100 Days in Appalachia

An experimental project designed to burst the filter bubble of social news and to candidly narrate the new American landscape from within the heart of Appalachia

100 Days in Appalachia is published by West Virginia University Reed College of Media Innovation Center in collaboration with West Virginia Public Broadcasting and The Daily Yonder. For more on the project, follow along on FacebookTwitterInstagram.

 

Jesse Wright

The title of the article was “The Quarantine Garden Has Taken Off: Seeds are the New Sourdough.” I stumbled on to it two days after my stepdad went to Home Depot and found out that they were out of pitchforks, and a week after the owner of the permaculture company we’d used for our yard lamented having trouble finding the lumber and soil she needed to install raised gardening beds. The local garden shop, too, I discovered, was under threat of running out of seed packets.

Lexi Brown / 100 Days in Appalachia

In her 1988 research paper “The Social Context of ‘Nerves’ in Eastern Kentucky,” medical anthropologist Eileen VanSchaik wrote that in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, women reporting “nerves” or “sick headaches” would turn to “doctor books” for advice on their “feminine nervous systems.” There they were cautioned, for example, of the danger of “nervous prostration, excitability, fainting spells, most likely organic diseases of the uterus or womb, and many other distressing female troubles.”

As Economies Reopen, Former CDC Director Says Rural Americans At Higher Risk

May 27, 2020
Caitlin Tan / WVPB

As businesses in communities across Appalachia – and across the country – begin to reopen, Richard Besser has been vocal about the measures he feels should be met to counter the spread of COVID-19, most particularly, the disproportionate effect reopening too soon will have on underserved and marginalized communities.

Besser served as acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under Pres. Barack Obama and is now president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. RWJF is the largest private institution in the country devoted solely to improving the nation’s health.

Besser is concerned about the challenges rural communities faced before and that are now more critical in the midst of the pandemic. He also worries that the pandemic is being “hyper-politicized.” 

Need A Laugh In Your New Quarantine Life? Check Out This Series From Appalachian Filmmakers

May 19, 2020
Provided

We’re all making tiny time capsules. You may not recognize it, but we’re all doing it, saving up the memories and experiences of our COVID-19 journey in some way. 

Perhaps your Instagram has become a collection of your isolation crafts, or the evolution of your sourdough, the devolution of your hairstyles. Maybe you’re journaling fastidiously or saving all of your wine corks from virtual happy hours in a special jar labeled vin du corona. 

 

Provided

 

Lesly-Marie Buer was living and working Colorado when she became interested in substance abuse treatment and harm reduction programs. Buer grew up in East Tennessee, in the Knoxville area, but moved west and attended the University of  Colorado where she got a master’s in public health.

“But then I was talking to friends who were going through treatment programs in East Tennessee, and they were telling me about them. Most of these were guys and most of the research I had seen [on recovery] was on guys,” Buer recalled. “I was looking for what was going on with women trying to make it through treatment programs in Appalachia and I just couldn’t find anything. So I decided that’s what I really wanted to look at for my dissertation.”

The Front Porch Network Is A Lifeline In Appalachia

May 8, 2020
Brian Ferguson / 100 Days in Appalachia

A traditional gathering place where the public meets the private becomes the critical point of contact for Appalachian families.

On any day in Appalachia, you can find gifts in front of houses, left on porches for the people inside: mushrooms just foraged, cookies freshly baked. The porch is an extension of the home in Appalachia—not only a gathering spot for conversation, but a traditional sharing place. If you want to exchange tools, plants, or hand-me-downs with your neighbor: you put them on the porch. In times of struggle, porches are the vessel to deliver food: frozen meals to new parents, casseroles for grieving families.

COVID-19 Accelerated This W.Va. Community’s Efforts To End Homelessness

May 7, 2020
Jesse Wright / 100 Days in Appalachia

COVID-19 has forced Lou Ortenzio to assume a new role.

“My new job,” Ortenzio, executive director of the Clarksburg Mission in Clarksburg, West Virginia, said, “is getting here in the morning, finding people clustered around and having to tell them, ‘You’ve gotta go.’” 

The mission offers emergency shelter to up to 50 people a night and has a dorm for men and another for women and children, each of which can accommodate about 20. It also offers services and support for those in recovery from drug addiction. The facility went into lockdown in March to protect its residents from contracting and potentially spreading COVID-19.

‘It’s Like the Toilet Paper’: Gun Sales Are Up Across Appalachia. Here’s Why.

Apr 27, 2020
Justin Hayhurst / 100 Days in Appalachia

The Saturday after millions of Americans received $1,200 economic relief checks from the federal government, Alex Corn decided to open the Verona Gun Safe early. He’s owned the Verona, Pennsylvania, gun shop on the outskirts of Pittsburgh since 2011.

In Appalachia, It’s Always Hard to Leave an Abusive Home. Then Came a Pandemic.

Apr 23, 2020
Kat Jayne / Pexels

When the coronavirus pandemic reached Appalachian Ohio, the first thing My Sister’s Place, a domestic violence agency which serves three counties in the state, did was make room. 

Sgt. Amouris Cos / U.S. Army National Guard

West Virginia was the final state to confirm a case of COVID-19, but at that point, over a week ago, only 39 West Virginians had been tested. In a news conference at the time, Gov. Jim Justice said, “I mean, let’s be real. It has to be here. We just haven’t found it yet.” 

Dr. Stephanie Parker begins the class day at Huffman Academy Pre-K by having the students fill in a sentence about the day Dec. 15, 2018.
Julianna Hunter for 100 Days in Appalachia

Appalachia is, and has been for decades, lagging behind the rest of the nation in a number of health outcomes. The region struggles with heart disease, diabetes, cancer and much more.

But new research on the rate at which Appalachians are dying has health officials calling for more investments in not just health care but in education and economic development to reverse the trend.

Journalists Sarah Smarsh and Ken Ward Jr. discuss the state of rural journalism at Robert Wood Johnson's Life in Rural America symposium.
Shawn Poynter / Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

In 2018, Sarah Smarsh released her New York Times bestselling memoir The Heartland, exploring her childhood growing up on a farm in central Kansas. It was a national book award finalist and thrust her into the spotlight for writing about life in rural America from rural America.

Photo: Jess Mador/100 Days in Appalachia

One-month-old Cayden wakes with a fierce cry and clenched fists as a nurse places her on a metal scale to check her weight. When she was born, the infant, now dressed in tiny pink socks, flowery leggings and a bright yellow polkadot top, weighed 6 pounds, 7 ounces and was at risk for neonatal abstinence syndrome. 

“Have you noticed any tremors, tight muscles?” Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Amber Knapper asked Cayden’s mother. 

Tight muscles and tremors are among a long list of symptoms connected to neonatal abstinence syndrome, commonly known as NAS, a condition where babies are born in withdrawal from opioid drugs their mothers used during pregnancy. 


Joanie Tobin/100 Days in Appalachia

Life as empty nesters was on the horizon for Lisa Robbins and her husband Brent. They had raised two children and were enjoying helping them with their two grandchildren. But in 2016, police arrested Lisa’s daughter, Mollie Ogle. 

“She got caught using drugs, shooting up in her vehicle in a convenience store parking lot,” Lisa said. “And so she went to jail."


Pallottine Sisters Find A New Legacy In Community Healthcare

Sep 17, 2019
From left to right, Sisters Mary Grace Barile, Mary Terence Wall and Joanne Obrochta.
Eric Douglas / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

When Vincent Pallotti was ordained a priest in 1818, he wrote, “I ask God to make me an untiring worker.” He set about to offer “food for the hungry…medicine and health for the sick.”

Pallotti, who lived simply, in Rome, his entire life, worked in fellowship. He established schools and shelters for women, orphanages, night schools for laborers. “Remember that the Christian life is one of action; not of speech and daydreams,” he wrote. “Let there be few words and many deeds, and let them be done well.”

This Rural Teacher is Working to Bridge Divides Between Migrant Workers and Her Community

Aug 15, 2019
Justin Hayhurst / 100 Days in Appalachia

Two hours into Amy Fabbri’s English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) class, Marie’s exhaustion slowly began to show. First, her fingers gave her away, as she gently used them to cover her eyes, like temporary blinds. And then, later, she leaned her head into her left hand, the nearest pillow she could find, while the rest of class carried on. 

The Poultry Plant That’s Changed the Face of This Appalachian Town

Aug 15, 2019
Pilgrim's Pride in Moorefield, W.Va.
Justin Hayhurst / 100 Days in Appalachia

When Sheena Van Meter graduated from Moorefield High School in 2000, her class was mainly comprised of the children of families that had long-planted roots in West Virginia’s eastern Potomac Highlands. Some were African American. Most were white. And for the Moorefield resident, the closest exposure she had to other cultures, before leaving for college, came in the form of an occasional foreign-exchange student. 

Seeking Common Ground: Immigrants Find Footing in a Rural English Classroom

Aug 13, 2019
Justin Hayhurst / 100 Days in Appalachia

In Amy Fabbri’s English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) class in Moorefield, every time a new student joins her morning or afternoon session, she gives them the honor of pining their name next to their home country on a large map of the globe. The map that hangs on her classroom wall has pins marking Haiti. Mexico. El Salvador. Ethiopia. Myanmar. Ninety percent or more of her students work for Pilgrim’s Pride, a chicken processing plant located in the middle of the small West Virginia town. 

Retired Coal Miners on Capitol Hill Push for a Fix to Pension System

Jul 25, 2019
Sam Ball, a retired coal miner from Virginia, testified before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources.
House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources

A rush of retired coal miners and advocates were in Washington this week, pushing members of Congress to protect their pensions.

About 40 members of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) arrived on Capitol Hill Tuesday, July 23, to meet with lawmakers and voice their concerns during a congressional hearing Wednesday.

Charles Glover outside the Clarksburg Mission, where he serves as a mentor.
Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Charles Glover doesn’t mince words when assessing Clarksburg, West Virginia, the town where he was raised and still lives today.

“It’s not Clarksburg anymore,” Glover says. “It’s Methburg.” 

Methburg. As in methamphetamines, a drug that ravaged his community more than a decade ago and today is coming back just as strong.

Roger Cisco is a fairly new patient in the Williamson Health & Wellness Center’s community health program, which serves some of the clinic’s most high-risk patients for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and/or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Anna Patrick / 100 Days in Appalachia

Kelly Browning doesn’t wait for Lyle Marcum to come to the door. She knocks and then pushes the glass door open, like she’s been there many times before.

Lyle stays where he is, sitting on a brown love seat, the TV on, and he calls for his dog, Lyla. “Get over here!” She’s running, excited, back and forth, her collar jingling until Kelly finds a leash, connects it to Lyla and slides the rope’s handle over a closet door knob. 

Truth, Imagination, and Vulnerability: The All-American Town Photobook

Jun 5, 2019

“We can concern ourselves with presence rather than with phantom, image rather than with conjure. Bad as it is, the world is potentially full of good photographs. But to be good, photographs have to be full of the world.” — Dorothea Lange and Daniel Dixon, Photographing the Familiar: A Statement of Position, Aperture, 1952.

The closing statement of The All-American Town: A Photography Project by The Rural Arts Collaborative, Bellaire High School, a 60-page photobook (some may call it a zine), reads: “These photographs and statements are a sharing of our collective truth and imagination.” And it is striking.

A dozen new hypodermic needles are given to a man who disposed of 12 used needles at a clinic, Friday, Jan. 20, 2012.
Robert F. Bukaty / AP file photo

“They made me feel like I was a person.”

That’s what a 40-year-old man told researchers from Johns Hopkins University about a now-closed syringe services program in the heart of central Appalachia.

Poll: Addiction, Affordability and Access Top Health Concerns in Rural America

May 22, 2019
Dr. Albert Warren consults with a patient and records the patient’s symptoms on an electronic tablet in Hawkinsville, Georgia.
Bob Nichols / USDA

More than four in 10 adults living in rural Appalachia cite drug abuse as the biggest issue facing their communities, according to “Life in Rural America: Part II,” a report released this week by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health from a telephone survey of 1,405 adults living in the rural U.S.

Appalachian Regional Commission Announces Plan to Build ‘Recovery Ecosystem’

May 17, 2019
The Appalachia Regional Commission held six listening sessions throughout the region, including a March session in Pineville, Ky.
Courtesy Appalachian Regional Commission

The Appalachian Regional Commission is shifting its focus toward recovery. 

The organization, led by the governors of the 13 Appalachian states and a federal co-chair appointed by the president, announced this week the creation of its Substance Abuse Advisory Council. The 24-member group consists of representatives from communities throughout the region who will “develop recommendations for ARC to consider as part of a strategic plan to build and strengthen a recovery ecosystem in Appalachian communities by drawing on their own experiences.”

VIDEO: A W.Va. Community Responds to Religious Violence of Past and Present

May 7, 2019
Bobby Lee Messer

One Appalachian community is responding to violence of the past and present targeted at religious groups.

At their annual reading of the names ceremony, the B’Nai Shalom Synagogue in Huntington, West Virginia, brought together community members in a ceremony to remember victims of the Holocaust.

Just a few blocks away, community activists gathered to also honor the victims of the Easter suicide bombings in Sri Lanka.

The remembrances came the same day as the latest attack on the Jewish community in America– a shooting at a California synagogue.

Fentanyl-related Deaths Are the Highest in W.Va. This Is What They’re Doing about It.

Apr 30, 2019
Bebeto Matthews/AP Photo

West Virginia has the highest per-capita drug-overdose death rate in the country. And while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported a recent decline in overall drug overdose deaths nationwide, deaths involving fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, are on the rise. West Virginia leads the nation in that rate as well.

Thomas, W.Va.: The Town the Arts (Re) Built

Apr 25, 2019
Purple Fiddle Facebook page

The downtown of this town of 600 sat nearly vacant until a music venue and artists began to create a new economic future for the former coal town. A new guide from the National Association of Governors says arts and culture can be part of rebuilding economies in rural communities.

The city of Thomas, West Virginia, like a lot of municipalities in the Mountain State, owes its initial development to coal.

Today, however, the downtown of the small town in eastern West Virginia has redeveloped in response to another economic sector – arts and culture.

Five Years Later: A Look Back at the ‘Bundy Sniper’ and America’s Patriot Militia

Apr 12, 2019

The “Bundy Sniper” photos were stark and disorienting, like wartime images from a Third World hot zone, not a blocked-off interstate highway one hour from Las Vegas.

In one of the photos, a lariat-thin white man in a heavy beard and tactical jacket lies belly flat on the concrete, his semiautomatic rifle wedged in the narrow gap between two concrete jersey barriers. Eyes concealed by dark sunglasses, the rifleman sights down on a group of federal agents who were overseeing a roundup of cattle belonging to Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy.

AP Photo / Randy Snyder

As state administrators throughout Appalachia grapple with mounting health care costs, a new resource is offering assistance to policymakers by taking lessons from success stories outside of the health sector.

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