Be the change you wish to see!



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 services:


·         Service Learning

·         Youth Leadership

·         Volunteer Services

·         Education & Literacy

·         Special Events






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:   


q  Alternative College Breaks

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 presentations.  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 Weekends

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 future.  In addition, young leaders from McDowell County travel to college campuses to participate in Community Service Weekends in other communities.


q  Summer Placements and Internships

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


§  On-Campus Enrichment Projects

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 & Presentations

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.


§  Campus Presentations

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 BCPIA.






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 appreciation. 

(3) Linking with and being admitted to Appalachian colleges and universities that fit their skills, interests, and financial needs.

 (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 dismantling racism. 





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 positive action.


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 their meals.


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 immersion.  We 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.





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 their knowledge.   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 transportation home.  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 skills.


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.






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 volunteers.


Mountain Music Festival – Live music on the outdoor stage all day, along with games, food, and dancing to celebrate the Appalachian culture.


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 reading skills.



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 community.


 The 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 services.   By 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.