I used to hate telling people that I was from Gilbert, W.Va. When I moved to Morgantown for college, I would never even say the name Gilbert, I would only respond with, “It’s a small town that you wouldn’t know.”
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t the people, the small town vibe or any of those things. I was embarrassed for what southern West Virginia had become famous for. I was embarrassed because Oxyana was making its way through the online social circles and I was scared to death that someone would notice that Oxyana was very close to the place I called home and the truth is while the movie Oxyana takes place in Oceana, it depicts a lifestyle that has become the new normal in Appalachia, a new normal in Mingo County and a new normal in Gilbert.
When I moved back from college and began working in my community, I guess you could say my outlook changed. My opinions molded into something different. So what changed my mind? The answer is the other people. The average people who are just trying to make a living, going to church on Sunday and living normal lives. You changed my mind. And now I’m left with something that I would have never seen coming a few years ago — a passion to see southern West Virginia changed and restored.
When you look at the region we live in, truly look at it through fresh eyes, it is unlike any place in the world. Our mountainous region contains low valleys paired along with the highest peaks and exciting Hatfield and McCoy trails running through everything in between. We have some of the most unique wildlife in our forests including wildcats, bears, deer and almost anything else you can think of. Appalachian culture is alive and pumping through the veins of every person in this town. West Virginia truly is Wild and Wonderful which is why I say it’s time to take our region back. It’s time to exploit this area for the amazing opportunity and culture that it has. There is no reason why southern West Virginia cannot be as great of a place to visit as Pigeon Forge, Dollywood and the Smoky Mountains but it begins with turning our towns around.
It is no secret that drug use and poor economic climate has hurt our communities and now the problem has grown so large and so full that it appears to be too big to kill. How do you kill a monster that needs food to live? You take his food. How do you stop a drug dealer? You take their money.
If we want to turn our communities around, it HAS to start with our law enforcement and our appointed officials. We need stricter sentencing for the corresponding charge. We need to stop allowing habitual criminals to plead down from their charges. When criminal activity is discovered, we need to begin seizing property, money and anything else that contributed to that illegal activity whether it be your home or your vehicle. Drug dealers cannot survive in an area where if you are caught, we are taking your house, your car, your illegal money and fining you appropriately on top of everything else. People will stop drinking and driving and endangering the lives of others when we begin truly sentencing third, fourth, fifth offense DUI’s appropriately and fining what WV law says to fine which is up to $5,000. You will never be able to stop drug users but what you can do is make the environment in which their dealers are living so hostile that they are forced to relocate. It is time to drive the junk out of town.
It’s time to turn our towns around. It’s time to give people from Mingo County something to be proud of again. It’s time to put an end to the drug use and criminal activity. There are so many good people in our communities. When I visit Gilbert Elementary and see those children, it gives me hope for a brighter future but it is our responsibility to make sure that the community they grow up in is safe. We owe it to them, we owe it our children and we owe it to ourselves.