Think back to the last time you saw an Appalachian portrayed on TV, in the national media, in a book or a cartoon. Often, when people talk about Appalachians, they portray us as white, or poor, or ignorant — or all three. But when you dig beneath the surface, and challenge the stereotypes that are often used to misrepresent people who live in our region, the story becomes much more honest, and interesting…
BY SUMMER PHILLIPS, WVU BAD BUILDINGS PRESERVE WV AMERICORPS FOR PRESERVATION ALLIANCE OF WEST VIRGINIA
Built in 1910, the Woodburn Elementary School served the children of the Woodburn Neighborhood of Morgantown, WV for decades as a place of education and as source for childhood memories. When the school closed in 2010, the children left but the school building remained, a lonely monument to times gone by in the neighborhood. However, in 2013, the building was acquired by the city and in 2014 the Woodburn School Redevelopment Commission was created in order to bring life back to the building and make it a place for childhood memories once again.
Thanks to the efforts of the commission, the former Woodburn School building has been transformed into a non-profit hub. It’s home to several programs and organizations that are dedicated to improving the community and serving the children such as Friends of Deckers Creek, Boys and Girls Club, and PopShop…
Thirty-three years ago, walking and biking enthusiasts, railroad history buffs, conservation and parks groups, and active-transportation activists formed the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. The organization works coast to coast, supporting the development of thousands of miles of rail trails and multi-use trails for millions of people to explore and enjoy.
According to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, there are 2,131 open rail trails comprising 24,075 miles in the U.S. Another 812 rail-trail projects are in development, which will add another 8,684 miles.
West Virginia has 67 rail trails with 566 miles of open rail and logging trails. The state is developing 14 new projects with a potential of adding 135 more miles of trails…
BY JOSEPH LAFAVE FOR THE MARTINSBURG JOURNAL
Tucked into the Eastern Panhandle about 10 miles from the banks of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, sits the historic town of Charles Town, a quaint community of fewer than 6,000 residents.
However, the town is currently building a reputation as one of the premier destinations in the state of West Virginia, thanks in no small part to the work of the town’s residents to revitalize the downtown area and transform it into a destination.
Bars and restaurants, an art space, a coffee shop and other local businesses line the eight or so blocks that constitute the city’s downtown — each of these establishments is unique and is part of the larger institution that is downtown Charles Town…
BY EMMA PEPPER, DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC NETWORK COMMUNICATIONS, THE HUB
Local journalism is the heartbeat of our communities in West Virginia. While we tend to the needs of our daily lives, we depend on our locally-based media to be our eyes and ears.
As I travel the state talking with West Virginians who are invested in making a difference in their communities about how to amplify the stories coming out of their work, one of the main tactics that we focus on together is how to engage with local journalists. When I ask them about who in the room is connected to a journalist – a majority of people in the group always raise their hand. We are a small, but mighty state. Our local journalists attend church with us, they went to high school with us, our children play with their children, they are our neighbors, friends, and family members.
Many of us can remember being at the knees of our own mothers and fathers while they sat with a newspaper in hand. Keeping up with the local news wasn’t just a pastime for them, it was a practice rooted in a value: being a member of this community means bearing witness to what is happening in the lives of our neighbors.
When I reflect on the challenges local media outlets are facing, I lament the potential loss of our chief watchdogs on community matters, but it is the loss of the stories of my neighbors that shoots straight to my heart. The stories coming out of local journalism efforts show us who we are as West Virginians – stories like the war veteran recounting his triumphs on the battlefield; the dreamer who sees a need for her community and opens up a business to fill it; or the volunteer team that is collecting Christmas presents for families in need.
Local journalists shine a light on our shared history. Their stories reflect the needs, values, and progress happening in our communities – they are our collective heartbeat. And, as recent research from Texas A&M, Louisiana State and Colorado State universities shows us, they support us in being a more engaged citizenry, making decisions in the voting booth that reflect our own – and our neighbors – best interests.
This National Newspaper Week, I’m extending my gratitude to West Virginia’s storytellers working alongside us on the ground as we build the path to a bright future for our state.
BY EMMA PEPPER, DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC NETWORK COMMUNICATIONS, THE HUB
Congratulations to the first 6 winners of the One Foundation and Generation WV’s Beacon Awards! The winners are:
- Shardinae Adams “TK Blockstar” (Fairmont)
- Sarah Cordwell (Charleston)
- Michael Farmer (Charleston)
- Lucy Godwin (Beverly)
- Allison Ibarra (Fayetteville)
- Dural Miller (Charleston)
This year’s Beacon Awardees will be honored at an event on October 17th at the Clay Center’s Caperton Planetarium & Theater with a reception from 6-7 pm and an award presentation from 7-8 pm.
The One Foundation and Generation WV describe the awards:
The West Virginia Beacon Awards recognize, support, and connect young leaders between the ages of 18-40 who are working tirelessly with their communities to create lasting impact. Beacon Awards Winners are leaning in to existing challenges, digging into possible solutions and most importantly, turning their ideas into action. The award winners serve as beacons in their communities and across the state, reminding us that even one person’s dedicated positive actions can truly make a difference.
BY JENNY TOTTEN, COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR, THE HUB
The Hub’s Community Team Leadership Corps (TLC) teams from McDowell and Lincoln counties traveled to the Brushy Fork Leadership Summit in Berea, Kentucky where they networked with other small Appalachian communities who are facing similar challenges and learned from Dr. Vaughn and Sandy Grisham about successful community and leadership development. After these days of intense learning, we took some time to reflect together.
Here are our 5 takeaways from the Summit – we’ll be focusing on incorporating these into our work in the coming months, and we hope they are a benefit to you in your work as well!
- Don’t Wait, Just Get Started: Dr. Grisham and others within the leadership training network really hit home the idea that the best time to get something done is right now and to stop waiting on somebody else to do it.
- Long Term Community Development Must Lead to Jobs: Dr. Grisham and Sandy are both strong believers in the power of community development to lead to economic development and job growth – they saw it happen in Tupelo, Mississippi with George McLean and his work. The work of keeping a community growing cannot be held by volunteers alone.
- Start with What You Have and Build a Unique Identity: Our teams heard from a group who have been working in Clay County, Kentucky who have taken advantage of existing assets in their areas and created economic development opportunities around those assets. The swinging bridges of the county are on the map and tourists are visiting for cultural heritage events in Manchester, KY. Our teams were quickly brainstorming ways to showcase the ways that their own communities are unique.
- Traditional Leadership Roles are More Concerned with Infrastructure and Surviving: This really hit home with our small communities. Often times people assume that mayors, city council, and other governance roles are not involved in community development because “They just don’t care,” while Dr. Grisham painted a different picture – of a mayor or council member who cares dearly, but must be more involved in making sure the sewer system is functioning or in making sure the grass cutting bill gets paid this month.
- Before Economic Development comes Community Development. Before Community Development comes People Development: This is the central idea to the Tupelo model of community development – and it simply states that before you can work as a group, you’ve got to be personally ready and have the initiative and mindset needed to engage with others to get things done. Seeing this process laid out and connected in to the real-world example of Tupelo, Mississippi, the landscaping department at University of Mississippi, and the very small-town Appalachia example of Bakersville, North Carolina showed our teams that the process works and is sustainable in the long term.
We came back from Berea exhausted, yet inspired and ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work! Next up our teams are jumping deep into community visioning and project development – stay tuned to see their futures unfold.
Hub community coach and resident introvert Jenny Totten just loves it when we shine the public spotlight on her! The Hub team is exceedingly proud of Jenny for her significant efforts to support community members in Southern West Virginia – and the Appalachian Regional Commission feels the same. Jenny was selected to be a part of the inaugural class of the Appalachian Leadership Institute.
Please join us in congratulating Jenny!
A little bit more about this opportunity from the ARC:
The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) announced 40 Fellows who will be participating in the inaugural class of the Appalachian Leadership Institute. The class draws on each one of Appalachia’s 13 states, and includes public policy, community development, education, investment, and other professionals who live and/or work in the Region.
“I congratulate the participants in this inaugural class of the Appalachian Leadership Institute for being selected through a very competitive process. Our hope is that this program will help them further develop their abilities in the areas of leadership and problem solving, allowing them to help bring advancement, growth, and greater prosperity to their communities,” said ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas. “Leadership is the essential foundation on which all of our collective efforts to enhance the Region rest. I am excited by the future opportunities our Region will create, and am confident that these individuals will discover and capitalize on them.”
BY ARIN SHATTO, COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT VISTA, THE HUB
A trio of VISTAs (Volunteers in Service to America) gathered to spend a morning serving the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Morgantown, West Virginia. The organization allows family members to stay close to their children as they receive medical care.
Maddie Ferrell, a VISTA serving with Friends of Deckers Creek, organized the opportunity. The team began by beautifying the landscape that surrounds the Ronald McDonald signage. This included pulling weeds and tending to existing flowers. Afterwards, they toured the exterior of the property and cleared the garden areas of any imperfections. Once supplies were stored and trash was removed, the trio sat together at a picnic table, under a blossoming tree, and reflected on their time together.
“Volunteering with the Ronald McDonald House was a wonderful experience. It was so nice to be reminded of how many wonderful organizations are here in West Virginia giving back to the community. I also appreciated having the opportunity to meet other VISTAs and learn more about their role and their host organization,” Ferrell said.
Arin Shatto, the Community Engagement VISTA serving with The West Virginia Community Development Hub, felt a personal connection to the organization. “A few of my family members have utilized the Ronald McDonald House Charities in times of desperate need. Staff and volunteers provided a home away from home that was filled with compassion, kindness, and love. It was humbling to be able to give back, in some small way, to an organization that continues to make a difference in our community.”
Now it’s your turn, West Virginia! Take action.
Do you want to make a difference in a family’s life? Learn more about how to donate or volunteer with Ronald McDonald House Charities, Inc here.
Do you want to give back by building capacity in your community? Learn more about what it means to be an AmeriCorps VISTA here.
Desmond Tutu once said, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
Congratulations to the team at Grow Ohio Valley in Wheeling, WV on this major achievement!
Here are the official details on this exciting new venture directly from the team at Grow Ohio Valley:
The Public Market will host a Grand Opening Celebration on Oct. 19. The market, a project of Wheeling-based non-profit Grow Ohio Valley, will offer local food from over 40 area vendors, along with natural and health food items. Additionally, the Public Market will feature a deli offering seasonal and healthy options for breakfast, lunch, and grab & go items.
The Grand Opening Celebration will combine with Grow OV’s popular Harvest Festival. The event will feature a full lineup of live music and unique local food offerings, in addition to the mainstays of Harvest Festival – pumpkin decorating, face painting, scavenger hunts, and more (further details are forthcoming). The Grand Opening Harvest Festival, taking place 12 – 7 pm will span 14th Street at the corner of Main St. across from the Public Market.
Oct. 19 coincides with the first home game for the Wheeling Nailers at the WesBanco arena. The Nailers will host additional festivities in conjunction with the Public Market. In addition, the Wheeling Symphony Auxiliary is sponsoring a 5K race on Oct. 19 at Heritage Port, featuring volunteers dressed as zombies and encouraging runners to wear costumes. There will be a mini-monster dash at 8:30 a.m., and the race begins at 9 a.m.
Grow OV hired Dean Sparks to lead the Public Market initiative as the Store Manger. Sparks, who relocated to Wheeling from rural Vermont, has made a career launching food co-ops and local and natural food retail stores. The Public Market will be his fourth store start-up.
The Public Market, opening in the Robert C. Byrd Intermodal Center on Main Street, has a dual mission of growing opportunities for local farmers while creating a space for community health, for all.
“We’re thrilled to open our doors to the downtown community to share the local harvest bounty. We’re expecting the Public Market to grow into a community meeting place where the public can learn, share and experience the health and economic benefits of supporting our local farm shed,” said Sparks.
Prior to launch, Grow OV is offering Early Bird Memberships for $5 off, costing $30 until the market opens on Oct. 19.
Members’ support will provide crucial contributions to bring the market to life by funding final construction costs, including electrical upgrades and basic plumbing to support the refrigerator display equipment and kitchen. GrowOV has already raised almost 90% of project costs, and the membership campaign will help to fund the remainder.
“Community support for the Public Market helps us to keep our costs low, so we can give back as much as possible to the local farmers we support,” said GrowOV Co-founder Danny Swan. “Your contributions will help us to create a space for community health that is accessible to all people in the Ohio Valley.”
In addition to Annual Memberships, the Public Market is offering Lifetime and Founding Memberships to those interested in making larger contributions. Lifetime members receive annual member benefits for life, as well as an invitation to a sneak-peak store preview event, a limited edition art print designed by local artist Logan Schmitt, and free hot coffee for one year – in exchange for a one-time contribution of $250. Founding Members who contribute $1,000 or more will be acknowledged with their names featured in the market space, will receive a Founding Member limited edition art print and an invitation to a Founding Members sneak-peak market preview event. Founding Members will also receive free hot coffee for one year after the market opens.
All are welcome at the Public Market. Memberships will not be required to shop.
For more information about Public Market memberships, or other questions, contact email@example.com or call 304.233.4769.