CHARLESTON, W.VA. – Enthusiasm and commitment characterize the volunteers who run the Big Ugly Community Center in Lincoln County. This group of volunteers has been selected as a recipient of the 2015 Governor’s Service Award.
On Wednesday, Oct. 14, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin will honor this organization for its dedication to service at the Governor’s Service Awards luncheon at the Charleston Civic Center. The event is held as a part of Faces of Leadership, the state’s annual conference on community service, program management and volunteerism.
Presented since 1995, the Governor’s Service Awards honors individuals, families and organizations that exemplify outstanding dedication to volunteerism and community service in West Virginia. The Big Ugly Community Center will receive its award in the Organization category.
The volunteers at Big Ugly Community Center have shown that a small, isolated, low-income community can come together to change things for the better and then continue to maintain that change. When Big Ugly Elementary School closed in the mid-1990s, the community lost the one thing that held them together. The building was abandoned and soon became vandalized and run down. There was no electricity and no water. With leadership from Step By Step, a group of volunteers gathered with shovels, brooms and buckets to reclaim the building. A dumpster was donated and a retired miner helped restore the plumbing and electrical systems. The county school board was persuaded to turn over the property to the community at no cost, and the Big Ugly Community Center was born. It is the only public building within a 30 minute drive in any direction.
The building returned to its place at the heart of the community and since then has hosted reunions and many other gatherings. Fundraisers not only bring in the money for operations and upkeep, but also bind the community together. The community has also come together to provide services for their children. The Big Ugly afterschool program is one of the longest running in the state. It offers summer camps for children, runs greenhouses, and hosts arts programming. Their library program gives away 5,000 books each year and the ‘Grow Appalachia’ gardening project produced 4,000 plants and 24,000 pounds of vegetables in 2014.
The Governor’s Service Awards are administered by Volunteer West Virginia, the state’s Commission for National and Community Service. A volunteer review committee reads and selects the recipients on the basis of achievement, community needs, continuing involvement, innovation and impact of service.
Other recipients of the 2015 Governor’s Service Awards include, by category:
Youth: Quinn Raffo, Nicholas County; Roark Sizemore, Monongalia County
Adult: Timothy Graham and Paul Lemon, Wood County
Senior: Jim Weimer, Kanawha County; Lee Reger, Harrison County
National Service: Christin Shinaberry, Pocahontas County
Lifetime Achievement: Sandra Barkey, Kanawha County; Daisy Hite, Berkeley County
Disaster Services: West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, Mingo County
Organization: Circus Saints and Sinners Club, Ohio County; The Service League of Morgantown, Monongalia County
For tickets to the awards luncheon contact Moya Doneghy at (304) 558-0111, or by email at [email protected] For more information about Faces of Leadership visit www.facesofleadershipwv.com.