"On the day I visited, the documentary makers were holding a story telling seminar to better enable the community participants to reflect on their lives in a way that would convey their experiences in McDowell County through its many ups and downs.
Present was a wonderful mix of all ethnicities, including Irish, Italian, Indian, German, and African American that reflected the impressive array of people that came to McDowell County in the past seeking their fortunes.
From ages 13 to 80, the participants all gathered in hopes of learning how they could convey their pride in their community and how to tell that in a format that would be available for all to enjoy.
The more I talked to the people the more I realized they were all community minded, each holding at least one position in their community, if not more, that was directly responsible for insuring and bettering the welfare of the rest of the community.
Participants were from law enforcement, health care, teaching, county government, and the local food bank, just to name a few. More importantly, they shared a real enthusiasm for the project that was obvious in their words and actions.
As work on “Hollow” continues, I am left with this thought; they say one person can change the world. If this is true, we definitely have not heard the last of McDowell County West Virginia, because I recently met a room full of earth shakers there.”
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — It’s what documentary filmmakers do when they’re blown away by something. They get going on a documentary.
That was certainly the urge after Elaine McMillion encountered the barren storefronts of Welch, in McDowell County, which could be a poster child for the worst of depressed and devastated Third World Appalachia.
"I went to Welch last summer," said McMillion, who did some growing up in Logan and Elkview and now lives in Boston. "It’s just unbelievable. I never knew there were ghost towns like that in West Virginia. You always hear about that out West. It infuriated me and made me mad. And made me really sad."
GRANTSVILLE - The indictments of four people for three murders in Calhoun County last week came as a shock and left many wondering if the county’s rise in crime - particularly major crime - was an aberration or signs of a bigger problem.
In addition to a small population (52nd among 55 counties), Calhoun County has the highest unemployment rate in the state, 13.2 percent for January, according to WorkForce West Virginia. The average household income for the county is little more than $27,000, more than $10,000 below the state average. The county has no stop light and no four-lane road. Its residents are miles from the nearest city.
Carl Ballengee, the sheriff department’s chief deputy, is sympathetic to many of the county’s citizens
"Most of them are just, you know, hard-working, honest people trying to make a living," he said.
"We’re a small county. We don’t need the bad publicity propaganda," Parsons said.
After 70 years together, the pair is still going strong and were recently declared West Virginia’s longest-married couple.
Both McDowell County natives, the two met in War in 1941 and were married six months later on Dec. 6, 1941, the day before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“I was from War and he was from Coalwood,” Juanita said. “We just met casually when we were both walking down the street in War. I was 17 and he was 19 years old. Our first date was to a place where people went to dance in War. We were together about six months before he asked me to marry him.”
McDowell and Mercer counties have again found themselves in the bottom tier of counties when it comes to the well being of children
Both counties ranked in the bottom 10 of the 55 counties in the state, with McDowell County ranking last while Mercer County ranked 49 out of 55, according to the 2011 West Virginia Kids Count survey released Tuesday.
The report found McDowell County ranked the lowest in the state in seven categories including the highest number of students in the state on free-and-reduced lunch at 82.9 percent, the highest number of children in poverty at 52 percent, the highest high school dropout rate at 23.6 percent, and the highest number of children born to mothers without high school diplomas at 33.3 percent.
WELCH — Ten people escaped injury after a fire destroyed a historic building in downtown Welch Tuesday.
The fire at the five-story Libby Building on McDowell Street began around 9:45 a.m. At least 10 residents were occupying about half of the 13 apartments in the top three floors of the building when the blaze began, according to Welch Fire Chief Dennie Hale.
Hale said no one was in the two businesses at the base of the building, a bar and a vacant storefront.
WELCH — Three McDowell County elementary schools have been selected to start new literary and early childhood programs as part of the Reconnecting McDowell project aimed at improving performance and quality of life for county students.
McDowell County Superintendent Jim Brown said Welch Elementary, Iaeger Elementary and Bradshaw Elementary schools will be the focus of the non-profit organization Save the Children’s literacy programs.