community service

The MLK Public Art Project, Charleston, W.V.

I love to paint, I love murals and I love Dr. Martin Luther King and his message of equality. So, when I found the Facebook post about an open to the public mural painting in our Capital City of Charleston, I knew Christopher and I were going to be there to paint too.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

Painting of Dr. Marting Luther King Jr. 

scale image of the MLK mural

Jeff Peirson Scaling the painting to size on the wall. Photo from The Office of Public Art Charleston WV Facebook page. 

This event was so wonderful as an Artist, a Mother, and West Virginian. I am so proud that the work of 60 volunteers will grace the skyline of Charleston for the next couple of decades and will remind people of the ongoing work we have to do in this world to fight for Beauty, Fairness, Love, and Equality.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

Christopher and I work on a section of Martin Luther King’s eye and nose. 

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

Some of the volunteers that came to help with the mural and the man who I got paint all over. 

The mural was painted by volunteers in about 4 or 5 hours at the Martin Luther King  Jr. Community Center in downtown Charleston. The image will represent our diversity. The image uses diverse colors, is painted by diverse age groups, colors, shapes, and sexes of people from our state. It will rest on the roof of the community center and display the faces of 1000 diverse individuals in the background.  Each face is a self-portrait of one volunteer that helped to make it come to life.

img_20200222_114410924

Jeff Peirson Director of The Office for Public Art explains how the project will be constructed. 

Under the direction of Jeff Peirson the director of  The Office for Public Art in Charleston, West Virginia. A painting of Dr. King has been blown up and traced onto large sheets of plastic canvas for volunteers to paint on. Using special paint the volunteers filled in numbers sections of the mural, much like a paint by number, but on a huge scale.  Christopher and I painted light purple and some orange over the course of the afternoon. It was amazing to paint an eyeball that was the size of a basketball and a nose that was almost as big as Christopher is tall.

image of MLK mural being put together

pieces of the mural displayed together to dry and adding the final coats of paint. From The Office of Public Art Charleston, WV Facebook page. 

 

Then when the sections were left to dry we were encouraged to paint a self-portrait in monochrome shades of purple. Each volunteer tried to paint what they thought they looked like. Christopher was quite unhappy with my drawing and said it looked nothing like me. He explained later that my hair was not right in the drawing or painting.  I did have my hair up and the only hair I had was waving wildly aroung my face, So it only showed part of my hair.

img_20200222_134348050

My pencil self-portrait with hair up. Christopher says it needs more hair.   

Then that evening the large pieces were assembled and the overall look started to come together. There will be a blending of the colors with more paint next. Then about 800 school children will make a self-portrait on the canvas like material to create the background before the final installation is put up in late Aug. The mural should last about 15 years with no need for repairs.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

Christopher with his new friend Mayor of Charleston Amy Shuler Goodwin. 

While Christopher and I  painted we had the pleasure of working on the mural with the Mayor of Charleston, Amy Shuler Goodwin, who spent quite a while talking with Christopher about our state and why we drove 2 hours just to be part of the event. She told me she was so happy to have us come and help make our capital city a more beautiful place.

I loved meeting the people from the community and the Mayor, some were families, some were single men and women, and some were children but most lived nearby.  I even accidentally painted a man’s hand as we crisscrossed the canvas with our brushes and we laughed for several minutes. Christopher made instant friends and played and visited with about 6 other kids his age. It is my hope that sharing these kinds of experiences with him will encourage him to want to be part of a creative community when he grows up.

As the painting time ended we headed back to my car for a picknick near the MLK Jr. Community Center. We talked about how much fun we had and how important it is to share time with new people and how important Dr. King was to all Americans. This day was what Dr. King was teach us all those years ago. A day where all colors and ages come together to share in the joy of being American and creating a better place for us all.

On Aug 21st I am looking forward to the drive down I-64 to finally see our hard work come to life from way above the community center. It was a day I will not forget anytime soon and I hope Christopher has wonderful memories of our painting Dr. King together.

img_20200222_114318638-1

Categories: Charleston West Virginia, Community Art, community service, Creative Place Making, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., family fun, family memories, Martin Luther King Jr., murals, Painting, The Office of Public Art, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Boss Woman, not Boss Man

Basement of the Golden Rule before image

 JoLynn Powers on the first day of basement clean up and demo at the Golden Rule. 

Being self-employed and being the Boss Woman on the job at the Golden Rule over the last 6 months is one of the best things I have done for myself. So I just wanted to share an experience with all of you that I find interesting and makes we want to continue the work I do. As the Redevelopment Coordinator for the Golden Rule Building and several smaller community beautification projects around the Barbour County Area, I am always working on projects with multiple people. My job entails working with and supervising volunteers and contractors to get a project completed. I make sure they have the supplies they need and work with local and state officials to keep them updated on our projects. I plan events to promote our projects and do community outreach to get the volunteers involved.

I often manage the challenges that arise as we do construction, demolition, redevelopment and finally instillations. I love working with people and supervising a crew and love to get my hands dirty.

58444758_10213905877897955_6380452945053351936_n

Team of AmeriCorps working with me at The Golden Rule summer of 2019.                                   Left to right. Sarah, Kelsey, Me and William.

So the day when I had a crew working in the building doing demolition of 2500 square feet of hand made pine shelving I was surprised at my reaction of a just a few words said by a total stranger. As I was heading upstairs to work on tossing hundreds of boards into a dumpster I was approached by a man from the community on the first floor. He had let himself into the building and spoke to me unexpectedly. He said “Hey,…. where is the Boss Man?” I turned and asked him if I could help him with something and what did he need. Again he asked if he could talk to the”Boss Man.’ Being a nice person I never said, “Hey Asshole I’m the boss and that is why I am talking with you.” I just continued to ask questions and answer them for him. Finally, he said he was looking for work and wanted to know if we were hiring and who should he talk to. To this, I said, “No one is hiring laborers at this time, but if you are a contractor like I am, then the main office may be able to help you. They are looking for bids on HVAC, electrical, roofing and plumbing.” The look on his face was of total confusion. Frustrated he asked me who my boss was and where was he. I gave him the name of both of my supervisors and told him to call the office. Then it finally sank in, that I was the crew supervisor and not a man. I think that was almost too much for him.

volunteers help at the GR

These volunteers and AmeriCorps spent a day doing nothing but moving furniture and displays for me at the Golden Rule.

From the deepest part of my belly, I wanted to be an ass and say ” I am the Boss Woman on this job and how well do you work for women?” But in reality, letting him figure it out on his own and speaking to him in terms that would only be handled by the boss I had confused him to the point of frustration. Then when he realized that we had no need for laborers just licensed contractors he was disappointed and equally angry. I spent the rest of my day… irritated. Let’s just say being called the boss is one thing, but to be referred to as a man is never going to go down easy!

I have spent the last week after this situation thinking. I work with some of the most wonderful men in the world and I would not trade any of them for others. My Project Manager and Director understand my love for redevelopment and home improvement and are happy to have me and treat me with the same respect that any person deserves. I have a family who supports me in my passion to build, remodel, and redesign so I rarely ever have a conversation that is not met with equal understanding and passion. But I have to figure out a way to be tactful about explaining my roll at the Golden Rule when a man is confused about the work I do.

After using a grout bag I sweep up the lose grout before washing the tiles

My job for several days was doing grout on our family room floor. Grout bags are a wonderful product as long as you don’t mix too much water into the grout.

So this woman is her own boss and the boss of others and often the main contact for a redevelopment construction site. I have become the thing that I always wanted to be and doing work that I love. I have a team of people I work with who let me enjoy my work and are happy that I want to be involved in community development. So I will just have to get used to surprising people and learn how to say,” Boss Woman, Thank you!”

 

 

Categories: About me, Boss lady, Building rehabilitation, Community Art, community service, Golden Rule, Redevelopment projects, Uncategorized, Woodlands Development Group | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Saying Goodbye to 3 years of AmeriCorps Service.

Three years is a long time to volunteer to do anything. In 4 days I will finish my last term as an Appalachian Forest Heritage Area (AFHA) West Virginia,AmeriCorps. In those years I have learned the names of 120 other AmeriCorps serving the state of West Virginia. I have worked for 6 different supervisors at 4 different offices. I have painted 13 murals and finished 3 major projects,one involved removing 6,000 pounds of trash from a 1902 building and building one website for a nonprofit organization. In those years, I served over 5,175 hours,engaged and managed 250 different volunteers who also gave over 2000 hours of of their time to our community.I have traveled to 6 conferences on topics as varied as grant writing to creative place making and BAD buildings. Its been a whirl-wind of work, people and silliness but it is truly the most fun I have had my life. I am sad to say good bye but I am ready to fly towards a future of more service.

inter-mountain clipping 1

 the Elkins community  during the Martin Luther King Day Celebrations 2017 

 

AmeriCorps has been eye opening in so many ways. Mostly about how much a small group of people can change the future. Those 120 different people worked on 120 different projects and worked on everything from preservation of historical locations to saving brook trout, planning city revitalization projects and helping tourists find a special event to make their trip more meaningful. Some work in the National Forest, some for small historical societies, others fought fires and some worked cleaning up after a 1000 year flood. AmeriCorps is as varied as the people who join, but we are all here with a servants heart.

frist day of Americrops working on Heritage Quilt Block Panels

Work on Heritage Quilt Squares for down town Elkins.

It is that commitment to making the world a better place that make AmeriCorps members different. Knowing that you made a difference towards saving a endangered species that’s home range is only with in the mountains of West Virginia is powerful for the future of our planet. To save and protect the site of a Civil war battlefield for future generations is to change the course of our countries future. To help to house the poor is to change the course of a life for future generations. All of this is what AmeriCorps do, it is how we make a difference.

wild food cooking at Old Hemlock Foundation

Teaching at the Old Hemlock Foundation 2018

I have been lucky to make new and wonderful friends through my years of service that I would have never had the opportunity to meet any other way. AmeriCorps travel from all over the country to serve. I have served  with people who came from as far away as Alaska and as close as just 50 miles away. We grow as people because of our diversity and different cultural backgrounds. We are every color and every age,we are gay, straight, religious and not, we are from rich families and from poor ones, but still feel the call to serve.

Pancake Breakfast volunteers 2017

Serving breakfast with the Easter Bunny 2018

These three years have helped me explore who I am, what I find important and what I want to do for the rest of my life. It is not often that you are expected to work so hard and think so deeply about the world and yourself all at once.  I have come away a stronger person,who has an even deeper commitment to making this world a better place. I would have never been able to be the leader, change maker, and advocate that I am today without  AmeriCorps. It has changed the whole path of my life and I will never be the same again.

GEDC2058 (2).JPG

 “General Store” mural painted for the Barbour County Development Authority 2018 

 

I have been fortunate to have my AmeriCorps service to lead to new  career choice. I have chosen to become a business owner and continue my work in community development. I  will spend the next three years working on the Golden Rule project that you may have seen me write about before. I will be part of a team of workers who will spend those years working on the rehabilitation of the building and creating several businesses in the retail portion of the building. My duties are wide and various. I am working on the liquidation of all the buildings assets currently and will be managing the  sales of over 1,000 items, that will fund redevelopment of the retail space.  Then I will work on business development and creation of a Artist Market for local artist to sell their West Virginia make products. What a wild ride this has been and what a great future I see ahead. I am so thankful that I made the choice to serve the West Virginia Community.

Golden Rule Volunteer Flyer (3)

My home away for home the Golden Rule 2018

Thanks to the AFHA staff and supervisors for the the support and encouragement they offered these last three years. They believe “We Get Things Done” and keep us believing that we can make a difference everyday that we serve. Without them some days I would have pulled my hair out,  I would have given up trying to work with government officials and  lost patience working on grants that take years to see results from. My chosen field of Community Development is sometimes like a slow moving train. We have all the horse power we need to get from here to there but their are days when you just cant get the fire going fast enough for anyone to see any difference in the scenery.  So a shout out to Phyllis, Logan, Alison,Kyle,Sarah, Karen, Cheryl, Dave and Dustin. Thank you all for making these last three years so wonderful. It has made a difference in my life and my future.

documents donation

Donating Documents to the Belington Library from the Golden Rule  2019.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

Helping to support the local Parish House Donation Center. 

 

Categories: About me, AmeriCorps, Appalachin Forrest Heritage Area, community service, Golden Rule, Life Changes, Old Hemlock Foundation, volunteering | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

20 Years of Raising Awareness in Randolph County with the Cultural Awarness and Enrichment Group.

For twenty years the members of the Cultural Awareness and Enrichment Group in Elkins, West Virginia have worked to educate Randolph County community members about diversity issues. The group continues to sponsor the Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration and marked its 20th anniversary planning the event January 14th of 2018.

It was just after this anniversary that I sat down with the founding members of the group to talk about the celebration and the current state of our community’s cultural awareness. The members shared how the group was formed as a grassroots effort to support a multi-racial, multi-cultural, diverse community that is free of racism and bigotry. At the time of the formation of CAEG, surrounding counties harbored hate groups like “The National Alliance” that were putting on rallies and publishing hate documents. It was an unsettling time for the community and people were naturally drawn together to stand against the spread of hate propaganda. It was after a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in 1998 organized by Ann Kingsolver and Catherine Fygan at the Davis and Elkins College that the group formed said Margo Belvin Denton.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Pictured above: Jane Birdsong, Carrie Kline, Mary Alice Milnes, Margo Blevin Denton and Melvin Marks, Founding members of teh Cultural Awarness and Enrichment Group 2018. 

The group brought attention to local issues like acts of racism in the Elkins area and attention to the Riverside School Association, the group who worked to preserve the African American regional high school. They held meetings every two months and brought guest speakers to meetings like Paul Sheridan, Former Deputy Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office to talk about the “Not in Our Town” program, Jerry Dale spoke about the white supremacist group “The National Alliance”, and Karla Schantiger from Women’s Aide in Crisis spoke about domestic abuse.

In late 1999 the group heard that a local group of Ku Klux Klan members were planning a rally at the Harrison County Court house. The members of CAEG banded together to attend a counter rally the same day. The “Let’s Get Real Rally” countered the KKK members in downtown Clarksburg and in a peaceful yet strong way. The non-KKK protesters made it clear that the community was not going to stand by and watch the KKK be the only voice herd that day. The amount of community members who attended the “Let’s Get Real Rally” outnumbered the few Klan’s men at the Harrison County Court House. The counter rally was viewed a great success for groups like CAEG and the State’s program “Not in My Town”.  The energy from these events propelled the group forward for years and its annual Martin Luther King Jr. day celebration has remained a staple downtown Elkins event for the past twenty years.

crop of MLK Day with Mayor 2018.jpg

Community members inculding Elkins Mayor Van Broughton gather for the Commemorative MLK JR. March Jan. 2018. 

The goal of the CAEG has always been “to raise awareness” said co-leader of this year’s MLK day celebration Jane Birdsong. The group with help from community members, AmeriCorps service members and students from Davis and Elkins College, shared music, dance, poetry, prayers and a monolog written by Coretta Scott King about the legacy of her husband. The closing song of the celebration had everyone on their feet holding hands singing together about unity and love before a community pot luck began.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Guests fill the sanctuary of the Woodford Memorial United Methodist Church during the MLK Day celebrations in Elkins 2018.

Also during the program a call to action was announced by Barbra Weaner. Emotionally Mrs. Weaner declared that with the current leadership in Washington, D.C. and acts of racism in Elkins that community needed to reinvigorate the Cultural Awareness and Enrichment Group once again. She said the issues of intolerance were just as relevant today as 20 years ago and we must not allow hate to reign again.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Kyle Pajorito walks hand in hand with a unknown woman at the MLK Jr. Day celebrations 2018. 

After twenty years I was looking into the same faces that had stood up to racism, hatred and violence in Randolph County. The members have aged but continue to teach, share and love just like the first day they worked together. The goal of Cultural Awarness and Enrichment Group is still the same: “Make Elkins and Randolph County a climate for tolerance in a world of intolerance.”

 

 

Link for the KU KLUX Klan Clarksburg, WV rally:  http://americancityandcounty.com/features/government_one

Link for Paul Sheridan:    https://www.niot.org/category/niot/paul-sheridan

 

 

Categories: Appalachina Mountains, community service, Elkins West Virginia, Fairs and Festivals, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Memorial, Non-violence, Randolph County, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Warm Feet for Winter Project was a Meaningful Success.

 

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

pile of my families mismatched socks

Today was a beautiful West Virginia early winter day. The temperature was 50 degrees, the sun was shining, and my car was loaded with donations to the local homeless shelter. 60 pairs of new socks overflowed into the seat of my little station wagon. I was able to collect them from my co-volunteers at our annual holiday dinner.With each donation my friends said “This was so much better than buying a gift for each other.” That they were happy to help in this collection drive, and things like “I picked theses socks for a woman who needs them much more than I do.” Today I  was happy to drop off the donation and I am filled with  the spirit of what Christmas means to me.

As you can see below I created a graphic to share with my friends and co-volunteers from the Appalachin Forest Hertiage Area, AmeriCorps program. I wanted everyone I work with to have the opportunity to do something different with their money for the holiday days.

24993589_10210613177982515_1372364399492118754_n - Copy

I took my lunch hour  the fallowing day to drive downtown to drop off the socks. As I drove the large shopping bag and box to the local homeless shelter, I had no idea what to expect. I thought I would walk into a house with an office with basic amenities where I would drop off the socks. Then an administration person would hand them out and make sure everyone in the shelter would get their fair share.

What happened instead at the homeless shelter was enlightening. I parked at the front of the building only to find a note on the front door to go around the house to the back,  go up to an office on the second floor. Before I could get my foot on the wooden steps to the second floor, a door opened, a woman leaned our of a doorway and asked if she could help me. She must have seen me coming around the house. I told her about dropping off the donation and she said she would send a couple of people out the front door to help carry everything in. So I headed back to the street and popped the hatch of my car.

What appeared out of the front door of the blue Victorian house was sad for me. Two men, one my husband’s age (in his mid fifties) and the other maybe 35. The older was weathered from years of smoking. He wore a faded coat issued by the US Army and had only a T-shirt under his coat. The other younger man was taller, thinner and darker. He asked if he could help me with the box and I passed it to him out of the hatchback. I smiled and said “thank you” to the tall, thin man. He responded with a smile of  broken teeth of a meth addict. The older man took the large bag and spoke very quietly to me. He hoped that my friends and I  knew how much these sock would mean to them and the others who would not get off the street this winter. He reached into the bag and pulled out a pair of heavy thermal socks. He rubbed his wrinkled, dry hand over the bundle of two socks and said” hummmmm these will be so warm.” The younger man turned and walked up the steps to opened the door to the house.  I watched the older man in his green army coat step away from my car and up to the porch. Holding the heavy bag in one hand, he raised it as if in victory, with the other hand he waved saying “Thank you so much, have a Merry Christmas.” I returned his wave and would spend the rest of my afternoon thinking about him and the 11 other residents of this shelter.

I have known and loved some poor people in my life. I have seen men bundle two and three socks together to make a decent pair of socks to cover the wholes in each pair. I have seen the ravages of alcohol, meth and heroin addiction in my own family. It is never easy to look into the eyes  of a person who is struggling, when you are not. But when we take time to see them, talk to them and be kind to them we raise them up. It also raises us up, together we can share in something meaningful even if it is just warm feet for winter.

I challenge you or your work place to do something kind for someone who needs it more than you do over the holidays. It was an uplifting experience for me and my friends. It could be life changing for a person who is on the street and could get not get shelter over the winter. Even a pair of socks can made a difference and I was happy to be part of the Warm Feet For Winter Project.

 

 

 

Categories: AmeriCorps, Appalachian Mountains, Appalachin Forrest Heritage Area, Christmas, community service, Helping the homless | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

A year after the 1,000 year flood in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia

Having the opportunity to travel to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia a year after the 1,000 year flood,the 3rd most deadly flood in the state’s history was eye-opening. The resolve of the people who call this area home, the love and compassion they have and the amount of work that has been done since that day in June 2016 is amazing.

These are the images the country had seen for days in the wake of the flooding in Southern West Virginia. This YouTube Video shows the complete devastation one family experienced as their home not only was flooded but floated away while on fire. The small stream the usually quietly trickles water through downtown that day became a rushing raging deadly river.

 

These are photos taken that same day in different location in the downtown.

 

The flood almost wiped the town from our memory that day. The famous Greenbrier Hotel  resort became the main shelter for many of the effected residence. Rooms that often cost $ 600.00 dollars a night  or more became home for over 200 people for about two months while crews worked to do clean up. Many of my work friends became FEMA volunteers and coordinators helping to dig out privet homes where the nation guard was unable work.

These are the photos I took less than 14 months later.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

a pole sign the greets everyone on main street near the memorial park.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

The white gazebos that sits at the entry to the memorial park from the street.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

memorial informational sign

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Stone memorial wall left side with names of those who were lost to the flood waters. Eight names and markers 4 on each side were recessed into a grass covered mound in the small downtown park.

Walking over the bridge in downtown White Sulphur Springs  flowers.png

Christopher and Tom walk over the bridge at Howard’s Creek. This bridge was under 5′  of water during the flood. Christopher would have been completely underwater.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Howard’s Creek the stream that  flooded the town of White Sulphur Springs June of 2016.

 

As my family walked the quite downtown. It was true that many of the shops are still closed.That many of the stores did not have insurance and were wiped out, but today you see these wonderful signs of hope, strength and courage. This place is ready for a renewal, ready to come back to life again. Every thing is clean, every place has taken on what they can to make their town look beautiful. The streets are lined with flowers, benches and trash cans have fresh paint and patio umbrellas dot the sidewalks to eat under.  We felt welcome and wanted in their downtown.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Alfredo’s Italian & Greek Family Restaurant on main street White Sulphur Springs.

You can not tell the story of White Sulphur Springs without showing  the Greenbrier Hotel. Many come to the area just to visit the historic building circa 1778. It is one of West Virginia true treasures and I was over joyed to be able to spend some time visiting at the hotel.

flowers at the Greenbier Hotel White sulfur springs WV.png

Flower beds in the entry parking area of the Greenbrier Hotel Resort 2017

The main flooding to the property was on the hotels golf course so the main build and the rooms of the hotel were free from damage. The 1778 hotel sits high enough on hill at the edge of town to escape the flooding. Making the owner Governor Jim Justice a hero to many who lost everything and were able to have a safe place to stay for a month or two while clean up and recover efforts were underway.

Some outsiders say “if it was not for the Greenbrier the town would have never recovered fully , they are a rich town”… I can’t disagree more. The people of White Sulphur Springs are why the town is slowly rebounding. It is apparent that they want their town back and are willing to work very hard to have the town to thrive again. It takes more than one hotel to get the schools back up and running, it takes more then just tossing money at a mud puddle to clean up block after block of flooded stores, it takes more then a Governor to declare his business a shelter to build a park and make memorials to those who died that day.

White Sulphur Springs is also home to my friends at The Barnwood Builders T.V. show. So just in case you were wondering… Yes, they have their showroom on main street it is called  Barnwood Living. Yes, they are doing all they can to help the town with their business and the donation of a log structure that will be used at a pick nick pavilion for the whole community to enjoy. They also helped do some construction at Hope Village, a community owned and planned subdivision that was built to move families out of the flood plain of the White Sulphur Springs up on a hill where they will always be safe.  They are proud of their home and are working for its successful future. I remain a fan of the show and loved shopping in their store.

White Sulphur Springs is an example of West Virginians commitment to community, family and hard work.The old saying, “she could make a silk purse from a sows ear” might be fitting. Some how the people have taken the worst of a situation and made something better for everyone. My only hope is to return to see what they do to improve in the next year!

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barnwood Builders, community service, Country life, Flooding, Greenbier Hotel, historic locations, Uncategorized, White Sulphur Springs | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Why a Life of Service is not a Job, But a Life Style

With my second term as an AmeriCorps  Service member half over and me reflecting on what my career plan should be. I have come to the conclusion that I want to keep in the service industry and hope to work for a nonprofit. I have committed to a lifestyle, not a job.

I have spent most of my adult life living on other people’s terms… go to college, get married, get a job, and have a family. Not that these ideas are bad, they just seemed to be a little boring. I have always been rebellious, adventurous with a love for life. I want a passion-filled life, with travel, new people and getting dirty trying new things. I want something more than the 9 to 5 with benefits that colleges promise. I want more from life than punching a time clock allows. Deep inside I want to make a difference in the world.

So at the complete worst time in my adult life after surgery, heartbroken about a personal loss, and feeling unqualified to do much with a Fine Arts Degree, I started looking for work. A writer friend inspired me to stop looking for a JOB and start looking for a lifestyle. A lifestyle that reflected what I really wanted. She helped me to see that what I was looking for was career fulfillment, not career advancement. How eye-opening that moment was for me.

During our visit she shared with me her “Year of Service Story” and introduced me to AmeriCorps, the Citizen Conservation Corps of WV (more often known as the three C’s) and Peace Corps. After our conversation, I realized that my skills and passions could all make a difference right here in West Virginia, the place I love most.

I have been fortunate to serve as an AmeriCorps Member in Elkins, West Virginia for the last 18 months where I work with AFHA (Appalachian Forest Heritage Area), a regional initiative to promote heritage tourism, conservation, and education based on forest heritage. AFHA, AmeriCorps is funded in part by Volunteer West Virginia, the state’s Commission for National and Community Service and by the Corporation for National and Community Service.  As a service member for AmeriCorps, I have had opportunities to meet, work with, and learn from some of the most interesting people in the state.  My Site, Elkins Main Street, is deeply committed to working with local and state government officials on projects that help to bring jobs, investment, growth and prosperity to our community.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

First Lady Joanne Tomblin and Elkins Main Street Director Karen Carper

At Elkins Main Street I work with community volunteers on making public art projects that preserve Appalachian culture and inspire people to take pride in their community. Working side by side with community groups like the Riverside School Association, to celebrate ethnic and social diversity, and cultural differences. Like the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Day celebration.

Mrs Chisum at the MLK event. 2016

Riverside School Ass. MLK Day Celebrations 2017

Also as part of my AmeriCorps duties, I am asked to take time regularly to see and experience the culture and history of the community where I serve. A person cannot begin to make significant changes to the future of a community without first understanding its past and present. We are encouraged to see a wide range of locations in our service area, from remote mountain locations to the largest cities and the oldest historic landmarks. For example, I traveled to the West Virginia Capital Complex to speak with Volunteer West Virginia about the role of the National Main Street Program.

 

Christopher runs the up the steps or the WV state Capitol 3-18

Christopher at the WV Capitol Building

 

Dominic and the AFHA team in the rain at Beaver Creek Mill

Dominic Piacentini at Bear Creek Grits Mill 1840 Summersville WV. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The AFHA AmeriCorps members are a team banded together over large expanses, doing the work of preserving and protecting the local environment, the history and culture of a people and encouraging travel and education about our unique locations.  AmeriCorps is a force for good in places where times are a little harder and people need a helping hand to build on their strengths. I am proud to say that I choose every day to be an AmeriCorps service member because I want something more than a job, I want a lifestyle making a difference.

Highlands trail clean up spring 2017

AFHA Americorps collecting trash along the Appalachian Highlands Trail 2017

 

 

Categories: AmeriCorps, Appalachian Mountains, community service, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Elkins Main Street, Elkins West Virginia, Monongahela National Forest, volunteering | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Serving AmeriCorps and AFHA the Second Time Around

 

Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” 
― 
Fred Rogers, Methodist Minister and Host of the Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.

As my first year of AmeriCorps service at the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area was quickly coming to a close I found myself feeling like my work in Randolph County, West Virginia was not complete. That I had just started to see the impact of my service and I was not willing to walk away. I was not willing to end the project I was working on and was not willing to leave the many people who I was serving every day. In my heart I knew I was helping and making a difference and just did not want to stop making this community a better place.

So by September of 2016, I signed up for another year of service to AFHA, AmeriCorps, Elkins Main Street and the Community of Elkins West Virginia. It was the same day that a new group of AmeriCorps members were sworn into the program. The day was filled with speeches, group photos and getting to know the other volunteers who would join me in the Appalachian Mountains and small towns. It was also the day that I knew that I would never leave the life of service that I had been building for the last 12 months.director-of-volunteer-west-virginia-2016

Executive Director of: Volunteer West Virginia Heather Foster speaking to new enrollees.

I know that many who join AmeriCorps come for the education awards and the on the job training. Some come to explore job possibilities and some come for the travel to a new place with pay. I on the other hand came because I love the state of West Virginia. I understand my states weaknesses and challenges because for 27 years this is where I called home. I understand its proud nature, where her people do not want a hand out, but a hand up. They want an equal chance at raising a family; have steady work and a chance to live in warm safe homes. West Virginians prefer to do it on their own, on their own terms, and if you want to join them in a battle of any kind, they bless you for fighting alongside them. Together they battle to make things better for everyone.I serve next to them so can add my skill, education, strength and love to help bring a brighter future to a mountain community.

I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy.”― Kahlil Gibran

afha-volunteer-west-virginia-swearing-in-2016

Members of AFHA, AmeriCorps enrolling for the 2016-2017  year Morgantown, West Virginia.Sign says “Volunteer West Virginia the state’s Commission for National Community Service. AmeriCorps West Virginia.”

I believe that the AmeriCorps program achieves what it sets out to do. It brings together caring, helpful, educated people who want to make a difference in a location where there is need for support. With guidance, service members do the work in areas of our state that most are not willing or able to do. We aid in making a positive change in the communities doing all kinds of work from preservation and redevelopment of historic buildings, tracking trout populations to building non-profit websites and giving historical tours at local sites. We are here to serve the people and enhance their communities and make them stronger.hands-on-team-working-to-reglaze-and-paint-windows-at-the-historic-darden-house-elkins-west-virginia

AFHA, Hands on team members re-glazing windows on the historic Darden house Elkins, West Virginia.

Being an AmeriCorps member over the last year has opened my life up to new people, new opportunities, and the joy of service. I look forward to my second year of service with Appalachian Forest Heritage Area, AmeriCorps and with the people of Elkins, West Virginia. I can only hope to give them back what they have already given to me. A fresh new outlook on what I can do for the people and places that I love.Thank you AFHA, AmeriCorps and Elkins Main Street for the best job this 48 year old has ever had.

Categories: About me, Appalachina Mountains, community service, Elkins Main Street, Elkins West Virginia, Nonprofit, Randolph County | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Elkins Main Street Creates a Heritage Quilt Block Trail

Following in the same tradition as Barn Quilt Trails of other rural counties, Elkins Main Street begins the process of creating their own Heritage Quilt Block Trail. Located within the downtown historic district of Elkins, West Virginia, community groups come together to support public art and beautification.

With guidance from the Pocahontas County Arts Counsel, The Pen2Paper.org web site “How to Make a Barn Quilt” and many local artist and supporters, we have gathered the best information possible on how to build our own quilt block murals. The four large 8X8 foot painted panels represent 4 traditional quilt patterns used in Appalachian quilts of the area. The large panels will be mounted on the outside of downtown buildings, have an interpretive  map made up of other quilt blocks locations and tell the story of the historical significance of each pattern when all four are completed.

The patterns painted on the blocks represent things that are commonly found in West Virginia and bring to mind the beauty and tradition of quilt making in our local history. The first pattern that is now finished is the “Maple Leaf” pattern.  This brightly colored quilt block will be the first to be installed in the downtown. It will be proudly displayed on the brickwork of the Elkins YMCA. Working on these panels we have members of the local Generation Randolph business development group, service members from AmeriCorps,  Mountain Arts District members and a team from Youthbuild who all work together to prepare and paint the 8 foot X 8 foot panels.AmeriCrops working on Hertiage Quilt Block Panels

Service Members of AmeriCorps: Dominic Piacentini, Molly Greenhouse, Kate Sammons and JoLynn Powers

The second pattern is the traditional pattern of the “Log Cabin”, with the center being bright red to symbolize the heart of every home. It is the most common pattern of all the ones we are making for the trail.

The Third pattern is the Pine Tree that students at Youth Build, a local technical school, are taking on a large portion of the painting as part of their training.

The fourth and final pattern is the “West Virginia Star” with bold Blue and Gold Coloring.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Mountain Arts District members Anne Beardslee, Josie Cuda, Frank Cuda and Dominic Piacentini

The Heritage Quilt Block Trail of Elkins will add a warm, friendly feel to downtown that will encourage people to spend more time in the area.The trail is also a way for the public to get involved in making the town more beautiful, remind the public of our unique history and enjoy art in a public setting.

As the project finishes up and the murals are mounted on buildings around downtown, I hope to document their final placement.I hope to do a presentation with photos and Powerpoint about what we have learned, what we did right and wrong, and how it affects the people of Elkins. Maybe making a small statement about the power of art and how it can bring a community together.

Categories: AmeriCorps, Art, community service, DIY projects, Elkins Main Street, Elkins West Virginia, public art, quilts | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

West Virginia Flood waters of Change 2016

 

It has been a very long hard couple of days for friends and family all over my beloved state. It seems as if God opened the floodgates of destruction on some of the most fragile and isolated communities of Southern West Virginia. If they had little before the flood waters rushed into homes and businesses last Thursday, then there is nothing left at all today.

As volunteers, Red Cross, National Guard units and Department of Highways workers rush to the southern portion of West Virginia the reports of loss get larger and harder to hear. The reality is starting to sink in that tomorrow will not be easier than today. That home is no longer home and never will be. That this historic flood was not just a single stream overflowing or even a town that got several street full of water but, county after county is destroyed…. whole towns have been wiped from the maps or our lives.

I am sure that when all the information is totaled this will be listed as the third most deadly flood in our state’s history and the 2nd most deadly caused by nature. Worst on the list is the Buffalo Creek Flood in Logan County, Feb. 26, 1972. The flood was caused by Pittston Coal Company’s coal slurry impoundment dam #3 when it gave way after several inches of rain fell along Buffalo Creek Hollow killing 125 and covering 16 small coal towns in black sludge water.

 

 

Then followed by the Election Day Flood Nov. 1985. The flood was concentrated in northern mountainous portion of the state around the area where I have lived for the last 20 years. The flood was storm related and killed 47 West Virginians. My family was lucky to not suffer damage to property during the flood but spent several days trapped due to high water.

It seems to me that flooding is just part of living in West Virginia. You can not have our high mountains and low hollows without the water to carve them. You can not live with the lush green hardwoods without the water that falls year round. So it is our plight to constantly keep an eye on the river and her course. We all in West Virginia know her power and know that the flooding is a small price to pay to remain within her mountains and hollows. Rebuilding is not a question, it is when that is the issue that hundred face in West Virginia today.

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Change, community service, Flooding, historic locations, history, rural life, Travel, weather, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | 17 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

Barbour County Development Authority

Providing economic vitality for Barbour County, West Virginia

Life on the Massanutten

Musings from the Massanutten Mountain

The Helsingian Pathfinder

the inward path is the way ahead

Daydreaming Millennial

Come for the thoughts, stay with the journey.

Monkeying Around

Monks, monkeys and monkeying around. An adventurous life.

Shreya Vikram

Blurring the lines between poetry and prose

Dreaming Reality

If Existence is a dream, let us dream perfection....

alifeofvanity.wordpress.com/

For anyone who has ever thought of attempting the #vanlife, A Life of VANity is an unfiltered, realistic look at the unglamorous day-to-day happenings of life in a Chevy G20 Conversion van. Unlike other #vanlife blogs, A Life of VANity is here to show you that it isn’t all roadtrips and ocean-side views, and that there’s nothing wrong with living in a backyard or two.

Beyond the Campfire

Stories of exploration

Mark All My Words

First-Person Nature + Culture Photojournalism

Thrifty Campers

Nature knows no such barriers

Missmackenzierose

Dream-Explore-Discover

Camellia's Cottage

Southern Lifestyle Blog

Free to express

thoughts, experiences, travel, feelings, stories, diaries and many more...

%d bloggers like this: