"When they closed the school, it absolutely killed the town."
GRANTSVILLE, W.Va., Oct. 11, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- When Calhoun County High was closed and abandoned in 1998, "it absolutely killed the town," according to 1980 Calhoun County High graduate George Butt.
"we as communities can change our destiny"
"There were over fifty businesses at one point in time," said Butt, "Now there's a handful."
The school was the hub of the community. "There was always something going on at the school and the folks that lived out the furthest had a reason to be in Grantsville," explained Butt, "Now, there's no reason."
Tieken, an Associate Professor at Bates College, noted that in many rural communities, schools are the largest employer. "They tie people together," Tieken explained, "Once the schools are gone, the community loses all of these benefits: There are smaller crowds at the diner."
Calhoun High's class of 1982, led by a $1 million donation from class president Crystal Laughlin Mersh, recently purchased the abandoned school in an effort to revive their county and create a model for saving other small communities in West Virginia and beyond.
The 1982 Foundation plans to convert the school into a self-funding, mixed-use community center with classrooms, meeting rooms, AirBnb hotel rooms, office and retail space for lease, a gym, a cafe, and a day care. The center will host summer and afterschool programs, such as summer day camps to foster children's desire to learn and to introduce them to opportunities for their futures.
Labor and materials for the project will be locally sourced as much as possible, injecting a much-needed source of work for the local merchants and tradesmen.
"It is time to stop the decline and provide tangible, solid solutions for the community that will provide job opportunities for adults, learning opportunities for children, and community-building opportunities for everyone. That is the goal," said Mersh, the CEO of a global management consulting firm and a graduate of West Virginia's Fairmont State University.
Roger Hanshaw, Speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates, spoke at the ceremonial brick-breaking for the ambitious project this past weekend. Hanshaw hailed The 1982 Foundation's efforts as an example of how "we as communities can change our destiny."
"The community center is probably one of the best ideas that anybody has had in a very long time," said Butt. "That building, with the twin towers on either side, is a piece of art that's going to be there long after we're all gone."
"A central tenant of this project is to empower the people of Calhoun County to take control of their future, including their dreams and aspirations," explained Mersh. "The foundation is confident that this project will serve to align our citizens to a common goal and purpose, which will inspire a sense of belonging to our community, a sense of responsibility for educating our children, and a sense of pride in our beautiful county."
ABOUT: The 1982 Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with the goal of revitalizing Calhoun County through the creation of a self-funding mixed-use community center. More details are available on the public Facebook page for The 1982 Foundation "Calhoun County Community Center" (https://www.facebook.com/groups/872475373372584).
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SOURCE The 1982 Foundation