Across Mingo County, residents are rising to meet challenges head on in our community. Stepping up to take care of issues caused by forces outside you for the sole purpose of making the world just a little bit better is heroism in itself.
Over the past few weeks, Mingo County has experienced a variety of problems from ice storms to flooding to brush fires. To all the volunteer firefighters, police officers, ambulance drivers, wrecker and heavy equipment operators, dispatchers, linemen and road crews we say a very heartfelt “thank you.”
Without the efforts of all these brave men and women who know what kind of conditions our county would still be trying to overcome. They are our heroes in the truest sense of the word. Yet, there is another kind of hero: the kind that is not part of an emergency response team or the highway department or the electric company. The kind that looks out their living room window, sees a need and quietly sets about meeting that need. You could say, the unsung kind of hero.
That is what we are now seeing taking place across Mingo County. We have seen hero after hero rise to action. There are so many in communities and towns throughout Mingo County that we cannot name them all. But we are going to highlight a few. Please salute these individuals if you see them and please do not feel slighted or have hurt feelings if we fail to mention someone. A new sense of community pride is sweeping our area and it would be impossible for us to name each person one by one.
About two weeks ago a photographer was driving up Grapevine Hollow in Beech Creek to take pictures of a mine blowout. The local volunteer fire department had worked on that problem tirelessly and made sure the community was safe. However, the road down the hollow had lots of debris from both the blowout and heavy rains overflowing the ditch from the previous week.
Phillip Daniels was going up the road with a shovel in his hand to clean the road. Mr. Daniels said he and several of his neighbors use the country roadway as a walking trail. So, he took it upon himself to make sure they could continue to do that safely. He did not seek credit for his action but did it out of a simple desire to be a good neighbor.
Last week, people in Williamson were heartbroken when they woke up and found a blessing box had been destroyed by fire. Pictures of the burning box and its remains afterwards were shared via Facebook throughout the region. It was horrible to think that someone would destroy something that did nothing but help others. Within two days, Dylon Hager, Jessie Spaulding and Derek Hensley, with the Fresh Start Program, had rebuilt the blessing box. Other local community members have already filled the box to capacity.
Trash is another problem plaguing Mingo County whether it is from casual littering to illegal dumping. Sheriff Joe Smith and his deputies have been receiving countless accolades for their efforts in eliminating illegal dumps and making people responsible for cleaning up those sites. Yet the trash problem is much more widespread, with ditches and roadsides being filled with items discarded from car windows, even by people walking along the road.
To that end, local citizens are stepping up and becoming community heroes. A group of about 25 to 30 people led by Steven Cook and the Delbarton CVB picked up more than 125 bags of litter in and around Delbarton last weekend. They are going to repeat that action again this week because the problem is so bad. Williamson resident Christina Jewell is also organizing a litter cleanup campaign in the city Williamson this weekend. Next weekend Matewan will follow suit. Communities such as Chattaroy and Beech Creek work hours upon hours to keep their neighborhoods clean. We salute all these great individuals who are willing to pick up other people’s trash. It is a thankless task. It is a job that is far from glamorous but necessary.
The Town of Gilbert is in the process of organizing a cleanup as well. Mayor Jennifer Miller said it would be done in honor of former town resident--the late Steve Ellis. Miller said he was a classmate of hers at Gilbert High School. As part of a school project, her class did a litter pick-up many years ago. After that, Ellis took it upon himself to keep the town clean.
“He would walk up and down the streets seven days a week picking up trash,” Miller said of Ellis. “He always said, ‘This is my town. If I don’t keep it clean who will.’”
That is the attitude we all need to have – if not me, then who? Steve Ellis is an example we can all strive to emulate. It does not have to be picking up trash. It can be rebuilding a blessing box. Cleaning a road. Volunteering at a fire department, senior citizens center or nursing home or youth center. We can uplift and support those who put forth an effort to make our communities and neighborhoods just a little better.
We can all be heroes in some way. We can all take pride in our communities. We can all be a Steve.