that needed fixed, and we kept trying and will keep trying until this isn’t our story anymore.”
One Voice has worked hard to build community, reduce the stigma, and integrate family recovery into long term plans for individuals. Sooner, rather than later, this will no longer be Oceana’s story.