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.

 

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
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.

Bebeto Matthews/AP Photo

In the mid-1980s, West Virginia joined other states in a heated bidding for a Saturn vehicle assembly plant. Saturn was considered a brand-saver for the struggling General Motors, and many states viewed the Saturn plant as salvation for their own economies, bringing the promise of generations of well-paying middle-class jobs.

Appalachians Share Solutions for Coal Transition with Congress

Feb 15, 2019
National Resources Democrats

Democrats in the U.S. House are continuing their focus on climate change, this week shifting from its environmental to its economic impact and looking to Appalachia for next steps to aid communities with fossil fuel-based economies. 

On Thursday, members of the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee heard testimony on how struggling coal communities are working to transition to more efficient, greener industries that can still provide the region with an economic base.

Perry Bennett / west Virginia Legislative Photography

When West Virginia House of Delegates member Eric Porterfield, R-Mercer, called the LGBT community “the modern-day version of the Ku Klux Klan” in an interview with a Charleston Gazette-Mail reporter last week, it drew condemnation not just in the state, but nationwide.

Why Fewer Appalachians Signed Up for Affordable Care Act Coverage in 2019

Feb 15, 2019
The Health Wagon

Fewer residents of Appalachia will have health insurance under the Affordable Care Act in 2019 than the year before. Enrollment numbers are down throughout the region, as they are nationwide, and some advocates say they aren’t surprised.

In 11 of the 13 Appalachian states that enroll residents through the federal HealthCare.gov website (Maryland and New York administer their own ACA marketplaces), only Mississippi saw a rise in enrollment numbers. West Virginia and Virginia saw the largest declines.

Dumplings, Road Trips, and 'Gung Hei Fat Choy!'

Feb 11, 2019
Mike Costello / 100 Days in Appalachia

Last spring I got an email from someone named Peter Lo: 

“I am from New York City and I’ve been living in West Virginia for the past 13 years. I recently moved to Clarksburg 1.5 years ago and wanted to inquire about having a few friends join me in one of your workshops to eat and learn about some Appalachian cuisine.”

Jeff Young / Ohio Valley ReSource

While a three-week reprieve to the 35-day government shutdown is easing some of the pain, the month-long spat between President Trump and Democrats in Congress threatened the livelihoods of people receiving government assistance all over the country. Local economies are still feeling the ripple effects, and many fear the new negotiations could lead to another damaging impasse. 

Fact-check: Did West Virginia Rank 50th in Household Income in 2017?

Jan 2, 2019
David Goldman / AP Photo

In a Nov. 8 op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Mike Romano, a Democratic West Virginia state senator, said West Virginia’s median household income was nearly $17,000 below the national average.

“In 2017, West Virginia’s $43,469 median household income was $16,867 below the national average, ranking 50th, according to the U.S. Census Bureau,” Romano wrote.

Is Food the Key to This Small Pennsylvania Town’s Economic Revival?

Nov 28, 2018
David Smith / 100 Days in Appalachia

Lincoln Avenue slices Bellevue down its belly, the only break in the borough’s neat rows of Queen Annes, Colonial Revivals and Craftsmans.

The town climbs a hillside along the Ohio River, just six miles north of Pittsburgh. During a 90-year stretch, beginning with the streetcar boom of the 1890s and ending with the decline of steel in the 1980s, the avenue offered residents every shop and service they could ever need in a tightly packed, half-mile stretch. Markets and movie theaters. Bakeries and dress boutiques. Isaly’s and ice cream.

Farmington No. 9: The West Virginia Disaster that Changed Coal Mining Forever

Nov 20, 2018
Jesse Wright / WVPB

In 1969, the world’s attention turned upward to the Moon, as Neil Armstrong took humankind’s first momentous step off Earth onto another world.

But that year also saw momentous federal legislation spurred by a disaster that riveted the nation’s attention downward, hundreds of feet below the Earth and the hills of West Virginia.

Courtney Hergesheimer

On a soggy autumn day in late October, a group of university students stood by the edge of an orange-tinted creek in the southeast Ohio village of Corning, a place built during coal mining’s boom days and now struggling amid a loss of jobs and population. As the group listened, watershed specialist Michelle Shively explained a plan to make the water here run clear: take the orange sludge and turn it into paint. 

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