SUBMITTED STORIES FROM OUR READERS
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25 WAYS TO SUPPORT LOCAL
STORIES OF HOPE AND RESILIENCE
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WVLiving magazine has always strived to bring our readers the best stories from around the state. But this is an extra special issue. As our state faced unparalleled challenges, West Virginians stepped up, opened their hearts and their wallets, and helped their fellow neighbors. A month ago, we reached out to you and asked you to share stories about people and organizations that have gone above and beyond to help others during this time of need and businesses that have retooled as a result of the pandemic. We asked you if you had experienced positive changes, made new connections, or found ways to get back to your roots that could inspire others.
Don’t miss our upcoming travel issue of WV Living , which will be on newsstands the first week of July! We are going retro and returning to yesteryear with an awesome summer road trip–themed issue! Subscribe today at wvliving.com
And you responded. These are your stories. This is your issue. There are no advertisements, and no one funded or sponsored this piece. This is our special community digital issue—sourced from the community for our community. On the last page there’s a People Finder index listing those featured in the publication. After reading these stories, I’ve never been more proud to call myself a West Virginian. They are a reminder as we hit the reset button to continue to think about our communities. I implore you to make it an intentional habit to safely support our restaurants, retail establishments, and local businesses. If you follow me on social media (and if you don’t, please do: @WVLiving on Facebook and, on Instagram, @TheWVEditor and @WVLiving), you know I’ve launched an initiative called #WearLocalWV. Every week I post a selfie showcasing items purchased from local businesses around the state. We also created a filter you can put on your photo with the hashtag #WearLocalWV. In these unparalleled times, every act of support helps our small businesses. So please join me in helping market them with our #WearLocalWV social media shoutouts and challenge three friends to do the same. It’s a reminder to be more conscientious of where we are spending our hard-earned dollars. When we support a local business, our money goes further—it makes our communities stronger and more vibrant.
1. I purchased this baseball cap from Lost River Trading Post in Wardensville and my earrings were designed by artist Judy Belcher, purchased from Tamarack. 2. I found my orange and turquoise dress at Ivor’s Trunk in Charleston, necklace was made by artist Joan Stamp and purchased at ETC in Wheeling, wedding ring is from Jacqueline's Fine Jewelry. 3. I recently purchased this awesome shirt online from The Initialed Life in Charleston, my West Virginia necklace is from The Vintage Lady in Harpers Ferry, and earrings from Ivor’s Trunk in Charleston. 4. This baseball cap from The Delmonte Market in Elkins gets lots of use and earrings by Tygart River Pottery. 5. My T-shirt is from Screech Owl Brewing in Bruceton Mills and my earrings are made from recycled Coca Cola cans by artist Merideth Young, purchased at Tamarack. 6. I found this baseball cap at Hoot and Howl in Morgantown.
NIKKI BOWMAN MILLS, Editor
We All Make Snafoons Enjoy a compilation recapping some of our governor’s most memorable press conferences.
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Pivoting When COVID-19 shut down all but essential services, businesses across the state figured out how to provide those services and do it safely.
BUSINESSES & ORGANIZATIONS ›› pivoting
When Work Stops, Shop Little Black Dress owner pivots to groceries. When the stay-at-home order that started on March 24 meant the end of large gatherings indefinitely, Misti Sims, an event planner and owner of Little Black Dress in Parkersburg, put the new time on her hands to good use. She started The Grocery Girl shopping service. Mid-Ohio Valley residents could review the online shopping site of their choice, type a list of items they wanted, and pay Misti in advance via the Venmo digital wallet app, with a small delivery fee. Misti, joined by Ataraxis Hair Salon stylist Kelli Henderson, would shop and deliver directly to the customer’s door. In her frequent Facebook posts at @grocerygirlmov keeping customers informed, she called it her “COVID-19 side hustle.” “Misti saved me from having to take my 4-year-old grocery shopping since my husband works out of town,” wrote one rave reviewer on Facebook. “I have used other grocery services, and it doesn’t compare to the detail oriented shopping the Grocery Girl does and with a smile,” wrote another. A third: “You cannot beat the price, and I love that the fees are going directly to the person braving the stores, not a corporation.”
CINDI DUNN W HARPERS FERRY, JEFFERSON COUNT Y A Great Time to Get Online The Vintage Lady takes the opportunity to go digital.
isolation we all feel at times, it’s comforting to know that we are all in this together! Five years ago this July 23, our business and seven others in our town were destroyed by a tragic fire. I would never have dreamed that we would be going through yet another tragedy during this fifth anniversary year. During the aftermath of the fire, I looked for the blessings, and I’m doing that at this time as well. And I’m finding them! Customers who are supporting our online shop and people sharing our posts on social media as well as personal strength one never realizes they have until challenging times. Being a tourist town, the fear is, will the tourists come back? Thanks to the Jefferson County CVB and Annette Gavin Bates, there is a great marketing strategy in place, with email blasts to let folks know that, once this is over, Harpers Ferry is where “Almost Heaven” begins. People are going to be eager to get out and explore—and where better than our beautiful little town? One of my favorite quotes goes like this: “You can’t calm the storm, so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself. The storm will pass.” I’m hopeful this virus storm passes soon. But until then, I will continue to look for the blessings.
one of my favorite shows is Friends , and one of my favorite lines from this favorite show is from Joey: “How you doin’?” We are hearing those words a lot right now as it applies to how we are all “doin’” during this time in our country. We closed our shop, The Vintage Lady boutique in Harpers Ferry, on March 16 in response to this pandemic. After letting it all sink in, we decided to do what we never seemed to have time to do—open an online shop. It’s been fun and exciting and gives us a focus that is not on the shop being closed, but being open in a different way. We’ve had online customers from Texas, Vermont, North Carolina, and several other states as well as right here inWest Virginia. Many have visited Harpers Ferry and shopped with us in the past, while others are planning a trip when things have settled down. To promote the online shop, I’ve been sending out a newsletter once a week. I’ve enjoyed sharing some of my thoughts on this roller coaster of emotions we are all on. One minute I’m sad—the next MAD; one minute I’m scared, the next filled with rage. Yep, I’d call that a roller coaster. With the
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ANDREA DUKE W PARKERSBURG, WOOD COUNT Y Two Great Tastes That Go Great Together In a Jam and Box Bagels make a great combination. like almost everyone else, my life and my jam business, In a Jam, came to a fast halt in March. I went from never having enough time and being too busy to quiet and still. I was listening to a podcast one evening, and the message was to think of a way to use what you already have and recreate it to keep going. So I reached out to Leslie of Box Bagels, a local woman who makes bagels. I mean, really good bagels! I asked if she would like to collaborate with my jam business, and she agreed. Leslie makes the bagels and I pick them up from her porch on Friday afternoons, then spend Friday evening planning the route. It takes about 3 hours to make 20 deliveries every Saturday morning. The bags of bagels and jams are dropped off on porches to keep within the guidelines of “no contact.”
LENDING A HAND Distilleries are making more than a stiff drink. At least four distillers in West Virginia have answered the call for help in the war against COVID-19. The global pandemic has created a hand sanitizer shortage across the country. With a little ingenuity and West Virginian grit, Appalachian Distillery, Black Draft Distillery, MannCave Distillery, and Smooth Ambler Spirits have started making small bottles of sanitizer to share with medical facilities and the public.
This new venture has brought a lot of smiles. Many customers purchase the combo for loved ones who they can't visit, but want to do something special for them. It's been nice for me to keep the business going and to reconnect with locals, reminding me of my days when I started my business at the farmers market. The schedule is now full for the next month and, after this is over, I think the plan is to continue working together with Leslie to offer special monthly deliveries. This project then led to the idea of collaborating with 13 other local businesses to offer a box filled with the area’s favorite locally made items. We sold out in just a few hours when we launched the idea and are working on another collaboration now. It’s amazing to see the support and love that small, local businesses are receiving during this situation. Thank you.
TAYLOR PAYNE W MORGANTOWN, MONONGALIA COUNT Y Warehousing Lets a Big Operation Ramp Up Mylan Park’s storage space helps Pantry Plus More. mylan park has been assisting the Monongalia County School District’s food pantry program, Pantry Plus More, in providing
adequate storage of donated food items in our Hazel & J.W. Ruby Community Center. This essential program serves eight schools throughout the county, providing additional items to children who may not have necessary items at home—including toiletries, canned foods, and some perishable items— and serves the great need of our underprivileged youth. The foods are stored at 350-acre Mylan Park’s Hazel & J.W. Ruby Community Center, with dry goods located inside the facility and perishable items located in temperature-controlled trailers just outside the facility. The team at Mylan Park is proud to partner with the Pantry Plus More program in this time of need. The team has been on-site lending a helping hand anyway they can while maintaining appropriate PPE and social distancing—happy to be doing our small part in helping out our community.
BUSINESSES & ORGANIZATIONS ›› pivoting
Christopher Taylor, the executive director of the Beverly Heritage Center, found the whole situation amazing. “We began these livestreams to try and implement some form of public programming while we as a nation navigate this public health crisis. We were mostly just trying to keep people interested in what we were doing. We are so grateful that Kanika reached out to us.” The Beverly Heritage Center has continued to host its livestream series. The topics include fashion, transportation, and the first campaign of the Civil War. I used to be part of a Medieval Radio program, so I love getting to put these shows together. We design them so that people listening in can ask questions in real time—you never know what’s going to happen. For Kanika Marshall, these conversations have helped her prepare a book of her family’s history that she had been working on for years. “You cannot know how precious this information is to me.” The Beverly Heritage Center scheduled livestreams every Saturday in May at 1 p.m. Check its Facebook page at facebook.com/ beverlyheritagecenter to see if further talks are scheduled and to watch.
CHRIS MIELKE W BEVERLY, RANDOLPH COUNT Y
COVID-19 Livestream Uncovers Family History The Beverly Heritage Center shares something and learns something in return.
of sale involving an enslaved woman named Margaret. You can imagine my surprise when the very next day I got a message from a woman from California who is a descendant of Margaret! Kanika Marshall contacted the Beverly Heritage Center through its Facebook page. “I have known since 1976, thru family lore, that my great-great-great-grandmother, Margaret Booker, was enslaved by the Earle family in Beverly,” she wrote. “I have recently found an interview from Kenyon College by a professor who interviewed Margaret’s grandson, my Great-Uncle George Booker, who said John Earle was the master.” The two had exchanged emails about the Booker and Earle families, filling in gaps in each other’s research.
while the doors to the beverly heritage center may be closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the museum and visitor’s center is finding new ways to reach out to the public. For the past five weeks, there have been weekly Facebook livestreams on topics as varied as food during the Great Depression and women of Randolph County. After the “show” on the history of the 1808 Courthouse in Beverly, the Heritage Center received an intriguing email. I was conducting the broadcast as Head of Programming and AmeriCorps member service with the Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area. During the broadcast, I was talking about sources of history for the Randolph County Courthouse, and I brought up an entry in the Oaths and Licenses book that mentioned a bill
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Closure During COVID-19 Davis Funeral Home finds a new way to meet an important need. Social distancing has posed particular challenges for funeral homes and for the families who need their services. West Virginia was several weeks into its stay- at-home order when one funeral home decided to try a new model. Davis Funeral Home in Clarksburg held the first drive-through viewing and visitation in the state on April 17. It was for the family and friends of Louise Fazio Boocks, who had passed away at the age of 97. A public moment of some kind was much needed. Ms. Boocks had lived a long, full life. She had a large, close family, including 29 great-grandchildren and nine great-great-grandchildren. And she was active with the United Methodist Temple in Clarksburg and a life member of the Clarksburg VFW Post 573 and the Clarksburg American Legion Post 13. During the five-hour viewing period, friends and family drove through in more than 100 cars. “What we’re all about is helping the family and trying to be creative and do anything we can,” funeral home co-owner David Bolyard told WDTV afterward. “Anything we can do to make it easier when somebody loses somebody, that’s what it’s all about.”
An App for That Clio keeps the museums open—virtually. DAVID TROWBRIDGE W HUNTINGTON, CABELL COUNTY
our cultural sites, museums, heritage tourism sites, andhistoric landmarks are among the many institutions that have been affected by the public health crisis. As museums and historic sites throughout our state and nation faced closure, I asked myself what I, a history professor, might do to help. When I was younger, I served as a firefighter in my home state of Kansas. I am also proud to have served in the West Virginia National Guard. While I could no longer help people in that direct way, I knew that these institutions needed help. Within days, the idea hit me—I could build a new feature in Clio that would allow museums and historic sites to create virtual tours of their museums and sites. Clio is a free educational resource I created in 2013 to connect people to nearby history. Clio has grown to more than 30,000 sites and includes hundreds of walking tours. But until last month, there was no way to create a tour of a museum or historic complex. However, I knew that the same code that allowed for tours using street directions might be altered to create a guided tour experience within a museum. Working with our West Virginia–based team of developers, we built a new system that made it possible for any museum or historic site in America to build a virtual tour that would work at any location. Clio is nonprofit and free for everyone, thanks to donors. Now that new system is up and running. In the past week, more than 150 museums, heritage tourism sites, battlefields, and historical societies have begun the process of creating educational tours. Each tour offers audio narration and on-demand information from curators, preservationists, artists, scholars, and other experts related to each room of a building or gallery in a museum. It’s the closest thing to being there and offers a guided tour at no cost from any location. And because Clio utilizes GPS, these tours can also guide in-person visitors when we are once again able to safely travel through this beautiful state and country. In the past week, museum staff and leaders of historical societies have sent messages that shared many years of work to raise funds or land a six-figure grant so they could build an app/ virtual tour. Now that they can build this for free in Clio, these organizations are able to do this work at no cost. I’ve been inspired by the passion of the people who staff our museums and their desire to serve school groups and the public. In the past week alone, nearly a dozen of these organizations have built virtual tours that respond to the needs of their communities. Thanks to supporters, we are also working with the American Foundation for the Blind to make the system accessible for all. Historians usually bristle at clichés like “now more than ever.” However, at this moment in history, organizations that preserve and share our history need our help now more than ever. I hope that you will support the museums and other institutions in your community. Each of these organizations depends on admission fees and makes most of its revenue during the spring and summer. Teaching history to the people of West Virginia remains one of the great honors of my life, and I hope that Clio helps everyone to discover the history of their community.
BUSINESSES & ORGANIZATIONS ›› pivoting
A Nimble Community Response Randolph County businesses take distancing in stride. randolph county has stayed ahead of the game when it comes to dealing with the coronavirus. Many organizations and businesses have stepped up during this unusual time in our reality and have come up with creative ways to continue to thrive. Elkins Main Street’s monthly First Friday events have gone to livestreaming to provide entertainment virtually, for example. The restaurant El Gran Sabor is livestreaming concerts on its social media page. Beverly Heritage Center is providing historic talks online every week. Randolph Together was created to provide positive stories, COVID-19 updates, and make sure the locals know what businesses and shops are still open during this time. TipTop coffee shop developed a beer club, wine club, and dinner club. And Big Timber Brewing is delivering beer to people’s houses—kind of like an ice cream truck for adults. TAIRA LANDAVERE W ELKINS, RANDOLPH COUNTY
Farm Aid Sunset Berry Farm finds support in the community. JENNIFER GILKERSON W ALDERSON, MONROE COUNT Y
also started accepting reservations for guests to reserve private space in the 1-acre PYO strawberry patch. With 40 rows perfectly spaced 6 feet apart, social distancing would be a breeze. Each guest would have their own row. Then another blow to the farm. Warm
covid-related cancellations started the 2020 season at Sunset Berry Farm & Produce outside Alderson at a loss of more than $30,000, and social distancing requirements were likely to impact attendance at the farm’s Pick Your Own (PYO) attraction, set to open
temperatures brought early blooms in February, followed by freezing temperatures in March and April. The beautiful strawberry flowers went from yellow to black, and major crop loss resulted. Now with supply lower than ever and demand higher than ever, high school economics
May 20. We quickly faced losses that could total around $50,000, which is half of the farm’s annual income. Markets were likely to be closed, which would mean even more losses. It was time to bring 20 seasonal workers back, and
the community needed jobs more than ever. $100,000 of fruits and veggies was in danger of rotting in the field. The farm had to do some quick damage control to survive. We asked ourselves, How can we get our food to customers who are under a stay-at- home order? We take it to them! A makeshift online market on the farm’s website and a Facebook post would help the farm survive. The community embraced the farm like never before. Orders poured in requesting delivery as far as an hour away, including Beckley, Hinton, Lewisburg, Pickaway, Princeton, and White Sulphur Springs. The farm was able to recover with $20,000 in sales just in the month of April. The farm
would take over. We were forced to decrease the serving size and increase the price. Orders continued to come in, and PYO guests are thankful for the opportunity to once again experience the outdoors, even at the new price point. It appears the community needs us as much as we need them. The same terrible thing that caused the farm crisis is now, in a strange way, playing a vital role in the recovery process. The community seems to have a new appreciation for premium, safe, locally grown food and also for the opportunity to enjoy family time in a little strawberry patch in the middle of nowhere.
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pivoting ‹‹ BUSINESSES & ORGANIZATIONS
Defense Production Act Employees of Braskem America shelter at work.
Staying home from work is one way to keep from spreading the virus. And then there’s the opposite: Staying at work. That’s what employees of Braskem America’s plant in Neal, outside Huntington, did. Starting at the end of March, 42 employees volunteered to participate in a four-week “live-in.” The exercise wasn’t just an alternative way of slowing the spread. Braskem produces polypropylene, an essential raw material for N95 medical face masks and other personal protective equipment used by frontline health care workers—items that were in high demand and short supply at the beginning of the pandemic. In Neal and at a similar Pennsylvania plant, Braskem formed resiliency teams to maximize the company’s production of polypropylene in the safest way possible. Resiliency team members packed their toothbrushes and shaving kits, and the company supplied kitchens and groceries, internet access, and beds. Workers also received a well-earned bump in pay. In the third week of April, Braskem America told the Washington Post that the company had produced 40 million pounds of polypropylene in the previous month— enough to make 500 million N95 masks.
MONICA ZALAZNIK W BUCKHANNON, UPSHUR COUNT Y The “Grocer-Raunt” Fish Hawk Acres transforms itself. with dine-in eating temporarily
Hawkins said of the expanded space next door. “In the space where the produce is now, we are thinking of making that our beer and wine selection. None of it is set in stone; we’re taking it one step at a time.” Once completed, Hawkins said, the new setup will have several sections, featuring a meat department, beverage area, deli, dairy, and more. “It’s like a grocery store, but micro-size, and it’s going to be like a neighborhood market where you can also get great food,” Hawkins said. “We’re also talking with an online platform to get everything listed online so people can shop online, and then we would actually deliver it to their homes, and they could also do curbside pickup.” Can’t wait to get your favorite Fish Hawk food? You can order off the sandwich and breakfast menu online for takeout, or stop by and pick something up from the market. Currently, only three people will be permitted inside at once to maintain social distancing protocols. A list of items available in the grocery portion of the market can be found at facebook.com/fishhawkacresw v.
prohibited , this Buckhannon eatery has moved forward with plans to expand next door with the goal of offering more space for both the market and restaurant portions of the Main Street business. Co-owners Dale Hawkins and Teresa Lipps—along with the rest of the Fish Hawk team—have been working on the expansion into the building adjacent to their current location while also keeping the coolers stocked and grill going for pickup orders. Patrons can currently stop by and shop; you just can’t sit and eat. “We are converting into a ‘grocer-raunt,’ so there are no tables or chairs right now, and when they will return all depends on the virus,” Hawkins said. Hawkins said that, when someone first walks in to the new-look space, they will notice shelves of grocery products where the large farm table used to be, and the eight- door cooler has been cut in half—the other portion will be on the other side of the wall, in the new expanded area. “Eventually that’s going to be a produce section,”
BUSINESSES & ORGANIZATIONS ›› pivoting
The Potomac Valley Transit Authority installed safety shields on its buses. It pitched in across the community, too, delivering meal packets created for students by local businesses to Keyser Middle School.
appointments for their health and well- being—especially the elderly and disadvantaged population of West Virginia. In the Potomac Highlands region, Potomac Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) is filling that need with READY RIDE! for the residents of Keyser, Moorefield, Petersburg, Piedmont, and Romney. Already popular before the pandemic, this on-demand service transports people from home or work to the store and to appointments for the essential services they need. All it takes is a call to the office in Petersburg, and drivers are dispatched to pick residents up to handle their essential needs. “READY RIDE! has become a lifeline for so many people, even more so with the crisis in our areas,” explained PVTA General Manager Doug Pixler. “We have adjusted our schedules to take seniors to stores early when retailers have created senior-specific hours, and we have taken measures to protect both drivers and passengers by adding safety shields, moving fare boxes, and enacting more stringent disinfection practices.” PVTA employees are not only helping riders, but pitching in in other ways, too. In Mineral County, area businesses helped schools by preparing 800 meal packets with
breakfasts and lunches for students. Recently, PVTA employees worked with Duckies’ Bar and Grill in Piedmont to help package the meals and then delivered them on buses to Keyser Middle School, where volunteers were waiting to deliver meals to students. Other ways we are serving: • transporting a student without transportation to pick up graduation items and to clean out a locker; • transporting a newborn and mom home from the hospital; • offering rides at 6 a.m. in areas where senior shopping is offered; • transporting seniors from areas we usually do not serve to the grocery store or pharmacy; and • participating with our five counties to share information, supplies, and support where and when necessary. During the COVID-19 crisis, PVTA is not charging fares for READY RIDE!, which is operating Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Keyser, Moorefield, Petersburg, and Romney. We are posting regular videos explaining any changes and updates and sharing information with our followers. facebook.com/potomacvalleytransit
Service on Wheels Virus or none, Potomac Valley Transit Authority keeps people moving. potomac valley transit authority serves Grant, Hampshire, Hardy, Mineral, and Pendleton counties in West Virginia. We have been operating under the federal and state COVID-19 guidelines since Governor Justice declared West Virginia under a state of emergency in March. As our country faces one of the worst viral emergencies in decades, our leaders are working to put together plans of action to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19. A big part of those plans requires people to shelter in place, to stay home from work if your job isn’t essential, and to maintain a safe distance from each other. However, people still need groceries, medication refills, and to get to vital 12 wvl • the community issue 2020 SUZANNE PARK W PETERSBURG, GRANT COUNTY
pivoting ‹‹ BUSINESSES & ORGANIZATIONS
coordinating the offering of third-party professional services; and providing eCommerce transition design services. In these ways, Woodlands has supported and impacted approximately 45 COVID- affected area small businesses. Woodlands also partnered with a local development authority and CVB to create the Tucker County “Support our Shops”(SOS) campaign, a website meant to drive business to open businesses and web sales platforms by listing business hours, available services, and online shopping links. The most unique service Woodlands is offering entrepreneurs is funding third- party web designers to work directly with existing business owners to deploy tailored e-commerce solutions and get them back in business. Existing technical assistance funds from the Appalachian Regional Commission, U.S. Economic Development Administration, and Benedum Foundation are being utilized through Woodlands’ Mon Forest Business Initiative, in partnership with Natural Capital Investment Fund. “Ten years ago, we secured the loan to open our coffee shop, and it also happened to be the first loan Woodlands ever made,” said Cade Archuleta, owner of TipTop in Thomas. “Knowing how slow business had gotten recently, they connected me with an extremely talented local designer who is helping us build a website so we can offer our wine and beer clubs, online food orders, and merchandise, etc. I couldn’t think of better people to work with in these uncertain times.” These websites are giving restaurants the ability to receive online orders and keep menus updated. Retail shops can offer their goods and services for sale while their shops remain shuttered. The sites will also help diversify these businesses when the economy reopens. Business Advisor Marti Neustadt noted, “It’s so inspiring to see entrepreneurs doing what they do best. Even though their business models had to change very abruptly, they are showing that they are resilient and nimble, capable of pivoting to meet demand.” To date, Woodlands has contracted web designers to build 14 eCommerce solutions for local businesses in the Mon Forest region, several of which are already live. With significant amounts of staff time, thoughtful use of existing resources, and trust built in communities from years of dedicated work, Woodlands has been able to impact the lives of many business owners in West Virginia in an unprecedented time.
founded in 2012 by its partner, Woodlands Development Group. It provides loans, business development services, and finance packaging for small businesses and real estate projects that are otherwise “unbankable.” Woodlands has provided loans to more than 85 new and expanding businesses, lending over $2.6 million and leveraging an additional $6 million from other lenders, resulting in the direct support of 140 jobs. Woodlands efforts have also led to redevelopment of over 85,000 square feet of downtown housing and commercial space, most of which was formerly vacant. As brick-and-mortar businesses closed, Woodlands committed to providing meaningful, relevant services to small businesses, focusing staff time and resources on those most affected by COVID. Those services include: deferring existing Woodlands’ loan payments; directly assisting with SBA Economic Injury Disaster loan, PPP, and other applications; helping self- employed individuals file for unemployment benefits; continuing business advising and
EMILY WILSON - HAUGER W DAV I S , TUCKER COUNT Y Bank on It A Tucker County lender branches out to help. inmid-march, a staggering number of small businesses in West Virginia were forced to close their doors to the public as the COVID-19 crisis reached the state’s communities. Since then, Woodlands Community Lenders’ staff have worked diligently to listen to business owners and figure out ways to better serve small COVID- affected businesses in the Monongahela Forest Region. “We knew we had to switch from a ‘business development’ mindset to ‘business retention’ mode,” commented Business Advisor Heather Hanna. Woodlands is a certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI)
BUSINESSES & ORGANIZATIONS ›› pivoting
JONATHAN BELLINGHAM W HIGHV IEW, HAMPSHIRE COUNT Y A Gift of Relaxation Capon Springs & Farms honors frontline workers. on april 16, we sent out an email to our Capon Springs & Farms guests with the following message:
As a small gesture of appreciation and support, we would like to send a packet of soaking bath salts from the Hygeia Bath House & Spa to you and/or your family members who are working as health care workers or first responders. The bath salts (which are made by a small business right here in West Virginia ~ “WV Naturals”) can be used for a relaxing soak in the tub or as a foot bath to soothe aching feet. It is our sincere hope that this gift will provide a moment of healing respite from the tireless work so many of you are doing to keep the rest of us well and safe.
In addition, the names of the health care workers and first responders submitted can be entered into a Capon drawing good for a number of complimentary two-night stays for two during the 2020 or 2021 season. To request the soaking bath salts and/or enter the drawing for yourself or someone you love that is working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis, please fill out this form. We look forward to the time we can welcome you all back home to Capon. P.S. For some inspiration and strength during these very challenging times, check out this blog post about “The Blessings Basket” at the spa. We hope that reading these beautiful messages left by our guests will bring you some peace and comfort, just as they have done for us. The result was, we received about 250 submissions, with some amazing stories about what our gesture meant to them. An example:
I wanted to thank you so much for the amazing bath salts! I am a public health nurse that spends my shifts testing people for COVID-19 at home, working a drive-through, or entering a facility. Your kindness is heartfelt! I have had the pleasure of vacationing at Capon Springs in the past. It is a place that is near and dear to my husband and his family. We look forward to a future trip with our boys. Wishing you continued health. With much gratitude, Nicole Lane, BSN, RN, NCSN
We announced the winners of the two-night getaways in early May. Congratulations to nurses Alyssa Leimberger and Emmett Moloney and veterinary technician Cathy Collier—we can’t wait to see you here and thank you in person for your work.
14 wvl • the community issue 2020
pivoting ‹‹ BUSINESSES & ORGANIZATIONS
produce clean, safe foods while supporting our mission and our Junior Crew (youth employees). At most grocery stores, consumers have no idea where the produce comes from or how many people have touched it. But now more than ever, it’s essential to know these things. We reviewed our operation from the ground up. We enhanced our already stringent food safety practices and initiated our “3 Touch” system to provide produce that comes into contact with three people or fewer from harvest to you. Our new protocols far exceed FDA, CDC, and WHO-recommended guidelines, which keeps our crew and customers and your food even safer. Facing lost income week after week, we worked fast to launch farmtakeout.com . Our new online market allows customers to choose from a wide variety of organic produce and eggs, from-scratch baked goods, and local meats and cheeses and then pay in advance and pick up at our contactless drive-through. We also promoted our 2020 Organic CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and Friend of the Farm card membership programs, with a goal of 25 new members. As of today, more than 60 local families get their weekly vegetables directly from us through those programs. We put just as much effort into continuing our mission-focused work. A dedicated team of six works behind the scenes at the farm as full-time advocates on behalf of the youth in our program. They pulled off our second online miracle: They quickly developed an online learning system of high-quality enrichment programs that allows our Junior Crew to continue to earn their hourly wage by completing online class tutorials. We hope to lessen the financial burden felt by our Junior Crew and their families as a result of the pandemic. Our great hope is that these experiences will make us stronger and better at what we do. We are not a group of people who says “we can’t”—that's just not us. Instead, we’ve ensured that our mission to support local youth continues while coming together like never before to provide our community access to clean, safe food. If you would like to learn more, visit us at wardensvillegardenmarket.org.
Growing Optimism, Opportunities, and Organic Produce The Wardensville Garden Market supports health and community. PAUL YANDURA AND THE WARDENSVILLE GARDEN MARKET CREW W WARDENSV I LLE , HARDY COUNT Y
their families. For the first weekend in nearly four years of operation, our doors were closed. The Wardensville Garden Market is a nonprofit organic farm, but we grow more than just vegetables. Our mission is to expand opportunities for local Appalachian youth so they grow to reach their greatest potential. We are the first project of Farms Work Wonders, a West Virginia nonprofit social enterprise that creates living classrooms—our bakery, market, farm, and the soon-to-be-launched restaurant— to provide real-life experiences and create jobs. Our nonprofit believes in a “help ourselves” versus a “help us” model. We create income through sales of our from-scratch baked goods, organic eggs, and produce, with 100 percent of the proceeds invested back into the program. People were still going to need to eat, our plants weren’t going to wait until we reopened to start producing, and our laying chickens didn’t have an on/off switch (at least that we could find). There was no farmers almanac or instruction manual to consult. Still, with a dedicated staff, we knew we’d continue to
when news first circulated about the coronavirus, we knew what our first steps would be—pause, plan, and adapt. On March 13, a full nine days before the governor's stay-at-home order, our senior managers suspended non- essential on-site operations. We closed our bakery and market and told our 70-plus employees—40 of them high school students—to stay home. We promised to keep paying them, and we took stock of our food and made donations to our staff and
BUSINESSES & ORGANIZATIONS ›› pivoting
BEN DUVALL - IRWIN W ELKINS , RANDOLPH COUNT Y Virtual Ramps
Elkins Depot Welcome Center takes its festival online. what do you dowhen your organization decides to cancel its largest event of the year? At the Elkins Depot Welcome Center we decided to turn our community event into an interactive online experience. Now in its 12th year, the Ramps & Rail Festival has grown to 50 food and craft vendors and thousands of potential attendees. This would obviously exceed the mandated limit on public gatherings, so, in the interest of public health, we made the decision to postpone the festival until 2021. Our followers were understanding but disappointed, and we wanted to find a way for our community to participate in some other way. Karen Carper, a volunteer at the Elkins Depot Welcome Center and the Highlands Trail Foundation, came up with the idea of a virtual ramp celebration. Our virtual celebration involved two social media contests to keep people talking about ramps: a giveaway and a cookbook. We put together a gift basket of ramp-themed items from local businesses Naylor’s Hardware and the Delmonte Market and local artist Brad Basil, including digging tools, a cookbook, an apron, ramp salt, and more to encourage people to collect and cook their own ramps. To enter, people simply had to like our page and tell us their favorite recipe, memory, or tradition involving ramps. More than 200 people from all over shared their favorite ways to eat ramps, memories of digging ramps with family, and stories of the strong smell that ramps are known for. We also decided to collect recipes using ramps for a cookbook that will be made available at next year’s festival. We invited local restaurants, friends, community members, and all our social media followers to submit their best recipes, and we have received more than 50 recipes from more than 40 people. We will give a free copy of the cookbook to everyone whose recipe is included. In the end, our promotions succeeded in getting hundreds of people involved in the mission of the Ramps & Rail Festival: supporting our community and celebrating our region’s unique wild vegetable that is the ramp.
Signs of Creativity City Neon stays essential as conditions evolve. If you’re a third-generation owner of a family-run business and the company hasn’t laid anyone off since it was started in 1963, you feel motivated to keep things going. That was the situation Chris Atkins of City Neon in Morgantown was in when the economy started slowing down in March. City Neon is a sign-making company that was created by Chris’s grandfather. So he came up with an idea that would help other businesses during the pandemic and, at the same time, would mostly use materials he already had on hand and keep his 35 employees busy. By April 2, City Neon was offering face shields and sneeze guards on Facebook. The face shield was a single curved piece of clear plexiglass, banded around the forehead, great for food service workers and doctors and dentists. The sneeze guard was a rigid expanse of clear acrylic for installation at cash registers and other points of contact between workers and the public. As the economy began to re-open in early May, City Neon was there for that, too—offering to make temporary signs that would explain businesses’ social distancing operations to customers.
16 wvl • the community issue 2020
pivoting ‹‹ BUSINESSES & ORGANIZATIONS
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LYNN SWANN W WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, GREENBRIER COUNTY This is the Stuff Sugar Bear’s keeps the fun coming. with schools and libraries closed, many parents have struggled with ways to keep their children entertained during these challenging times. But in Greenbrier County, one business has stepped up to help fill that need: Sugar Bear’s Fun Shop in White Sulphur Springs. This recent addition to the Spa City’s Main Street offers a variety of stuffable plush animals that children can customize to make their one-of-a-kind special friend. Before the COVID-19 crisis, children would come to the shop to create their stuffed pals. Now, the shop has transitioned and is offering take-home kits, ensuring all kids have the memorable opportunity to make their own. The shop offers contactless delivery and mail-order options. Sugar Bear’s has an active and engaging Facebook presence with photos and videos of the many plush animals available. Parents and children can make their selections and then arrange for a safe, curbside pickup at the shop. In addition to the plush toys, Sugar Bear’s posted a coloring book–style picture for kids to print and color at home. The shop proudly shared completed pictures on Facebook, making those kids feel extra special, and two kids received a $25 gift card for their work! Visit Sugar Bear’s on Facebook or online at sugarbearswv.com.
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“WV’s COVID-19 Reopening” to suggest that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Photo by Alan Tucker
Giving People across the state met the challenges they and their neighbors faced in inspiring ways.
giving ‹‹ INSPIRING PEOPLE
REBECCA ROGERS W UP JARVISVILLE HOLLER, HARRISON COUNTY
Deployed for Good The West Virginia Mask Army meets a dire need. facedwith a viral pandemic and a shortage of proper personal protective equipment, five women sprang into action. Within their first 39 days of operation, the West Virginia Mask Army (WVMA), a pop-up nonprofit run fully by volunteers, distributed 30,179 masks to 158 medical facilities and first responders in 33 counties throughout the state. It all began on March 20, when Dr. Suzanne Strait, an anatomy professor at Marshall University, started a Facebook group. She then reached out to Dr. Rose Ayoob and Patricia Rogers looking for ideas for materials to make masks. A day later, after the three women experimented with various materials and prototypes, the “Patricia Mask” was born. Made from material extracted from a furnace filter rated to filter viruses, the prototype was named by Dr. Strait after its designer. Hillary Brewster, a Marshall English professor, joined as the group’s chief financial officer, and fundraising for materials began. Anna Strait rounded out the team of founding members who shared administrative tasks of the operation. On March 23, the group made its first delivery: 300 masks to West Virginia Physicians of Charleston. Jane and Jerry Morse coordinated the WVMA’s original hub at First United Methodist Church in Huntington, which began mass production of the Patricia Mask on March 21. The organization’s second hub opened two days later in Charleston, coordinated by Sarah Stone. Potomac Highlands, where Kimberly Musser had spearheaded a group of cotton mask makers, converted to the WVMA pattern and materials. Within four weeks, WVMA had additional hubs in Clay, Philippi, Fayetteville, and Tyler and Boone counties, coordinated by Renee Moore, Virginia Shimek, Geoff Elliot, Teresa Jackson, and Carol June respectively. Nine different Lowe’s locations donated filters or sold them at cost for this cause. Faced with the nation’s elastic shortage, and after getting highly creative in the use of different materials for ear loops, Dr. Strait found a source of bulk elastic from a
The View from Their Front Porch One couple’s view of ways life improved a little when it slowed down. As the stay-at-home order lengthened , Senator Joe Manchin put out a call for inspirational stories he called #WVStrong. He read those stories in short, uplifting videos on his Facebook page. On May 2, he read an email he’d received from Jerry and June Hicks. The View From Our Front Porch We are an elderly couple (late 70s) and avid porch sitters. Cold, hot, chilly, rainy days, we sit. The COVID-19 quarantine has opened a window into our neighborhood. The majority of our neighbors were always busy working or taking their children to activities. We were just the old couple on their porch. How life has changed. Couples walking and talking, parents riding bikes or playing catch with the kids, or fishing poles in hand and headed to the neighborhood lake. We have come to know the children’s and the dogs’ names, big and small. Each usually takes the time for a wave and quick hello or stopped to chat awhile. They have given us phone numbers or said “call if you need anything.” We have been a witness to kindness, laughter, and love. They have taken the time to make us feel special and a part of their daily lives. — Jerry & June Hicks
West Virginia native living in New York. The WVMA’s medical team, led by Dr. Ayoob, managed distribution of the masks to medical facilities and first responders, getting the masks to the places that were in most immediate need. Requests from facilities were filled regardless of ability to pay for materials at cost. As volunteers came out of the woodwork and donations poured in, United Way River Cities offered grant support as well as volunteer coordination from Brent Sturm. WVMA administrators received support from Senator Joe Manchin and his chief of staff, Mara Boggs, and began collaboration with the West Virginia National Guard. They continually explored alternative materials and additional prototypes, seeking to do the most good for the greatest number of people with the best materials available. Having started with pipe cleaners and twist ties for nose pieces, retired physician Dr. Ernie Tonski developed and hand-cut aluminum nose pieces. Dave Timmons of Timmons Fabrications in Raleigh, North Carolina, then produced and donated 10,000 aluminum nose pieces as production continued. This is a story of true collaboration. In the face of global crisis, hordes of volunteers from diverse walks of life came together in support of a singular cause. From Appalachian natives to New Yorkers, from Beer Chuggin’ founders to pillars of the recovery community, from green and white to blue and gold, members across medical communities, churches and church-goers of a variety of denominations, and bipartisan political supporters came together as one. We are West Virginia Strong!
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