PRIDE celebrates 50th anniversary

By Dwight Williamson For Civitas Media

May 28, 2014

PRIDE Community Services recently celebrated its 50th anniversary with a kickoff event held outside its Stratton Street location. The event coincided with the beginning of “Poverty Awareness Week” and featured U.S. representative Nick Rahall as the keynote speaker. Rahall, a key supporter of the local organization which benefits Logan Countians in many ways, spoke highly of PRIDE and past leaders Ervin Queen, Earl Jarvis and current Executive Director Reggie Jones. The senior congressman from Raleigh County, however, expressed concern about future federal funding, or lack thereof, “if Republicans have their way.”

“The budget favored by the Republican leadership would ax nearly $5 trillion from domestic programs and services over the next ten years — an astonishing and completely untenable cut,” Rahall explained. “It would slash investments in nutritional assistance programs like food stamps — taking food out of the mouths of children, seniors, and the disabled.”

Describing the Republican budget “as heartless and cruel” Rahall, who faces a former Democrat turned Republican opponent, Evan Jenkins, in the November general election, said he has always been “an ardent opponent of privatizing Social Security and Medicare.”

“If they have their way, Medicare and Social Security would not exist,” Rahall told the crowd. “Access to quality care would be guaranteed only to those who could afford it. They would rollback prescription drug coverage under Medicare, along with black lung benefits for coal miners and their widows, as House Republicans have consistently proposed doing to repeal the Affordable Care Act, increasing seniors’ out-of-pocket costs for medication. No way could I vote for a budget like that — which hurts seniors, coal miners and working families in need.”

PRIDE, incorporated in 1964 during President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty”, along with a Bluefield organization, is one of the oldest in West Virginia, according to Karen Burgess, Director of Program Services. Burgess, employed since 1986 with the local organization, said Poverty Awareness Week held May 5th thru the 10th was successful.

A “Fill the Bus” drive was conducted on the parking lots of Kroger, Wal-Mart, Town n Country, Foodland and Pic Pac stores. Food gathered at the county stores was given to the LEAD organization, according to Burgess. LEAD, a community organization citizen group, provides free meals each Monday evening at its PRIDE building location, including 25 meals that are delivered to the homeless. The program is called the “Community Kitchen.”

PRIDE Community Services, in addition to running its Senior Centers, also operates several Head Start classrooms across the county and provides numerous other programs designed to aid the poor and under- privileged, its Weatherization program being a good example. There is a waiting list for many persons seeking weatherization of their homes.

State Senator Ron Stollings also addressed the local crowd. The Boone county doctor thanked PRIDE for its many contributions to society. One eye-rolling comment the senator made was that one of every four children now being born in the state of West Virginia is addicted to drugs.

Describing PRIDE as “an engine of the region’s economy”, Congressman Rahall, who also recently was guest speaker at the 90th anniversary of the Logan Kiwanis Club, said: “Organizations such as yours are powerful forces for good and tremendous advocates for progress.”

Rahall opened the PRIDE event with this biblical account: “I was hungry, and you gave me meat; I was a stranger, and you took me in; naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me.”

“Clearly, we have a leg up on a lot of other places because of one of the great virtues of our state. Next to our faith and family, neighbor helping neighbor is just about as old as our hills” Rahall said.