We have a favorite saying here at The Hub: The world is run by those people who bother to show up.
The brutal truth behind that is that if you’re not in the room, your voice just doesn’t count.
It’s the basic premise behind the democratic process, but it applies equally to grassroots community development work in West Virginia.
In recent years, communities like Buckhannon, Grafton, Matewan, Whitesville and Ripley have reached out to The Hub to seek our help in kickstarting real and achievable locally-driven development projects. Sometimes some money has already been made available to fund some of those projects, and sometimes there hasn’t been.
Regardless of the funding, the first thing we tell these communities is that if anything is going to get off the ground – from the smallest cleanup event to the grandest transformational project – you need to get a lot of people in the room.
Now, what constitutes “a lot” obviously depends on the size of the community. (For Whitesville’s Turn This Town Around launch, we had 143 people from a total population of about 500 show up. That’s amazing.)
But what’s important is that you smash apart the usual “circle of friends” that usually gets together in that community – burst that bubble – and bring people into the room that don’t already know each other, that don’t usually attend community meetings, that haven’t been to that particular church before, or that went to the other high school.
The pure weight of numbers itself is important, because you can’t rely on a small handful of people to keep on doing the legwork, week after week, month after month. You need many hands to make light work.
But what the numbers also represent is new partnerships. They tell us that people in that community are willing to get past traditional divisions that may have prevented them from working together before. They tell us that the community is ready for change, and is ready to apply itself wholeheartedly to the task at hand.
On Thursday, April 21, the people of McDowell County will decide whether they are ready for change. A community meeting is being held at 5:30 p.m. at the Welch First United Methodist Church at 25 Virginia Avenue. How many people will show up?
The Hub has been meeting with folks there for the past couple of months, working with a core group of locals that is concerned about where their communities are headed and that want to seize control of their future.
We know that this small group is passionate and ready to roll up the sleeves, but are their neighbors, their family members and their workmates? Do enough people in McDowell County care to make a change? Will they show up?
Let’s go McDowell County. West Virginia is pulling for you.