By Peggy Mackenzie
At a luncheon held Wednesday at St. James Episcopal Church, the Greater Greenbrier Valley Community Foundation disbursed $3,670 to four area nonprofit organizations whose work to empower women was celebrated and honored.
Executive Director Courtney Smith distributed the checks to recipient representatives for Communities in Schools of Greenbrier County, Monroe County Coalition for Children & Families, Inc., Oakhurst Outreach, and Carnegie Hall in partnership with the Family Refuge Center in providing funding for art programs for women who would otherwise not have access to such an enriching creative opportunity.
The keynote speaker was High Rocks Executive Director Sarah Riley, who spoke about her work educating and inspiring young women through High Rocks Academy. This year, she said, marks the 20th anniversary of the creation of High Rocks Academy for Girls. Riley has been a solid, active participant during all those years, and in 20 more years, she said, she will still be devoted to making a difference in the lives of young West Virginia women.
The challenge for High Rocks, she said, has always been how to be more connected to home communities and how to provide West Virginia’s rural youths more viable options for success both locally and abroad.
The core of Riley’s presentation was to introduce The Hub, a safe, creative, instructive, and recreational space for Greenbrier Valley teenagers. Located on the ground floor of the old Fort Savannah building, The Hub is operated by High Rocks Educational Corp. and is an incredible opportunity for middle and high school aged students.
The Hub is like a student cafe in which students enjoy a relaxed atmosphere, where games, workshops, classes, projects and other activities are ongoing. Students have access to protected Wi-Fi, a computer lab, media equipment, art supplies, board games, pool, ping pong, foosball, musical instruments, homework support, and free popcorn. There’s also a smoothie bar, and healthy snacks and meals are offered at a modest cost.
“The Hub needs to raise money in order to survive,” Riley said. Funding for personnel and materials comes from grants, including support from the One Foundation and the Hollowell Foundation. Private donations are also received, but these resources are finite and limited. She urged any assistance, be it a donation, or a program activity idea, or volunteering is welcomed and appreciated. Throughout the week, volunteers can sign up to take or teach classes and workshops at the “Open University.” The Hub is be open as a meeting place over the weekend, since it is a community space.
“We are looking for volunteers to fill up the nightly programs and to serve as mentors,” Riley said. “And if you have time, drop by and take a look at this place – you’ll be blown away.”
By being in a centralized location with access to and from The Hub (provided by a partnership with the eastern side of Greenbrier County’s school bus system), students can also walk to other after school programs and organizations, such as Greenbrier Valley Theatre, Trillium Performing Arts, Country Roads Cross Fit, or Carnegie Hall. All students need is a note to ride bus #1158 to stop at the old Fort Savannah. Students are also able to catch the activity bus from The Hub at approximately 5 p.m. to central stops in White Sulphur Springs, Caldwell, Alderson, Ronceverte, Fort Spring, Frankford, Williamsburg and Clintonville.
The Hub is a resource facility, not a caretaker facility. There is always an adult mentor present at The Hub. Riley presented Britt Huerta at the luncheon, who will serve as a program director for the facility, along with Devin Preston.
The central aim of the Greenbrier Valley Women’s Fund is to improve the quality of life for women in Greenbrier, Monroe, and Pocahontas counties. It is a donor-advised fund established in 2006 at the Greenbrier Valley Community Foundation with a challenge grant from Philanthropy WV. Earnings from this endowment are granted to local nonprofit organizations that work in the region to empower women. As of Mar. 31, 2015, the fund had a current market value of $31,640.81.
The luncheon, attended by up to 70 active women in the community, is an annual event celebrating the power of women to make a change in the lives of others.