By Hayley M. Cook
WILLIAMSON – Two projects in Mingo County were among 42 local teams statewide that received checks from Try This, a new West Virginia-based healthy lifestyles coalition.
Each of the local teams was challenged to create worthwhile community healthy lifestyle projects for $3,000 or less. The main goals for teams were to bring together teams of people from at least three different community organizations, businesses or groups, to cooperate on the project, and to use the Try This long-range planning tool to prioritize long-range healthy lifestyle initiatives for the community.
The first project, called Bike Friendly Matewan, was started by Kelly M. Webb with the goal of transforming Matewan into a bike-friendly community, encouraging citizens and visitors to cycle in a safe environment and take steps toward becoming a nationally certified Bike-Friendly Community. The mini-grant award will help fund bike safety course materials, brochures, maps, advertisements, bike-rack construction and general repairs/upkeep of supplies.
Several local businesses have partnered with Bike Friendly Matewan in support of the project, including the Tug Valley Road Runners Club and the Williamson Wellness Center, the West Virginia Community Development HUB, the Williamson Farmers Market and the Appalachian Leadership Academy.
Bike Friendly Matewan is also directly related to the ‘Turn This Town Around’ campaign, which has been ongoing in the Matewan area. The Bike Friendly Matewan project was one of the first ‘Turn This Town Around” projects to receive funding from outside sources and has been well received at prior campaign meetings as well.
The second project, Coalfields Food Hub, was started by Maria Arnot with the goal of working with partners to build a new high-tunnel greenhouse, train students and veterans to tend the garden, and increase production and income at the Williamson Farmers Market and Mobile Market by 2015. The grant will supply the funds to construct the high tunnel and part of teacher stipends.
Local businesses that have partnered with Coalfields Food Hub include the Mingo County Diabetes Coalition, Williamson Health & Wellness, the Mingo County Development Authority and Williamson Redevelopment Authority.
“The idea would be to work with Mingo Central to get their greenhouse going and to draw in veterans, as well as farmers, to grow more healthy foods in Mingo County,” said Jenny Hudson, director of the Mingo County Diabetes Coalition.
Many people who have received grants from Try This for their projects have never tried to do anything like this before. “The young people are ecstatic,” said Lida Shepherd, who captains a team in Logan focusing on a troubled area in the county. “They’re starting to see themselves as people who can make things happen.”
“This is economic development, too,” said Kent Spellman, director of the West Virginia Community Development HUB, another Try This partner. “When you’re building a healthy community and a healthy workforce, businesses like that. These teams start with one project, then pretty soon, they do another one and somebody else is doing another one. It’s contagious.”