Groups Hope to Bring County Home Full Circle
MIDDLEBOURNE – Several folks gathered Saturday for a fundraiser on the grounds by the Tyler County Home – now in its 100th year.
The aging home has seen better days, but its bones appear strong enough to develop and restore to its former glory. The Tyler County Commission has not made any concrete plans about what to do with the property. In October, commissioners approved a motion that allows preservationists more time to formulate a plan and locate funding resources.
A weekly flea market was held Saturday to raise funds for the county home’s Restoration Committee.
“We’re anxious to get the word out about the home. We’ve even had people – from not around here – come by and say they would like to see it restored,” said Peggy George, president of the Restoration Committee, as she was grilling hotdogs on Saturday. She said there are plans in place to make some repairs to the center section by the front entrance of the home. That’s just a small part of what the group hopes to accomplish.
“I know we have made Tyler County aware that, we are determined in our ambitions to see raising the money for the roof, windows, doors and porches,” she said. “I feel we have made a difference since the last time Tyler County tried to save the home. I feel this difference is by informing the community via Facework, Star News, radio of our fundraising events each month. I believe by having a monthly fundraiser also keeps our name out there, and we are being active.”
Pat Dever of Middlebourne came out to see her sister, Debbie Wells, and have a hotdog.
“Like many people, I came out to support restoring the county home,” Dever said.
But as people ate hotdogs and a black and brown weiner dog – dachshund – played with some children on Saturday in the county home’s front yard, George mentioned an idea that has formed between two local groups that have found common ground to save the Tyler County Home.
Members of the Tyler County Prevention Coalition (TCPC) and Tyler County Restoration Committee met June 23 to discuss a proposal outlining the possibility of renovating the historic building as a Regional Recovery and Wellness Center (RRWC). Such a facility would ideally focus on substance abuse prevention measures, treatment, recovery and overall wellness.
This endeavor would return the Tyler County Home, originally built 100 years ago as a place for those who had fallen on hard times, to its original purpose of helping people.
“I think it is an excellent idea. that’s a piece of history within Tyler County, so you hate to see it be destroyed,” Karen Cain, administrator for the Wetzel-Tyler Health Department. “If there was place within the county home for some of our work at the health department, that would be a good thing for everybody. That part of the county doesn’t get a lot of attention sometimes.”
The 10-page proposal, drafted by members of TCPC, focuses on partnering with and helping to serve Tyler and surrounding counties, including Wetzel, Pleasants, Doddridge and Ritchie in West Virginia and Monroe and Washington in Ohio, while recognizing that the needs for substance abuse prevention, treatment, and recovery extend far beyond those borders. All partners interested in assisting the project will be welcomed to the table.
“It has a poetic sense about it,” said Alex King, Tyler County Prevention Specialist. “If the restoration committee is working to restore the county home, and we’re working to reduce substance abuse issues, we have an opportunity to combine our goals. It would also bring the county home full circle. Times may have changed, but people will always need help.”
For prevention, RRWC would act as a location for trainings of evidence-based programs, provide a storage and work center for TCPC and childcare and healthcare professionals, and welcome counselors for youth with behavioral health challenges and who face other risk factors that could potentially lead to substance abuse. Early intervention strategies would include educational programs for first time, non-violent youth and young adult offenders, mentoring programs and the creation, implementation and organization of community involvement opportunities.
Suggested treatment services might offer a temporary roof for those trying to leave a harmful environment or waiting to get into a program, substance abuse counseling services, information on various forms of treatment and meeting spaces for support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. RRWC would continue to promote recovery by hosting educational courses, fostering work opportunities, and serving as a drop-in center with peer-to-peer support.
“The county home is out-of-the-way, so it offers some degree of privacy for folks,” George said.
The facility could even offer additional health courses, physical therapy/rehab, pain management, and partnerships with healthcare facilities for screenings and vaccinations.
The historic building is currently under the ownership of the county government and leased to the Tyler County Fair Board. While the 10-page proposal recognizes that the Tyler County Commission’s fiscal and managerial responsibilities are to the county’s daily operations, both TCPC and the restoration committee noted that they are pleased with the commission’s openness to working with them. Moving forward with the project will mean finding a new owner for the property, obtaining grants and other sources of funding, and lining up partners whose presence in the facility will lend to sustainability.
The primary concern of the restoration committee has been to restore the home and see it used once again to benefit Tyler County. TCPC aims to prevent the misuse of prescription drugs, illicit drugs, and underage drinking. With the previously listed objectives and their combined missions in mind, both groups understand that a great deal of work will go into this project and support each other regardless of any other options that may arise to fulfill their separate mission statements.
Although this project will require large sources of funding, the groups expressed that it will likely cost the county a great deal more in finances, resources, and energy in the future if the home is left un-renovated and eventually needs to be torn down. Recovering it and creating RRWC would increase the overall health and wellness of Tyler County.
“I’m very proud of our organization,” George said. “We formed in January and didn’t start fundraising until the first of February, and we’re up to almost $6,700.”
George said a wellness center can help many people in Tyler County.
“My goal was just to see it stand and be used,” she said.
George informed those at the meeting that she hopes to use the funds to begin renovating sections by October.
“I want the community to see that we are going to do this,” she said.
George is hopeful that many of the minor repairs can eventually be accomplished by volunteers and local organizations, who may be willing to sponsor a room.
“I’m excited that these two committees are going to work together on this project. I believe five years from now we’re going to be looking back on something that we’re all going to very happy with and very proud to have in our community,” TCPC President Chuck Sapp aid.
The coalition voted unanimously to send the 10-page proposal to political representatives of Tyler and surrounding counties, similar volunteer organizations, and area behavioral health facilities.
In related news, the restoration committee was not awarded a grant needed for roof repairs. However, by partnering with the TCPC, the restoration committee may have more access to potential grants.
“They will have more options of grants than the committee and their hopes are putting a Wellness Center will not only help Tyler County, but neighboring counties,” George said.
Tonya G. Wade of Middlebourne has created a video about the county home that can viewed on her social media page.
“I love that place so much it feels like it become a literal part of me,” she said. “Life can so easily slip through your fingers. One of the things that stays constantly in my mind is what have I done to make a difference in this world? Have I done enough? What should I have done if I had the chance? That’s why it’s so important to save history. History is us. It’s all of us. History just doesn’t change one life it changes others. History is the one thing about us that lives on long after we are gone. It inspires and it also teaches. Every time we lose history we lose a tiny part of ourselves, the County Home stands for so much of Middlebourne’s history and for each of us that I would hate to see it lost.”
The restoration committee meets the third Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. in the Middlebourne Volunteer Fire Department. TCPC meets the fourth Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. in the former board office area of Tyler Consolidated High School. Call Alex King at 304-771-8835 for more information.