Big Creek People in Action was formed by, and is staffed by,
local citizens working to bring about a brighter future for
McDowell County, West Virginia.
Based on priorities set by the community, BCPIA has an
array of services and endeavors targeted at empowering families
and revitalizing communities.
Residents challenged by poverty, stress, and geographical
isolation are assisted through the following programs and
Education & Literacy
SERVICE LEARNING PROGRAM
Service Learning is a method of teaching through which students
apply their academic skills and knowledge to address real-life
needs in their communities.
Service Learning teaches the skills of civic
participation and develops an ethic of service and civic
responsibility. Service learning increases motivation and
retention of academic skills as specific learning goals are tied
to community needs. By solving real problems and addressing real
needs, students learn to apply classroom learning to a real
world context. At the same time, students provide valuable
services to schools and communities.
In 1999, a service learning process—the Bonner Learning
Initiative—was established at BCPIA.
This Initiative was created in collaboration with the
Bonner Foundation and 25 Bonner colleges and universities.
Service learning is a transforming educational experience
that helps young people gain a greater sense of communities, as
well as the skills and commitment to stay involved in service
throughout their lives.
Service learning increases the democratic capacity of
young people by having them work together to analyze and respond
to problems. It
provides young people with a wide range of options and
opportunities and encourages them to use their current education
and skills to bring about a brighter future for the area.
Service learning is also a vehicle for meeting a critical
criterion for the selection of young leaders as Bonner Scholars
when they apply for admission to Bonner institutions.
The Citizenship Center links service learning at BCPIA with
Bonner Scholars and Bonner institutions.
Students have a variety of service opportunities at Big
Creek from which to choose a meaningful placement.
Included are alternative college breaks, community
service weekends, summer placements and internships; community
and higher education linkages, and special events:
During Alternative Breaks, students participate in service
projects, such as participating in presentations in
“Introduction to the Majors’ classes at the local High School to
link Bonner Scholars and their institutions with local students
and their schools. The message that higher education is possible
for every student who wants it is incorporated into the
During breaks, students are immersed in the local culture by
such things as tours of exhibition coal mines, tours of
Coalwood—home of the Rocket Boys—and visits with community
residents portrayed in Rocket Boys, the book, and October Sky,
the movie. Students
are given a history of the area, as well as of BCPIA and its
vision for the future.
With institutions that have visited us before, a listing of
service opportunities is developed during follow-up visits with
us. The listing is collaboratively developed with BCPIA staff
and young leaders and students, departmental staff, faculty, and
admissions counselors at the college.
It is then used on campus to advocate for additional
involvement with our Center.
q Community Service
During Community Service Weekends, students participate in
activities sponsored by BCPIA such as carnivals, festivals,
bazaars, and parties.
During the weekend activities, students were given a
history of the area, as well as of BCPIA and its vision for the
addition, young leaders from McDowell County travel to college
campuses to participate in Community Service Weekends in other
q Summer Placements
During summer placements and internships, students share their
skills, insight and ideas with BCPIA by being involved in
community service and/or research projects.
Their contributions are contemplated, utilized and
interwoven into the vision, projects and services at BCPIA.
During placements and internships, students participate in
project orientation; evaluation of their placements with
pre-service surveys, weekly reflections, and exit interviews;
cultural sharing; reading assignments around social justice in
Appalachia; discussion of future placements with BCPIA; and
solicitation to be “ambassadors” on their campuses to recruit
additional students from their institutions to BCPIA.
q Community &
Higher Education Linkages
Youth from McDowell County participate in enrichment programs on
campuses of partner colleges and universities.
§ College Tours
Young leaders from McDowell County tour campuses of partner
colleges and universities. The visits include tours of campuses,
admission and financial aid counseling, meals at the college
cafeterias, participation in on-campus events, and overnight
stays on campuses.
§ Local Workshops &
Students and staff from partner colleges and universities link
local students to their college by making presentations to
“Introduction to the Majors” classes at the local High School.
The message that higher education is possible for every
student who wants it is incorporated into the presentations.
Partner colleges and universities attend Awards Day
ceremonies to present financial aid and scholarship packages to
young people admitted to their institutions.
To strengthen relationships with institutions, presentations are
be made by BCPIA to Bonner Scholars Programs and to other
students interested in service at BCPIA.
In addition, presentations are made in various courses on
campuses to recruit students and faculty to service learning at
YOUTH LEADERSHIP PROGRAM
Education is the key to young people moving out of poverty and
having a higher standard of living when they're adults. To
encourage this, young leaders will acquire education and skills
that promote upward economic mobility through:
(1) Academic tutoring
and enrichment activities.
(2) Service learning projects that build healthy communities, while
enhancing competitiveness for higher education; i.e. projects in
education, social justice, community building, and cultural
(3) Linking with and being admitted to Appalachian colleges and
universities that fit their skills, interests, and financial
(4) Support in transitioning from high school in their home
communities to college careers in a community far from home.
To enhance their ability to reach their full potential in
this community, young leaders will address barriers to youth
staying in this community after high school or returning to it
after college graduation.
They will learn the
value of diversity, equality, and racial justice; human and civil
rights; understanding the importance of diversity in building
strong and sustainable communities; and understanding the
importance of all of us being committed to diversity and
VOLUNTEER SERVICES PROGRAM
Big Creek People in Action hosts volunteer church and college
groups throughout the year who want to make a difference by
giving their time and energy to our community.
Our Volunteer Services Program gives people the
opportunity to turn their special talents and abilities into
The third floor of our center has dormitory style rooms,
showers, restrooms, and a Chill Room for volunteers to relax
after a hard day’s work.
Groups also have access to our kitchen facilities to cook
Applications are taken by BCPIA staff of home repairs needed by
the elderly, poor, or disabled residents of Big Creek District.
Staff visits the homes and decides if our groups can do
the job, and if so, what supplies are needed.
Work groups are matched to projects that they have the
skills to work on.
Some groups can only paint or clean, while other groups bring
certified contractors with them that can do roofing, electrical,
carpentry, and other skilled labor.
Another aspect of our Volunteer Services Program is cultural
introduce our college students and church groups to traditional
Appalachian music, flat-footing, community tours, visits to the
Bluegrass Hall and Muncy Cabin, tours of local coal mines, and
conversations with local people who tell their stories of “life
in the coalfields.”
BCPIA assists people in providing safe, warm and dry homes for
their families through housing rehabilitation.
Safe, warm and dry—this is our motto, adopted courtesy
of a faith-based group that comes to our Center year after year.
It is the perfect description of how we feel about the
work we do. All
families deserve to live in a home that is safe, warm and dry.
However due to age of structures and limited resources in
families, this is not always within their ability to attain.
In addition, our efforts in housing rehabilitation not
only helps people with their home repair needs but brings people
into the area from all over the US.
During visits, groups of people gain teamwork and
leadership skills, and learn about the importance of
volunteerism and cultural sharing.
EDUCATION & LITERACY
BCPIA’s Education & Literacy Program recognizes that education
is a lifelong process. Opportunities should always be available
to individuals who seek to further their education and expand
Literacy programs provide participants with foundational
education skills that have significance in their lives. The
skills participants gain are related to their family, education,
employment, civic, and personal goals.
Education affects our society profoundly. Quality education and
educational achievement enable us to lead productive lives as
family members, citizens, and workers. Education empowers
individuals to take advantage of economic opportunity where less
educated members of the workforce may be left behind. A solid
grasp of foundational education skills is necessary to work
successfully at almost any job and to pursue further job
training. Education is also a key component to effective
participation in civic life, giving us the knowledge to have our
voices heard as citizens of our local, state, and national
communities. Furthermore, educational achievement has an
intergenerational quality. Parents who have a solid background
in basic educational skills, such as reading, writing and math,
are able to help their children learn and can pass on their
appreciation for knowledge to the next generation.
We began a new afterschool program in the fall of 2011 and it
has become very successful.
It is held for 2 ½ hours per day 4 days per week, both
during the school year and in the summer.
The children are fed a nutritious supper, following USDA
guidelines. They are
helped with their homework, given their spelling words, and
encouraged to do their best at school.
They have time on the computers in the Computer Lab to
work on educational programs.
Exercise is also a part of the program so that children
will grow in mind and body.
The students take field trips, some educational and some
just for fun. Staff
provide a welcoming atmosphere and the children are given many
opportunities to learn, gain self-esteem, and develop a sense of
belonging. At the end of the day, they are provided
The afterschool program is provided at no cost to the family.
We have an AmeriCorps VISTA and two AmeriCorps Reading Coaches
who work one-on-one with children and adults to help them attain
better reading skills.
AmeriCorps members organize classroom enrichment
activities through Read-Alouds, Science Fun Days, and other
special projects at the Elementary and Junior High schools and
Head Start Centers.
Enrichment activities for adults include Parent Workshops,
nutrition workshops, Parents Read in Schools Monthly (PRISM)
activities, and Family Fun Nights which help parents have more
confidence in assisting their children to gain basic literacy
Big Creek People in Action also has a Job Training Program for
those placed here by the Department of Health and Human
Resources to perform community service in order to get their
welfare checks. In
addition to the service they provide to the Center, the
participants are taught job skills such as computer literacy,
resume writing, job searches, telephone etiquette, and other
skills to help them obtain a job and move into the workforce.
Community Education classes are held at the center including
coal mining classes, hunter safety classes, and other trainings
to educate the community.
SPECIAL EVENTS PROGRAM
One of the most important and effective strategies for shaping
the culture of any organization is celebration.
The celebrations, ceremonies, and rituals of an
organization reveal a great deal about its culture – how its
people link their past with their present, what behaviors are
reinforced, what assumptions are at work, and what is valued.
We sponsor many Special Events throughout the year including:
Diversity Day – Promotes and encourages the community to embrace
the diversity our mountains hold.
Senior Citizen Dinners – An event usually around Easter to serve
a part of the community that are often overlooked.
Spring Carnival – A day of fun and games for the whole family.
Volunteer Appreciation Dinner – To recognize community
Mountain Music Festival – Live music on the outdoor stage all
day, along with games, food, and dancing to celebrate the
Veteran’s Appreciation Dinner – Dinner, speakers, and displays
of military photos, etc. to honor our local veterans
Christmas Party – Parties are held for the children and the
Senior Citizens with gifts, dinner, food boxes, and Santa as we
celebrate the holiday season.
Family Fun Nights – Food, family, and fun to increase family
The importance of celebrating individual and collective
accomplishments has been cited as a major factor in influencing
organizational culture, an essential strategy for enhancing
organizational effectiveness, and a necessary condition for
creating a learning community.
It is an area that must not be overlooked in the process
of shaping an organization and that organization’s tie to its
Healthy Lifestyles Program
The Healthy Lifestyles Program, began October 2010, addresses the
issues of proper nutrition, obesity, sedentary lifestyles, and a
host of other topics. By engaging youth and adults in workshops,
exercise programs, and a wide variety of classes, we have
educated on topics such as: nutrition, drug abuse, diabetes,
breast health, smoking, healthy relationships, family violence,
and more. For more information about
the "Healthy Lifestyles" Program, please contact Annetta Tiller.
Big Creek People in Action assists families to become
self-sufficient, gain a higher standard of living, and be
engaged members of this community through our many programs and
partnering with families to meet their needs in education and
literacy, housing rehabilitation, hunger reduction, and
celebrations of family and community, strong and continuing
relationships are built with families that influence the
current, as well as the next generation.
Through our collective efforts, families are motivated,
their self-esteem is increased,
and they use their education and skills to strengthen
themselves and their communities to bring about a better
tomorrow for McDowell County.