Elkins West Virginia

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 life style not a job.

I have spent most of my adult life living on other peoples terms… go to college, get married, get a job, and have a family. Not that these ideals 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 a 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 stop looking for a JOB and start looking for a life style. A life style 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.

In 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 my Elkins Main Street site 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, we celebrate ethnic and social diversity, and cultural differences like at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Day celebration.

Mrs Chisum at the MLK event. 2016

Riverside School Ass. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration 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 the mountains, to the largest cities and 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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left side: AmeriCorps members from AFHA touring historic Bear Creek Grist Mill cir. 1840, Summersville, WV.  Right side: West Virginia State Capital Complex, Charleston, WV.

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 building on their strengths. I am proud to say that I choose everyday to be a AmeriCorps Service member, because I want  something more than a job , I want  a lifestyle making a difference.

Highlands trail clean up spring 2017

 

Appalachian Highlands Trail trash pickup day 2017. Members of AFHA AmeriCorps collected 16 bags of trash for the trail foundation.

Categories: AmeriCorps, Appalachian Mountains, community service, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Elkins Main Street, Elkins West Virginia, Monongahela National Forest, volunteering | Tags: , , , | 3 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

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

A Town that Time Forgot, The Heritage Center of Beverly West Virginia

Often when people travel by car they are so busy trying to reach their destination they never take time to stop and enjoy little towns along the way. Beverly, West Virginia in Randolph county is a  mountain town that time forgot. It is a place to enjoy walking on historic streets, take educational tours and shop and eat in places that remind us of our struggles,our victories as a country and a state.

Driving to Beverly a person leaves the more modern world of strip malls and congested traffic and  returns us to a quieter time. This town is mostly residential, built around a central plan of main street businesses that are all within walking distance. The historic district surrounds a small green town square that is hub of activities even today. The city has added to the historic downtown over the years, investing in other old structures, moving them from other areas in Randolph County.

Cloudy day in Beverly WV looking down Main Street from the Heritage Center

Cloudy day in Beverly WV looking down Main Street from the Heritage Center

As a visitor my first stop was at the Beverly Heritage Center to take the tour of the largest and most important buildings in the Historic District. It is hard to miss the Bank on the corner of Main Street ( US Rt 250/219). I feel in love with its white brick and decorative exterior the minute I drove past. Built in 1900 by  the local Dr. Humbolt Yokum, it was the town’s only bank for 33 years. It is the first of the four buildings that connect as The Beverly Heritage Center.

Main Street Bank Beverly, WV Circ 1900

Main Street Bank Beverly, WV Circa 1900.

Rounding the corner off of Main Street on to Court Street, visitors are able to view the other buildings in the collection and enter the parking area at the back of the buildings. The next building on the side street is the most notable of the four buildings. It is the former Randolph County Courthouse. The Courthouse completed in 1815 is one of several buildings used as a County Courthouse. The location of the county seat would move  back and forth from Elkins to Beverly several times over 84 years. Finally the city of Elkins won the battle for the county seat in 1899 leaving this building to serve other purposes.

Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV, Bank, Courthouse, Store and House

Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV, Bank, Courthouse, Store and House.

The Courthouse connects with the next building in the row, the Hill building. The Hill building was constructed in 1912 for use as a store, pool hall and bar, it has the smallest footprint of the four buildings.The bar inside is said to have even survived the prohibition era with ease.Then connected to the Hill building is the Bushrod Crawford House Circa 1850. The building housed a family until General McClellan needed a headquarters during the civil war in the summer of 1861. The home was an important location to the General because it’s close location to several battlefields, it had electricity and could supported telegraph communications. The historic value of this simple looking home is priceless to anyone interested in the history of our country.

Beverly Heritage Center Sign

Beverly Heritage Center Sign

In back visitors see the main entrance of the  Heritage Center. Here you are able to take a tour,enjoy a gift shop and look through a collection of found items from around Randolph County and the Rich Mountain Battlefield.

The quality of this restoration project and unique way the four buildings connect into a single unit is flawless. Visitors move seamlessly from a modern addition where offices and tour guides lead you to the historic buildings. Tour Guides explain the history of each room as you pass from one room to the next room through natural looking passages. The tour actually starts in the rear of the Courthouse and passes to the Bank and back to the store/bar then to the house. At the end of your tour you return back into the entry area through a second doorway.

Each of the buildings are handicap accessible and the flooring in all the rooms of the center are of traditional hardwoods. Each of the buildings contain a collection of items that would have been found in a building of this style and age. The Courthouse has a courtroom display that made me think of what it must have been like for a judge in such a rural area in the 1800 hundreds. Thoughts of the of crimes and what judges would have to rule about drifted into my mind.

inside old Randolph County Courthouse, Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV

Inside the old Randolph County Courthouse, Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly W.V.

After leaving the courtroom visitors are lead into the Beverly Bank. The inside restoration is just as  wonderful as the masonry work of the exterior. The shiny tin punched ceiling and the arched windows make me almost want to go back into banking. The displays in this room are a collection of found objects that were found on or around the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike that passed through Beverly. Many of the items are things that would have been part of wagon or team of horses. There’s also a lovely desk covered in banking papers reminding me of the importance a bank has to a small community.

Desk with bank papers underglass, Beverly Heritage Center.

Desk with bank papers under glass, Beverly Heritage Center.

McClellan style saddle, used during the Civil War and would have been seen along the roads in Beverly WV

McClellan style saddle, used during the Civil War area Beverly WV

 

Beverly Bank interior with tin ceiling, Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV

Beverly Bank interior with tin ceiling, Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV

When visitors finish enjoying the Bank, they pass back through the courtroom into the Hill building. This building is home to a beautifully restored bar and pool hall area with a storefront window that has two mannequins who appear to be running for some sort of county office.

Bar Room in the Hill Building of the Beverly Heritage Center.

Bar Room in the Hill Building of the Beverly Heritage Center.

Mannequins about to shake hands in typical 1800s dress, Beverly Heritage Center.Beverly WV.

Mannequins about to shake hands in typical 1800s dress, Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV.

Finally the tour heads into the Bushrod Crawford House circa 1850 where the Heritage Center has a civil war display area. My favorite portion of the collection is a corner display of a civil war camp site. Making thoughts of long cold nights in the Appalachian woods and the sounds of rifle fire slow my pace through the tour. Visitors also enjoy the story of General McClellan’s use of the house and how important the telegraph was to the battles in this area of West Virginia.

Civil war encampment display at the Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV.

Civil war encampment display at the Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV.

When finished with the Civil War display visitors pass into another area of the house that has a fireplace and furnishings that remind you that at one time this was a home. Visitors then can shop for handmade gifts and toys popular in the 1800’s in the last room on the tour. Quests slowly make their way back to the modern entry where the tour of these buildings comes to an end.

Fireplace and upright piano in dining area in Crawford house, Beverly Heritage Center.

Fireplace and upright piano in dining area in Crawford house, Beverly Heritage Center.

The continued exploration of the historic district should be seriously considered while visiting. The Heritage Center Staff have walking tour booklets and other information to help you continue to enjoy the town of Beverly West Virginia. Below are some more of the wonderful places I photographed that day.

Bosworth Store/ Museum across street from Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV

Bosworth Store/ Museum across street from Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly

Green grass city Square Beverly, WV

Green grass city Square Beverly, WV

Randolph County Jail 1813

Randolph County Jail 1813

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This town has so many  interesting stories and I have only begun to explore them all. My trip to the Beverly Heritage Center was a morning well spent. I will be back and will be taking more time to learn about this wonderful little town that time has forgotten.It was such a pleasure to spend a day with people enjoy old buildings as much as I do.

Categories: Beverly West Virginia, Civil War, Country life, Elkins West Virginia, ghost stories, historic locations, history, Randolph County, rural life, Travel, traveling | Tags: , , , , , , | 23 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

Blog at WordPress.com.

Free to express

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

Appalachian Housewife

The Mullens' Family's Journey Running The Pioneer Farm at Twin Falls State Park

Recipes by chefkreso

Cooking with imagination

Trish the Dish

Keeping Our Family's Bellies FULL... One Dish at a Time

Barefoot with Braids ( or long hair hippy with attitude )

Left home, at Uni and finding out about me, what I like, what I don't, what I regret and what I love

Appalachian Histories & Mysteries

Exploring Appalachia's forgotten, neglected, and sometimes mysterious events.

Enchanted Forests

This Blog is about discovering the magic of forests in every aspect of life from a small plant in a metropolis to the forests themselves

Elkins Depot Welcome Center

The mountains beckon visitors to Elkins, a place where artists gather and history lives.

Media and Truth

The world today

the grizzle grist mill

"All is grist for the mill." - A Proverb

forestmtnhike

Living simple, living life

TRAVELLING THE WORLD SOLO

The ultimate guide for independent travellers seeking inspiration, advice and adventures beyond their wildest dreams

Swamp Yankee Style

Country life, Done simple! DIY Projects, Family Recipes, Thrifty Tips and Farmyard fun!

O at the Edges

Musings on poetry, language, perception, numbers, food, and anything else that slips through the cracks.

Tony Meets Meat

I cook, I eat, I blog.

%d bloggers like this: