Wow. The community of Whitesville last night smashed the record for turnout at a Turn This Town Around meeting (if there is such a record), when 143 people from a total population of about 500 attended their campaign launch. That’s more than a quarter of the entire town!
This is a place as big on spirit as it is on ambition. As an organizer, seeing this kind of energy and turnout is incredibly heartening, and proves to me that the key ingredient for successful community development and transition is already in place – local commitment to a shared vision.
That shared vision is a Whitesville that takes charge of reversing the unhappy trend of recent years. What the people of Whitesville hope for is what many communities in West Virginia are seeking, and that is to make it possible for people to stay in town and raise their families, opportunities for new business activity, things to attract visitors and new residents, and a renewed sense of pride and rejuvenation in their main streets.
And like their Turn This Town Around peers in Ripley, the people in Whitesville see that a little beautification and some aesthetic improvements would be a great first step. There was discussion about planting flowers and improving the signage at either entrance to the town, starting an “adopt a planter” initiative, and fixing broken street lights.
I was really interested in a couple of other suggestions that demonstrate Whitesville’s belief in the importance of community engagement and social interaction – starting a community newsletter, little free libraries, and movie nights in the park.
The medium-level projects demonstrated the creative and diverse visions of Whitesville’s population, from improving access and recreational use of the Big Coal River that runs through town, holding an annual town festival, and starting a Rod & Gun Club, to annexing surrounding areas.
And the people are dreaming big! Imagine if there was a new technical school in Whitesville, or if the area became a fishing mecca thanks to stocks of trout? Or, if locals could buy all their groceries right in town at the new co-op grocery story? (The story of Alderson has inspired many of us!)
Led by community champions Adam Pauley and Hollie Smarr, what is really impressive about the Whitesville Turn This Town Around team is that they have wholeheartedly embraced the philosophy that “there is no time like the present!”
Rather than wait for this kickoff meeting to organize and begin the hard work ahead, Whitesville hit the ground running in the dead of winter and as of mid-March have already raised $14,000 in funds and resources for their projects!
First, there was a $10,000 technical assistance grant to address dilapidated buildings through the Bad Buildings program, followed by donations for local residents and businesses. And then the local elementary school students got in on the act, raising hundreds of dollars through their Chains for Change project!
Already, next steps are in the works. There will be community clean-up events in April, and weekly meetings of project leaders.
Do you live in Whitesville or the surrounding area? There is still a chance for you to get involved! It’s as simple of showing up to the next Turn This Town Around meeting at the Whitesville Fire Station at 6 p.m. on April 21. I promise you, you’ll be swept up in the energy and excitement.
Way to go, Whitesville.[Get all the latest Turn This Town Around news by signing up to The Hub Blog.]