Surviving a pandemic as a community

In March when Lisa Wood, director of the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce, invited Quint Studer, author of “Building a Vibrant Community,” to visit Elkins, the coronavirus was in the international news, but nobody thought that Elkins would shut down within a week.

Three months later, we are all unsure. Are we safe? Do we have the resources to resume normal activities? Can we find other people who will help us to get going again?

Kump Education Center board member Pris Gay suggested that I reach out to Lisa Wood to find college interns who might work with our new Tech Tutoring Kump Education Center program. The chamber/college internship program is postponed until next year, but Lisa suggested that I call the Career Center at Davis & Elkins College.

Lisa is one of those people who is always trying to connect people and keep things moving along. I decided to invite her to KEC to see the progress we were making inside our historic building and to help me find renters for the office or bedroom spaces we are preparing. She immediately volunteered to bring along Madalyn Humphreys from Main Street. While we toured the city-owned KEC facility, Lisa and Madalyn made good suggestions about renting our space for events.

When they arrived we three were wearing masks, and we planned to sit outside where we could talk and maintain social distancing. Before the afternoon was over, Lisa had recruited me for one or more of 12 Vibrant Community Task Forces. Madalyn and Main Street will serve on a task force to promote the downtown, and, obviously, Kump Education Center will focus on education.

According to Quint Studer, education is the second most important factor after jobs that contribute to economic growth. At KEC we believe that a well-trained work force is the best way to attract businesses that can offer better paying jobs to support young families. In our new Altice Learning Lab, we have the basic technology for trades that workers will need most in the 21st Century.

During the pandemic we plan to be ready to help students who do not have good internet service at home and those whose parents are not familiar with the Chromebooks that they will need to use for online learning when schools are closed or on reduced schedules.

How does a Vibrant Community Survive a Pandemic? The answer is that each citizen survives it one day at a time, but our collective efforts will be more effective if we reach out to other people. When we open our doors, we need to open our hearts and minds to find new ways to include people who have been left out under our American economic system. A vibrant community is built by citizens who want something more for their children and grandchildren.


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