Observations From McDowell
Written by: HFI Senior Chaplain, Chuck Duby
It always amazes me at how surprised I am every time I visit McDowel County, West Virginia. My wife and I have visited this Appalachian region every year now for the last six years, but each trip affects me deeply.
First of all, I continue to be surprised by how so many live in poverty. Economic, political and social agendas have taken their toll. What was once a thriving place with more millionaires per capital than any other location in the U.S. -- where family values and mutual care for the local community were strong -- now has become the 5th poorest county in the U.S. and one of the worst places for drug abuse in the country. All this in just 1 ½ generations.
Second, I am surprised by how the residents of this county cope with their circumstances. Some are barely surviving, while others are taking the initiative to create a better life for themselves and their family. Four local men currently serve as interns with Hope Force staff -- learning construction and life skills as they serve the community on a daily basis. Hard working and committed, these four dare to dream bigger. None of them have grown up with a strong foundation of opportunity, yet they have chosen to live and work in an environment that is encouraging their desire for success. I returned home deeply grateful for what I have been given and often have taken for granted.
Finally, I am surprised by how hard it is to put an excellent program into place. The city fathers told us that education is a primary value. Good education requires full time qualified teachers. Most area schools find themselves largely staffed by substitute teachers without a college degree or credential. Rental housing is nearly impossible to find. A “Teacher’s Village” has been developed by our HFI staff with 2 old homes being renovated into bright apartments -- alongside a new build with townhomes.
Last week over 70 volunteers from from Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilder worked tirelessly on all 3 buildings, bringing one to completion in time for a community home dedication.
I am so grateful for the full-time staff we have working and living in West Virginia. The grace of God is needed on a daily basis to hold on to hope for the community. Many deposits of encouragement have been made in the past six years and we’re excited to see what’s ahead!
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