I’m the first to admit that while I didn’t grow-up in Randolph County, it is now my home. While I have an endless amount of gratitude for the people who have welcomed me here, I’d like to take some time to give thanks to some elements of our community that make it what it is. So while the turkey (or tofurkey) settles in our stomachs, here’s my top ten list of community resources to be thankful for in Randolph County.
10. The Elkins-Randolph County YMCA: While I’ve only entered the YMCA to help with the Forest Festival 10K, everyday when I see children streaming out the door, I can’t help but think of how much value the YMCA adds to so many lives. With the recent pool renovation and grant for the Imagination Playground, I can see a bright future.
9. Randolph County Public Schools: While the recent excess levy election divided us in many ways, we all can celebrate the success of our school system. While nothing is perfect, students attend classes in fairly well maintained buildings, with solid technological resources, and are taught by skilled and caring teachers. We can also be grateful for the Professional Development Schools program, developed by the Kump Education Center and Davis & Elkins College that works to aid not only in the development of new teachers, but also in providing learning opportunities for current teachers.
8. Monongahela National Forest: When I first came to Elkins, one of the most striking features was the crown of green ringing the city. It’s wonderful to think that for the most part that view will be unchanged thanks to the 919,000 acres preserved in the Mon National Forest. From Bickle Knob to Gauidneer Knob, there’s
6. Allegheny Highlands Trail: Twenty-four point five miles of views of farmland and mountains. Even without the final connecting piece to the railyard, the trail is a great resource. As a runner it’s nice to have a safe and beautiful route to run nothing gets better than the rail trail. It’s also a great symbol forward thinking policy on the part of the state and other individuals to turn the vacated rail road into something that everyone can enjoy. We can be thankful for the trail, it’s hopeful future expansion into Downtown Elkins, and the potential for more trails like the Tygart Valley Trail that suggested last week.
5. Downtown Elkins: Small, but not too small, and totally walkable: downtown Elkins has just enough to keep you busy and so much more room to grow. There’s so much to be thankful for. Whether it be the good eats at Vintage or El Gran Sabor (and everywhere else), the ability to get a lot of stuff done at one place at Pack N’ Ship, the numerous quiet café’s to have lunch meetings at, or the small shops, Elkins is a really cool place. And I’m thankful for that. (I’m also very appreciative to Clara Belle’s for being the first place I felt at home at downtown and have the best soup.
4. Fox Forest: I’d like to think of Fox Forest as Elkin’s Central Park, except a better because it’s more secluded and a more natural setting. I wrote about Fox Forest this earlier this year and it holds a space place in my heart. It the years to come it will be come increasingly valuable to have it’s 120 acre oasis within walking distance of many resident in Elkins. It also makes South Elkins a really appealing place to live. Who wouldn’t want to live within walking distance of miles hiking trails, a brewery, a river, a boat ramp, fishing area, and your child’s elementary school?
3. Community Square Dances: A community dance is a perfect portrait of what it means to come together as a community. While people come to dance, that’s not the most important thing. The most important thing is everyone else in the room. The simple act of dancing builds bridges between people and creates a space for people who many not otherwise interact to come together. I owe many friends and my feeling of welcome in the community to square dancing. (The next dance is December 11th in the PIT at D&E.)
We’re also lucky to be home base for The Mountain Dance Trail, which seeks to connect community dances across the state in a heritage tourism project. Hopefully ensuring their place in the decades to come.
2. Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College: In many ways, Augusta is what puts Randolph County on the map. Numerous friends who have traveled abroad have reported back with stories of people they have met who recount coming to a small town in the mountains of West Virginia to learn an instrument. Beyond the week long summer sessions that bring in folks from near and far, the Augusta Heritage Center adds a considerable value to the community year round. Whether it be the weekly concerts and the Augusta Festival during the summer or the weekly jams and monthly dances year round, Augusta has something to offer almost everyone. The Augusta Heritage Center also maintains a considerable achieve of resources related to folk music, art, and dance that signify a commitment to preserving traditions of our community and West Virginia as a whole.
1. Davis & Elkins College: It should be no surprise that D&E lands in the top spot on my list. If the college were not here I wouldn’t be here. I think that holds true for many people. As of late the college has positioned itself to be a community resource for years to come through wise institutional decisions and clear vision for the future. One of the best things I noticed as soon as I came to the college—beyond all the friendly faces and good spirits—was a commitment by the college to be accessible to students of the area through the Highlands Scholarship. I think it would be very easy for an institution to of higher education to simply be too expensive to the local community and not really care about that fact, however D&E has chosen to make a private liberal arts education affordable to students in the area. I think that’s pretty remarkable.
On a personal note, I owe an immense about of gratitude to the college for shaping my values and leading me to opportunities and experiences I don’t think I would have had elsewhere. To those who have helped me along the way, I am very grateful.
One more thing: There’s a quotation from the German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe that D&E President Buck Smith has in the signature of his email that I think is applicable as we give thanks and look towards the future.
“If we see people as they are, they
will stay as they are. But if we see
them for what they might be, and
might become, they will become
those better selves.”
I’ve made Randolph County and West Virginia my home not just because of what they are in the here and now, but for the endless potential they have. More and more I see people embracing that potential and working to make a better West Virginia.
And that’s what I’m most thankful for: folks who have the vision to see that though the times may be troubled, there is always a greater future for all of us. West Virginia has a lot of issues to face, but no one is giving up.