Monthly Archives: January 2020

The Gravedigger and Big Pharmaceuticals

 

I met a gravedigger today but didn’t get his name. We met along the side of the road where he had just finished toping a grave with January clods of mud. We talked about the newly departed, at 31 years of age this man was too young for the darkness of the grave. He informed me that the 1885 cemetery was full and bursting at the seams. “Drugs,” the Gravedigger said, “We can’t fill the seats in the church anymore but we fill the cemetery to overflowing.”

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Mt Olive Church Cemetery Philippi, WV

As I walked along the road past the tiny white church and cemetery, down the curving hill to town, I found more signs of the true plague of Appalachia. The results of a generation who knew nothing of the risks, destruction, and power that a Poppy flower could have.

Along the graveled berm of the road near a hospital, I found the waded remains of a blue latex glove and the unsealed foil wrapper of prescription medication. Suboxone printed clearly in bright blue letters on the label of the wrapper. I knew the name and its use; I had heard it many times on the local news. Even members of my own family have sat at the dining table discussing if this was the answer.

Conversations about heroin, death and opioid addiction are an everyday thing. The statistics flood the television and the internet. We are in a state of addiction and all the struggles that come with it. I take photos of the hospital, the glove and the wrapper and walk back to my car.

 

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Wrapper from the medication Suboxone.

The Gravedigger has finished his job and sits in the cab of his blue pickup as I walk up to his window. I tell him about the trash that I found and he nods his broad heavy head. “No needles this time?” He asks. “No…. not this time”, I say looking at the gravel-covered ground. I think about the needles I have found on the street. I never need to find more. I think about the young man I watched shoot up and about the families I know who have lost parents to the Gravediggers shovel. I finally look back up at the Gravedigger and say “Well, maybe this one will get clean.” The Gravedigger and I both know what I said is a lie. It is false hope about the future of this town.

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Mt Olive Church circ. 1885 Philippi, WV 2020.

He looks up at the little white church through the windshield of the truck and says to me, “It was the faith in God that got our ancestors here, it was faith the kept them in these hills and it is faith that will get them through this, there is no other hope.” I nod my head and say goodbye.

Driving down the hill away from the Church I pass the little hospital. A beautiful new and clean facility where every day they fight for our lives. Where every day they fight this plague with millions less than the Pharmaceutical companies that planted this rotting plague in our mountains.

By the end of the day, I hear on the news that the CEO of a large Pharmaceutical Company gets sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison for bribery of doctors to prescribe a killer Opioid. 5 years… 5 years, is what the courts thought fit to sentence a man who has not only destroyed one life but also hundreds of thousands of lives. Where is the justice for the fatherless children I know?

He and men like him have drained every county in Appalachia of funds because each dose of Narcan is $150 dollars and each county has to pay for the medication to save hundreds of lives. He has drained my state of families who can raise their own children. We are now the #1 state in the country with grandparents raising their grandchildren. He has brought more crime to small towns as addicts steal to fuel their addiction. He and his company are draining the churches and filling the cemeteries of Appalachia with the young men and women who were supposed to be our leaders. Too many of them ended up meeting the Gravedigger I met today.

There are no easy answers and no easy solutions for the people who live in one of the highest Opioid addicted states. It is one of the problems that each of us who chooses to live here thinks about and wants to change. It is something that I worry about when I think about my 11-year-old and how will we handle his future. It is something my company talks about when they can’t hire a clean and sober employee. It is what the preachers in all the churches preach against and it is what is killing not only the young but the very state I live in. Today was just another day in Appalachia.

 

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A filtered photo of the Mt Olive Church in Philippi WV 2020.

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Cemetaries, drug addicition, family memories, grave digger, Mt Olive Church and Cemetry Barbour County WV, Opiod use, state wide struggle, Uncategorized, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Golden Rule Under Construction #2

The first line of my recent press release about the Golden Rule said,” The Future of the Golden Rule is in Sight”. That was amazing to write and is exciting to watch. So if you have been following me long you know about the wonderful building the company I work for is the process of redeveloping. If you are new here, let me take a moment to explain just a bit about the Golden Rule.

I work for a housing and community developer called, Woodlands Development Group, who in the spring of 2018 bought a historic 3 story brick furniture store warehouse-type building in the small town of Belington, WV. The Golden Rule building was built in 1903 and was owned by the Shinn family until the late 1980s and was sold to a man who used it for storage. Left to decay the community of Belington wanted to save the building and its history. Woodlands Development Group got involved and bought the building with grant funds from the second owner and arranged the financing of over 3 million dollars to redevelop the Golden Rule into a mixed-use building. The plan includes 10 apartments on the top two floors and a cafe and retail space on the first floor. I have been working on the building in several different capacities for two years and am now working on business development and marketing for the building’s future. She is my greatest work joy and I hope to be part of her future for many years to come. This is my home away from home!

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Basement of the Golden Rule before image

JoLynn Powers working at the Golden Rule.

So my portion of the project finished just a few weeks ago. The building was finally empty after around 4, sixty-yard dumpsters and around 13,000 pounds of trash removal. We found storage for the truckloads of antiques that were not sold at several events so they can be used as decor for the first floor in the future. We (my AmeriCorps volunteers and I ) demolished hundreds of feet of shelves, flooring, ceiling tile and drywall. So construction contractors can turn the building around.

I finished my contract year with the knowledge that my work was not done but going to be different this year. So now I get to sit back and watch others build a brighter future for this building.

So far crews have cut huge wholes in the three floors for the elevator shaft and fire escape stairwell. They have excavated into the basement to remove dirt and rubble to get ready to pour new stairwell landing pads.

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 Crews get the dirt out of the basement of the Golden Rule.

They have begun the framing of the walls inside each apartment and have had time to remove the breezeway that lead to the storage shed. These are before and after photos. You couldn’t see the breezeway from the back due to all the brush and trees.

The Americorps crews that helped me clean out the upper stories are back working on clearing out the basement and rafters of the third floor this spring. They are working to get the building ready for roofing contractors, and the electrical contractors.

It is only a few weeks into construction but changes are visible and teams of more people are working together to get things done. I am excited and so hopeful for the people who get to live and work in this building. I know Tom and I have our own plans to be part of the retail space in the near future, so I hope my involvement continues even after the Golden Rule reopens. This year I am happy to be helping in the development of the businesses, the build-out of the retail space and who knows what else to make sure this project gets off the ground running. 

If you want to see more about the Golden Rule and the first steps in our process of redevelopment you can click here Golden Rule #1. There are many other posts about this and my AmeriCorps service that shares my love for this building and what I get to do for a living. 

Categories: About me, AmeriCorps, Barbour County, Belington, WV, Golden Rule, historic locations, Historic Preservation, Redevelopment projects, rural life, West Virginia History, Woodlands Development Group | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Change of focus for 2020.

During New Year’s and the last several days, I have spent time reflecting on what I want the New Year to be about. I keep seeing posts and news stories that worry me. I toss and turn at night about the state of our county and our communities. I wonder about the increase in gun violence, hate speech, and intolerance in our country. I have to wonder if all these things are a reflection of the ongoing and frequent ideas of the “You” agenda.  We are bombarded with messages and the younger generation has been raised with the mantras “Take Care of You”, ….”Make Time for You”, … “Your Happiness Matters Most”,..”Heal Yourself”.  Not that I think overall that these are bad ideas. I just wonder if this is another expression of being focused on ourselves and not others. So much so that the larger picture of service, empathy, understanding, and forgiveness are lost.

When we stop as people looking at each other as neighbors and more like enemies, I become unsettled and wonder why it is happening. I often look back at the 1980’s AIDS epidemic and the years following 9/11 terrorist attacks and know that we can come together to combat the injustice that is experienced in the world. We have proven that we can work together for peace and healing, but somehow we are losing the battle to combat hate and intolerance in our own communities and those around the world. In this way, we are losing America’s Humanity.

So what does this all have to do with my New Year and 2020? I am going to move the focus of my life off of me and try to refocus it on others. I am going to make me a less important figure in my life and place others in the center of who I am. I going to make service, love, empathy, and forgiveness the mantras of my year. It is a shift that might need to be taken nationwide.

If for one moment we could have gotten just one of those gunmen to understand forgiveness or empathy in the moments before the shootings, they would have never happened. If for one moment they could have stopped filling their souls and brains with self-aggrandizing statements maybe they would have felt humility and reverence for the lives of others. Maybe if they were not focused on what the world had done to them and felt thankful for what they had, those lives would not have been so easily wasted.

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brothers fishing  Stone Wall Jackson Lake 2019

My goal is to become a better community member, a better neighbor, friend, wife, and mother. To learn to be less the center of my own universe and more about making others universes better. I want to have fewer things and give more. I want to do work that makes our struggling communities succeed and I want to share love, compassion, understanding as I move forward into 2020.

Let’s pray for a more compassionate year for the United States in 2020. img_20191121_155937893_hdr2020.

 

Categories: About me, Change, Life Changes, New Years Eve, New Years Resolution, Uncategorized, work | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

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