Elkins Main Street

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

The Mountains Beckon to Young Cyclists

Mountains Beckon Parade & Rodeo winners for 2015

Mountains Beckon Parade & Rodeo winners for 2015

Spring time in West Virginia is the best time to explore the outdoor events. One of the most child and family friendly free events is Elkins’ Mountain Beckon Bicycle Parade & Rodeo. Over the past 5 years families in Randolph County have loaded up little bicycles and headed to downtown Elkins for a morning of riding bikes and winning ribbons.

The event being held the third Saturday in May helps the community celebrate Bicycle Safety Month. With the help of Joey Riddle and his Downtown cycling shop, Elkins Main Street, volunteers, and sponsors, children have the opportunity to learn about the joy of cycling. The event offers a rodeo where young riders can show of their skills riding through a traffic cone course. Enter contests for the best decorated bike and rider in several categories like Flower Power, Wild Camo, Super Hero, Sparkle&Shine, Color Crazy. Even the Mayor of Elkins, Van Broughton, joins in the fun by giving out the Mayors’ Choice Awards and ridding in the Davis Ave Parade.

Elkins West Virginia Mayor Van Broughton with Mayors Choice Award winner

Elkins West Virginia Mayor Van Broughton with Mayors Choice Award winner

Early Saturday morning children arrive for registration at 9 am at The City Building parking lot.With the city blocking off streets, Police and Fire Department giving escort for safety, the young riders fallow a short parade course through downtown.The children eagerly ride their decorated bikes along the parade route on Davis Ave from Fifth to Third Street, ending in Front of Joey’s Bike Shop. Bike safety classes begin with instruction on correct hand signals and how to properly fit a ridding helmet. Then families watch as their children test their ridding skills at the bike rodeo, winners  are announced and photos are taken. The morning wraps up with lots of happy kids and lots of smiling parents who see the value of encouraging youngsters to take part in healthy outdoor activities.

Mountain Beckons Parade starts on 5th street in Elkins West Virginia

Mountain Beckons Parade starts on 5th street in Elkins West Virginia

This years event is Saturday May 21st from 9 am-12 noon. Registration is at the City Building rear parking lot. The Parade progresses from fifth street to 3rd street and ends at Joey’s Bike Shop where the safety classes and rodeo begin. Awards will be given and photos with the Mayor will be taken and lots of fun will be had. Hope to see all of you there!

Teaching bicycle safety, Right Turn

Teaching bicycle safety, Right Turn

Categories: bicycling, childhood memories, Elkins Main Street, Elkins West Virginia, Fairs and Festivals, family fun | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Irony is Not Lost on Me, As a Dyslexic Writer

Jolynn and Christopher

people who love us don’t see our disabilities just our ability to love. JoLynn with Christopher the youngest son

 

I am always grateful and surprised when I find that one of my blog posts is liked or posted on a Face Book page. It makes me feel like I am reaching all of you and writing in a way that others can relate to.The irony of this entire blogging adventure is that I have a learning disability commonly known as Dyslexia.That problem should prevent me from even attempting to be a blogger, let alone a published writer. My dyslexia is actually in the form of dysgraphia very similar to dyslexia but my problem effects….. writing words and spelling rather than reading them….  ironic don’t you think?

My mind finds it very  difficult to memorize or recall the correct order of letter and number sequences. Things just jumbled up in the brain and come out any possible way but the correct way.Making writing a slow process. It may seem strange that I would take up writing as my favorite hobby where I battle with my limitations so much. The irony is that I get a lot of attention and positive feed back from my writing.

This week I was informed that a blog post/story I have written had been republished on a regional Web Magazine. The MiBurg website usually shares stories that are from the Eastern panhandle of the state in the area of New Martinsburg but this time the theme of my  post was about the entire state and about the AmeriCorps that work in the those areas. The post “The Secret to West Virginia No-profits: Collaboration” was a post about my work and I never thought it would go farther than my blog, my work Face Book page and maybe a local Web Magazine Elkinite. If you are looking for the story on Elkinite or MiBurg look unders the tab IDEAS, thanks!

So as I  look on my situation, where the battle of words is a blessing and I curse, I wonder if others with disabilities feel the same way as I do. I often feel that it makes no sense at all  that  I am writing and getting followers to a blog. That my blog has led me to TV and published writing sites and even my job. I live with the irony every time I put a word on a page. That the one thing I have success at doing is the one thing that I am weakest at.

Jolynn holding television camera in my kitchen

JoLynn Powers holding television camera from the Barnwood builders crew Aug 2015

 

So in the wonderful words of Alanis Morissette: because Word Press is now charging me a fee to link You Tube Videos to my Blog posts…. Booooo !!!!

Isn’t It Ironic 

An old man turned ninety-eight
He won the lottery and died the next day
It’s a black fly in your Chardonnay
It’s a death row pardon two minutes too late
Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think

It’s like rain on your wedding day
It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid
It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take
Who would’ve thought, it figures

Mr. Play It Safe was afraid to fly
He packed his suitcase and kissed his kids good-bye
He waited his whole damn life to take that flight
And as the plane crashed down he thought
“Well, isn’t this nice.”
And isn’t it ironic, l don’t you think

It’s like rain on your wedding day
It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid
It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take
Who would’ve thought, it figures

Well, life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
When you think everything’s okay and everything’s going right
And life has a funny way of helping you out when
You think everything’s gone wrong and everything blows up
In your face

A traffic jam when you’re already late
A no-smoking sign on your cigarette break
It’s like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife
It’s meeting the man of my dreams
And then meeting his beautiful wife
And isn’t it ironic, don’t you think
A little too ironic, and yeah I really do think

It’s like rain on your wedding day
It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid
It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take
Who would’ve thought, it figures

Well, life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
And life has a funny way of helping you out
Helping you out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: About me, blogging, dyslexia, Elkinite, Elkins Main Street, hobbies, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Carpal Tunnel and Cubital Tunnel Surgery Success

4 weeks into my husband’s Carpal Tunnel and Cubital Tunnel recovery we still have 4 more weeks to go. I feel a little overwhelmed these days. I am working away from home for the first time in a couple of years and this is the same few weeks that my husband was able to have surgery on his right hand and elbow. So between the new job, Christopher’s school work and having a husband who has no use of his right hand, I have been working over time.

It seems as if everything always happens at once in my life. There’s never a middle ground. Last fall I found I had hours with nothing to do and no motivation to do anything after the death of the mother in law that I helped to take care of. I felt empty and lost without her, even though I had my own sons and husband to care for. In December I vowed to myself that I would continue to serve others in some way. I applied to serve with AmeriCorps so that I could do community service in a larger way and found The Elkins Main Street program a great place to work. But little did I know, that my husband’s surgery we planned for May or June would be jumped forward to the middle of Feb. It was a good surprise,having the surgery so early in the year, but put my planning and organisation skills to the test. Finding babysitters and arranging my schedule to attend meetings and still finding time to cook a few family meals was always on my mind, while he was in and out of the hospital.

So in less than 10 days I went from having a hardworking husband to having a new patient to look after. I can tell you that losing the use of your primary hand is inconvenient and limiting in so many ways…. Just think, you can not button your clothes, open a jar, or eating normally. It slows eating times to a crawl(unless your wife loves you enough to cut up your meat). There is pain and discomfort after surgery too. It makes the first few days even more challenging, I finally got to sleep in my bed a couple of nights ago. The arm that has the surgery gets wrapped from fingertip to upper arm in a wad of cotton and ace bandages and needs elevated at night.In the end it is just easier for the “Arm” to have my side of the bed. So sleeping was not something I was doing regularly, as I moved from bed to couch and back again trying to find a good spot to rest where I could still hear the alarm clock.

Tom Powers after one week check up and removal of half the bandages and packing Feb 2016

Tom Powers after one week check up and removal of half the bandages and packing Feb 2016

This is the second time my husband has had these surgeries. It has been 3 years since Tom had the same procedures done to his left arm and hand. We both agree with his Dr,these procedures are necessary because of my husband’s recurring work with things that cause hard concussions. In his case, years of working construction and hammering horse hooves and anvils has taken its toll. The surgeries will make it possible for him to go back to work and continue to do what he loves with a little more care and management to keep these injuries from happening again.

Tom is healing and he will be able to return to work in the middle of April. This time he is not allowed to run a Jackhammer … EVER! I am sure he will be more protective of his hands and arms in the future because no one enjoys having an injury that never heals. Funny, how everything has worked out for the best so far, I have been able to support Tom when he needed it, work has been more than understanding about the time I have had to miss and Christopher has enjoyed having the extra time with his dad. We are all also looking forward to getting our routines back to normal soon. We all are looking forward to  spring turkey hunting and trout fishing with a father/husband who is feeling well again. We all are ready for the longer sunny days outside and I am ready to have a normal routine again.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: blacksmith work, Elkins Main Street, Family, Healing, health, trout, Turkey season | Tags: , , , , , | 11 Comments

The Secret of West Virginia Nonprofits :Collaboration

As a member of the West Virginia community I was totally unaware of the impact that non-profits have. I joined AmeriCorps, a federally funded volunteer program to help communities in my state who are struggling. I, like many others, understand the work that non-Profits like the United Way and Churches do in our communities. The work that these organizations do is important, but is only the tip of a large mountain of volunteers and directors who work silently behind the scenes in our cities and towns to benefit us all.

Elkins Main Street Logo

Elkins Main Street Logo

As an outsider who spent almost 20 years working in the retail market doing everything from selling furniture to doing customer service at a private bank, I was trained to think about corporate profits before community service. In every position that I held before AmeriCorps, I was always in competition with the neighboring business.  We spied on the competition, tried to advertise more and work longer hours to get the corporate edge on the competition. Costumer service was important but always a struggle because we only focused on what we could get from a costumer—more accounts, more money, and more of their time. Nonprofits do not work in this way and I was overwhelmed with the difference in how they see their role in the business world.

Through my involvement with AmeriCorps I was invited to serve two small nonprofits in Elkins, W.Va. I am giving my time to Elkins Main Street and the Woodlands Development Group, both who work to improve downtown Elkins and Randolph County. These organizations are not corporations, they work every day with one idea in mind—how to serve and improve the quality of life for residents of our area.  That is a distinct difference when looking at the attitude of how a business works. In this case it means putting people and communities first, that the needs of the many outweigh the needs and profits of a few.  What a refreshing way of looking at things for a burned out sales lady.

People who work or volunteer to support non-profits are people who envision a better life for everyone and tackle everyday problems that are missed by big business. The two non-profits I serve are taking on the challenges of how to make historic buildings and homes part of a vital downtown. They work to make sure the buildings are safe, affordable and useful in the revitalization of downtown Elkins. The Elkins Main Street Program works to give businesses the tools and ideas on how to promote and advertise their goods and services. They offer guidance on how to keep the historic feel of the downtown area, from the design of new signage to how to clean historic facades. Elkins Main Street facilitates conversations about the struggles that all business owners have about everything from street repairs and blockages, to encouraging growth in the historic downtown area. They are the local tie that binds all of downtown together acting as a sponsor for activities that draw crowds to downtown Elkins like the monthly First Friday events and this year’s Entrepreneurship Summit. Their work is to unite everyone in one vision of a successful, profitable, and friendly downtown neighborhood where everyone can contribute.

Darden House copy

Darden House copy

The Woodlands Development Group is a housing developer that takes many of the problem buildings in our area and redevelops them into affordable, sustainable business and home locations. Woodlands works with Elkins Main Street, other non-profits like YouthBuild and financers to make valuable additions to our communities. Many nonprofit volunteers work with Woodlands spending thousands of volunteer hours doing demolition, historic restorations, construction upgrades and repairs for businesses and homeowners our areas. One of the many programs that they take part in is in helping downtown building owners rehabilitate the upper stories of historic buildings so that they can be used as quality residential or rental properties again. Woodlands can even provide them with property management of those rental units to make being a landlord easier and more profitable.

Together with hardworking business owners, residents and volunteers we can restore the look and vitality of downtown Elkins. With support from organizations like the Woodlands Development Group, Elkins Main Street  and AmeriCorps, we are striving to have a community where “Mountains Beckon, Artists Gather and History Lives,” the slogan of Elkins Main Street. It is these collaborations that are the secret behind the success of revitalization efforts in our downtown and communities. It is with pleasure that I am serving and get to be part of a better future for us all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: AmeriCorps, community service, Elkins Main Street, Elkins West Virginia, Nonprofit, Woodlands Development Group | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

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