Be the change you wish to see!!!
Big Creek People In Action, Inc. was founded in 1990 by citizens of McDowell County, West Virginia. Since that time, this nonprofit organization has been serving the community of McDowell County in the realms of education and literacy, leadership development, volunteer service, service learning, arts and culture, housing, recreation, and collaborative partnerships. BCPIA's vision of McDowell County is one of empowered and self-sufficient people living in communities that are economically vibrant, democratic, and socially just. To learn more about the history of Big Creek People in Action, please Click Here!
BIG CREEK PEOPLE IN ACTION, INC.
2020 ANNUAL REPORT
2020 - It started as any other year with the afterschool program, in-school tutoring, planning our annual events, and scheduling work groups with a full schedule for the summer. We started hearing about a serious virus that started in China but was now impacting Americans. We had five college groups scheduled to come in March during their spring break. The University of Notre Dame was our third college group that month and while they were here, they had to leave and return to the college. In a matter of days, our other colleges had cancelled and we watched the news with increasing concern about the coronavirus that was spreading around the world. West Virginia schools were shut down March 13, 2020 and the Governor implemented a Stay At Home Order on March 23, 2020. We had no idea we would be dealing with this for the rest of the year and beyond.
Big Creek People in Action had to adapt to the challenges facing us. We learned all about social distancing, not shaking hands or hugging others, wearing masks, using hand sanitizer, and only being able to get food at a Drive Through while other businesses closed.
Many of our programs were impacted, but we continued to be a resource for the community by offering services to help our families during this terrible pandemic. This year was also Big Creek People in Action’s 30th Anniversary, but with everything going on we could not gather to celebrate this momentous occasion. Within these pages, you will learn about our programs and accomplishments during 2020 – a year like no other.
During 2020, BCPIA served 3,270 people with programs to educate as well as provide basic human needs. A total of 4,939 meals were served out of the Center and we coordinated 5,293 hours of service by 268 volunteers from inside and outside the area.
Big Creek People in Action has eight full-time staff members, four AmeriCorps members, and one staff member provided by the Senior Community Service Employment Program, all to carry out the day-to-day work at the Center. Near the end of the year, we had one youth staff member placed here to work through the WV Works Career Connection program.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
BCPIA’s Board of Directors had nine Board Members in 2020. The Board’s purpose is to develop policies, procedures, and regulations for the operation of the organization, to monitor finances, programs and performance, and to maintain and update a long-range plan. The Board meets quarterly to approve reports, set policies, evaluate programs, and ensure that the organization is accomplishing its goals. The Board continued to provide leadership throughout the year 2020, sometimes choosing to communicate through email rather than in-person meetings. Tragically, we lost Lee Courts this year, who was the Secretary of our Board and he will be greatly missed.
As a West Virginia Family Resource Center, we have an Advisory Council, which consists of program participants, business leaders, and representatives from other organizations to evaluate the Family Resource Center programs and services. The nine advisory council members and BCPIA staff normally meet quarterly, but some of the in-person meetings were cancelled and held through online communication and phone calls.
BCPIA partners with many organizations to offer needed services in the community. Our organizational partners include LifeBridge AmeriCorps, WV Department of Health and Human Resources, the McDowell County Board of Education, Southside K – 8, McDowell County Career & Technology Center, War Head Start, Senior Community Services Employment Program, Workforce WV Career Connections Program, Americans Helping Americans, the Council of Southern Mountains, Mountaineer Food Bank, Facing Hunger Food Bank, and Catholic Community Charities. We also collaborate with other organizations in the county by distributing information at their events as well as providing referrals for services that we do not provide.
BCPIA continues to write grants to foundations and government sources, seek donations, and normally sponsor various fundraising events and host college and church volunteer groups to help secure the funding needed to support our programs and services. Because of the pandemic, our fundraisers were cancelled and other special events were held as Drive-Throughs to keep our staff safe.
We have several sources of in-kind income including AmeriCorps staff, who are provided by LifeBridge AmeriCorps, one staff member provided by the Senior Community Service Employment Program, youth staff provided by Work Force WV Career Connections program, housing rehab work contributed by the college and church groups, and several thousand dollars of in-kind contributions of diapers, blankets, toys, food, household supplies, shoes, coats, etc. that we distribute to the community.
We have been working to get the funding to upgrade our Gymnasium/Activities Center. This space is used for weddings and many special events and is in desperate need of being upgraded. The work began in 2020 and will be completed in 2021. Our South Carolina church groups put in the dropped ceiling. We have ordered the acoustic wall tiles and windows which will be installed in 2021. The staff has worked on the project and we have hired a contractor to sand and refinish the floor. When this renovation project is complete, our organization and the community will be able to enjoy a beautiful new venue for our events.
EDUCATION / LITERACY PROGRAM
From January through mid-March, we had afterschool four days a week, in-school tutoring at Southside K-8 and the McDowell County Career and Technology Center, and the Computer Lab. March 13, 2020 was the last day of in-person school for the year and the day all of our lives changed. We had to learn to live in a world with a deadly pandemic while trying to keep safe. Because of the pandemic, everybody except essential workers had to shelter in place at home. We went back to work part time April 2, 2020 to prepare food bags and activity sheets and deliver them to the homes of our afterschool kids.
AFTERSCHOOL PROGRAM - Because kids were missing out on the education they needed, each county’s educators had to redesign what school looked like so they could teach kids remotely. We contacted the school and our afterschool parents to say Big Creek People in Action will offer our services to help kids with their remote learning. We set up each student in the gym at least 6 ft. apart, provided hand sanitizer and masks, and bought headphones for each student to use with their laptop provided by the school. When we started the program, there was some confusion at the beginning, but eventually each grade was on a schedule and kids were learning, being fed, and their needs were met in the midst of a global crisis.
Our teachers knew the schedule for each child and kept them on track in listening to the teacher online and completing assignments. We picked up school lunches which included breakfast, lunch and a snack and transported the kids home. Even when students were allowed to go back to in-person school, our afterschool parents chose to keep their kids in our program because they thought they would be safer at our Center.
Summer Camp - We had already received a grant for our Summer Camp before the pandemic hit. We knew we would not be able to have a traditional camp when our governor announced there would be a limit of 10 people allowed to gather together. We asked our funder if we could use the funding to purchase items and learning activities for the 50 kids that attended our camp last year and they agreed. We found out the clothing sizes for all of the kids and the staff took some shopping trips to pick out clothes, summer toys, and educational items. They were delivered to the child’s home along with food boxes.
In-School Tutoring - We had two Reading Coaches that worked four days per week at the McDowell County Career & Technology Center to improve Reading and Math skills and one tutor who worked at Southside K-8 to tutor students in reading through March. When school began remotely, our Reading Coaches worked at the Center to help the students with their remote classes.
When the new school year started in September, the Board of Education would not allow our Reading Coaches or any outsiders to work in the schools. But in November, one of our tutors was allowed to go back to work at the McDowell County Career and Technology Center to help tutor students.
Parenting Education – We worked with two parents before the pandemic hit to improve their parenting skills. We would not have in-person classes after that, but continued to distribute information on Parenting and Substance Abuse through our Family Assistance Center.
FAMILY ASSISTANCE PANTRY
Our Family Assistance Pantry was very active this year, serving 649 people with food, clothing, hygiene, baby, and household items. We were running out of space for our pantry in our building and fortunately were able to move our pantry to the building across the road from us. A local coal operator owns the building and allows us to use it because we serve families free of charge with many essential items they need.
Our staff spent many weeks cleaning the building and gathering old items that needed disposed of. We paid the trash company to haul away several truckloads of old items to the landfill. We installed new flooring, painted, and made many other repairs to the building. We paid an electrical contractor to install a furnace and three wall heaters so that there would be heat in the building, to run the duct work for propane, replace light fixtures, and other electrical work.
Because of the pandemic, people had to make appointments to visit the pantry to limit the number of people in the building. Everyone had to wear a mask and food boxes were given out at least once a month. We look forward to the day we can open the doors of the pantry to the public without restrictions.
McDowell County reports the lowest standard of housing in the state, with age being the primary factor affecting the quality of housing. Our Housing Rehabilitation Program was established because many families in our area live in dilapidated, unsafe homes and don’t have the resources to make the needed repairs.
The pandemic affected our Housing Rehabilitation program in 2020 because of travel restrictions. During the year, we still served 75 individuals with housing repairs with the help from six work groups. We had 76 people volunteer at the Center with groups from University of Richmond, Coastal Carolina, University of Notre Dame, 1st Unitarian Church of Brooklyn, Smyrna, Mount Heron, South Lexington, Red Bank, and Lexington Church of Christ from South Carolina, and Craig Snow’s volunteers.
Our Healthy Lifestyles program was also impacted by the restrictions from the pandemic. But we still had the Moms and Babes Fair as a Drive-Through event, serving fifty new mothers with one large baby item they specifically asked for and a bag full of diapers, baby wipes, clothes, and other baby essentials to support the health and safety of their infants.
The Healthy Lifestyles Program also works with the monthly meal and food box delivery to those in the community who may be ill and not able to get out. This program continued throughout the year, serving 65 people. Dental Hygiene kits were distributed at all of the many Giveaways we had during the year.
The Healthy Lifestyles Coordinator participated in one event in the county before the pandemic, serving 30 new mothers at the Community Crossing Baby Fair.
Four LifeBridge AmeriCorps members are placed at our Center to work on educational programs. At the beginning of the year our four members worked with Afterschool and In-School Tutoring and participated in a special event to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by visiting the nursing home in Gary to do activities and give them gift bags. They also organized a Clean Up event at Berwind Lake in memory of the 9/11 victims. Sixteen volunteers cleaned up trash, painted, and we provided refreshments.
For the remainder of the year, the AmeriCorps members worked to prepare food bags and educational activities to be delivered to our afterschool students, worked to gather and deliver the gift bags and food boxes to the 50 students that were in last years’ summer camp, and worked with students five days a week at the Center on remote learning.
Normally, we host many special events throughout the year that support education, family events, entertainment, and holiday observances. Because of the restrictions imposed on people gathering, we were not able to have the Spring Carnival, Mountain Music Festival, Diversity Day, or participate in the War Fall Festival.
Moms and Babes Fair – We did have a “Drive Through” Moms and Babes Fair
serving 50 mothers with new baby items.
Turkey and Food Box Giveaway – In November, members for The Berean Way Church in South Carolina brought in 200 turkeys and food boxes. They were distributed at a Drive Through along with blankets and dental kits we provided.
Community Christmas Activities - People could not gather at the Center for a holiday meal, see Santa and get their Christmas gifts, but we still provided lots of gifts for our families with help from churches from South Carolina and the Second Baptist Church from Richmond. Personalized gifts were bought for children, mom and dad gifts were purchased for the kids to give their parents, and treat bags and food boxes were prepared for each family. We served 584 people at the Drive Through event.
ITEMS DONATED TO US & DISTRIBUTED
We received food boxes, hams, coats, book bags, blankets, and dental kits from Americans Helping Americans; toys from the Council of Southern Mountains, Coalwood Methodist Church, Welch Elementary School, as well as from the community through a donation box at Walgreens; turkey and food boxes from The Berean Way Church from South Carolina, and food boxes from FCI McDowell Federal Prison employees, God’s Grace in Welch, and Welch Community Hospital.
LEARNING TO DEAL WITH THE PANDEMIC
“Social Distancing” was a term we became very familiar with during this pandemic and although we distanced from each other, we continued to stay social with people through the phone and social networks. People may not have been able to physically come to events at the Center, but we followed guidelines for preventing the spread of the virus while still providing food, coats, blankets, and many other items to families. We worked with students to continue their school work remotely. When we heard about a local person with the virus who was shopping at the grocery store and said he didn’t have anybody to go to the store for him, we put out on social media that our staff would go to the local grocery store and pharmacy for people who had tested positive for the coronavirus or were in quarantine in order to protect the community.
Our work changed, but we continued to help people struggling to cope with losing jobs, having to quarantine, caring for sick family members, and learning to live in a frightening world with a virus that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans since it began. /
Although our work drastically changed, we are proud of our accomplishments this year – a year like no other. We will always remember the year 2020. But we need to take comfort in the fact that: