By Hayley M. Cook
MATEWAN – The most recent ‘Turn This Town Around’ meeting at the UMWA Hall in Matewan saw a much higher turnout than previous meetings, with many new faces in the crowd.
Eric Pories, principle of Focus Intent, was pleased at the increase in members after experiencing disappointing meetings in the past.
“This is pretty impressive, isn’t it?” Pories asked the packed room. “This attendance rivals Grafton and they are a bigger community than you. I believe this showcases that Matewan is ready to start turning this town around.”
The meeting focused on discovering the different kinds of projects Matewan community members have planned, and gave every project team a chance to share their plans with others in attendance. Nearly 20 different projects have been planned so far. Each team was given five minutes to work together and fill out a worksheet describing their project, why they chose it and the challenges they may face in making it happen.
Pories wasted no time during the meeting, encouraging everyone to be quick and descriptive as they shared their plans. He also kept an air horn handy to keep the crowd from getting too loud, but only needed to use it once to settle everyone down. “We have to give everyone a chance to be heard” he said, at one point asking Donna Patterino, one of those in attendance, to act as a teacher and calm everyone down.
The noise likely came from the excited chatter and planning that was going on, as team members utilized their five minutes to create a presentation that would last two minutes per team.
When it came time for the team members to stand and give their presentations, many made it short and to the point.
“Our project is identification and marking of historic buildings and sites in Matewan,” Donna Hatfield said. “Our biggest challenge is the cooperation of property owners.”
Pories praised Hatfield and said, “That was great. Short, yet effective.”
“Our project is all about advertising things to do in our area, “Kathy McCoy said on behalf of her team. “Everyone is constantly telling people there is nothing to do here.”
Other projects included advertising the Matewan Public Library, the possibility of a computer lab, beautification of Matewan, renovating the old Matewan Jail and painting murals throughout the town, among others.
Patterino said her project was a sound equipment upgrade for the Matewan Drama Group. She said, “We are pretty much ready to go. Our group would definitely be at a 10 if we could get the necessary funding.”
Mayor Sheila Kessler was present and said her project idea was to create a logo or some kind of branding for the town of Matewan that would be easily recognizable. She offered the idea of hosting a competition to choose the logo.
“We really need a cohesive, easily recognizable name for Matewan that people will use,” Kessler said. “Our biggest challenge would be getting people to use the logo on a regular basis.”
The evening became emotional for a brief moment, when Wilma Steele spoke to the group.
“When you go away from here and someone asks where you’re from, and you say Mingo County and get that look in your eyes then shrivel up, you are acting ashamed,” Steele said, becoming teary-eyed. “We have history to be proud of here. This is why it’s important. You need to be able to look people in the eye and let them know they need to come to Matewan and see the history that is so prevalent here.”
After everyone had a chance to share their vision, Pories shared how happy he was with the outcome of the meeting.
“You just shared a wealth of information about your community and surrounding areas in a short period of time,” he said. “You all must continue to meet and work together after this meeting to see more of this kind of success. This is amazing. Matewan has something to be proud of today. This was a nice, summer day and all of you came together for the benefit of your community.”
The next “Turn This Town Around” meeting is scheduled for Aug. 7 at 6 p.m. at the UMWA Hall building in Matewan.