For The Independent
OLIVE HILL —
It looked like a peaceful early Monday evening at J.A. “Skinny” Raybourn Park.
Next to one of two picnic shelters, six young men played 3-on-3 basketball on the asphalt court and shot at a rim with a net barely hanging by four threads. On the other side, a couple of children played on a merry-go-round, a boy threatened to land on his nose (he didn’t) as he hung upside down on a tire swing and a girl climbed and slid down a slide at least three times.
And in the middle of all that activity, a group of five women and a man continued planning something maybe more important — how to unite the Carter County town of around 1,800 to provide alternatives to drugs for its youth and to make places like the park and downtown safer.
Monday’s meeting, the third this year, produced an idea: Hopefest, a community picnic at the park as part of the annual Fourth of July Homecoming celebration. A definite date and time was not announced, but the group’s next meeting will be at 7 p.m. June 4 at the park.
“It's a big old potluck, a family reunion,” said Angela Johnson Fultz, who now lives in Elliott County but runs All Things Ministries at her Railroad Street home.
Another resident, Janice Hicks, said Hopefest could also include performances by youth groups from several area churches. “We're hoping to have a lot of things going on at one time,” she said.
“Kids’ll tell you they want their park back,” said Fultz, a former Olive Hill council member. “Not just the park, the whole community.”
Scott Porter, who sells tires at the store his family owns in Globe, about 3.5 miles west of Olive Hill, was at Monday’s meeting. He said he woke up one morning before Easter this year with an idea to bring youth leaders together, but for years he’s been thinking and praying about the drug problem, how unsafe downtown can be at night, about reaching out with God’s love to his town, especially those who won’t go to church.
And he’d sooner have a flat tire during rush hour in New York City than take credit for any of what’s happening.
“(It’s) not about me,” Porter said. “The drug problem is a never-ending cycle. We’ve got a lot of people who care and want to see it change. I think God’s working in different ways.”
Thirteen-year-old Destiny Maclean, whose mother, Heather Maclean, attended the meeting, said some places are safe, while others — not so much. She also suggested an activity: finding someone to open a roller rink.
“Walking downtown, that’s not very safe,” she said. “(Not) safe not just at night, but sometimes in the evening, sometimes in the afternoon … We used to have roller skating; it would be something for everybody to do.”
Ryan Bromwell and his girlfriend, Brittany Mabry, took turns pushing their 7-month-old son, Ryder Bromwell, in a swing fitted with a harness. Both mom and dad agreed the park was safer than it used to be, Bromwell said there’s one thing more important.
“There ain’t no work,” he said. “They need jobs here. You can’t bring no activities if people don’t have any money.”