BY SATHIYAN SIVAKUMARAN, HUBCAP III VISTA, THE HUB
Sometimes, community leaders wonder how to identify and make change in our towns. It can feel overwhelming. Where do we begin and how do we get where we want to be? A program by Virginia Tech looks to answer these questions by connecting mayors and town managers of Appalachian communities to each other and to many resources that can help answer these questions. This program is “Save Our Towns”.
“Save Our Towns” is all about connecting leaders in Appalachia to inspiration, guidance, and recognition for community development. The program is a web-series that includes an informational and concise profile on an Appalachian community each month, with additional segments of interest to community leaders. Targeting town mayors and town managers, the series is driven to provide informative material about resources, challenges, and innovative solutions in each 10-minute episode.
Additionally, a strength of the program is the interactive component. Viewers are encouraged to ask questions to learn more. A mayor can suggest their town be featured in an episode, providing the town with an opportunity to get its solutions and challenges heard on a larger scale. Also, there is a wealth of information on the “Save Our Towns” website, where a person can find the contact information for experts in different fields and links to various resources.
“Save Our Towns” represents some of the best parts about Appalachia. The recognition of successes by the program presents learning opportunities for other communities, while the collaborative nature of the program encourages creative solutions. Guru Ghosh, the Vice President of Outreach and International Affairs at Virginia Tech, mentions, “Isolation can be a problem in small towns. But these leaders are not lone rangers, and they are not without ingenuity,” in an op-ed for The Roanoke Times. “Save Our Towns” displays that ingenuity on a large scale.
Episode Eight of the current season of Save Our Towns devotes its Examples of Awesome story to Huntington, West Virginia, where Mayor Steve Williams has commanded national attention for his leadership role in combating the opioid epidemic.
The “Save Our Towns” program is always looking for “Example of Awesome” story nominations, and they’re currently also looking for a town to follow for a year. People can visit the “Save Our Towns” website at https://www.saveourtowns.outreach.vt.edu/, and reach out to the program at firstname.lastname@example.org.