This holiday season, HCC student Heather Tydings, of Hagerstown, has made it her mission to help those less fortunate, specifically residents living in McDowell County, W.Va.
Tydings, a business major at HCC, was inspired to start the “Operation Appalachia” project after speaking with her father-in-law and his pastor.
“My father-in-law’s church was looking for a special project for the holidays and he asked me to research organizations that donated food, clothing, and supplies to impoverished families living in the Appalachian region,” says Tydings. “After doing some research, I came upon ‘School of Life,’ a nonprofit dedicated to helping people, especially children, living in McDowell County.”
Founded by missionaries Jack and Brenda Fultz, School for Life, Inc., seeks to improve the lives of the needy through supply donations and education. The organization is located in Gary, W.Va., a remote part of southern West Virginia. According to the School for Life website, McDowell County has an extremely high poverty rate for both children and the community as a whole. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that nearly 41 percent of McDowell County residents are living below poverty level. Of the 41 percent, more than half that number pertains to children between the ages of five and 17.
“Once I learned about the conditions those people were living in, I knew I had to do something,” says Tydings. “The childhood poverty rate in this county is undeniably a heartbreaking statistic. These children are born into poverty and rarely have the opportunity to escape. School for Life is taking steps to help these children get educated and hopefully out of the community and into college, breaking the cycle they have been born into. These kids need a chance and any little bit we can do is helpful.”
To help McDowell County residents, Tydings decided to hold a supply drive from now through late December in order to collect clothing, blankets and linens, toiletries, children’s toys, and non-perishable food items.
“This is about one community pulling together to help another. This is something we need to do,” says Tydings. “This is our opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life and to spread a little hope within a community that has lost hope. The people of this town need to feel that they are not alone. We, as a community, are more blessed than we realize and we need to share that gift with others.”
To get the community involved in her project, Tydings spent two weeks visiting area businesses to ask if they would be willing to serve as drop-off locations for the Operation Appalachia drive. Several businesses agreed. Donations will be accepted during normal business hours at the following locations:
In addition, donations will also be accepted at the following Columbia Bank locations:
Donations will be accepted now through Dec. 24. Once collected, items will be delivered to School of Life for distribution to McDowell County residents.
Acceptable donations include:
Non-perishable food items
Toiletries and household items
*Toys that do not require batteries
For more information about this project or to request a pick-up, call 301-473-3928.