Kennah Blizzard cried as she wrote the poem.
Blizzard, 18, was one of about 35 at a meeting at the Lewis County Cooperative Extension Office last week to discuss how the county should revitalize itself.
The plan, “Promising Futures,” aims to involve residents and various leaders in creating an arts district in Vanceburg and encouraging small-business development throughout the county.
“Sometimes we forget how beautiful we are (in Lewis County),” said Vanceburg City Council member Joni Pugh. “It will be a slow journey, but we’re going to make things happen.”
Tuesday’s meeting was the latest step in a plan that will include, among other things, how to renovate the Carter House at the corner of Second and Main streets. Last month, Lewis County received a $100,000 federal grant to help renovate the building.
Mandy Hart, executive director of the Center for Appalachian Philanthropy in Portsmouth, said the grant was one of 80 awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Portsmouth architect Scott Moore will conduct “charrette planning,” in which residents write and draw their ideas on paper. Hart said the planning, which will begin in January, is necessary before contracts for the work can be awarded, which she said could happen by spring.
Last month, Hart said the renovation will also include a bed-and-breakfast inn and meeting space for classes on the hospitality industry, but she did not know how long the work would take.
The $100,000 grant is Lewis County’s second this year. In July, the center received a $75,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Business Enterprise Grant to help micro-businesses learn about marketing, write a business plan and use social media.
On Tuesday, residents were given pieces of paper on which they could write what they’d like to see in the county.
“The first thing is, Lewis County needs some industry as a tax base for Carter House and many other things,” said Denver Moore, 87, of Vanceburg. “That’s the key. There are some industries in the industrial park; it can be done.”
Blizzard’s sisters, 19-year-old Kaitlynn and 16-year-old Karrington, have different visions for Vanceburg. Kaitlynn would like to see more art classes and family activities, while Karrington wants to open a restaurant that already has a name — Kip’s Kitchen, after their mother, Kipra Blizzard.
“I’ve wanted it since I was 7,” Karrington said. “I don’t know if I will (open a restaurant) or not, but it’s a dream of mine.”
Kennah Blizzard would like some poetry classes (she’s written 69, none of them published). Her untitled verse, painted on a piece of wood, was one of nearly 15 art items created by local young people and displayed along a wall on Tuesday. She wrote it about a year ago because she was thinking of her grandmother, Mildred Juanita Boggs, who died in 2005.
“Every time the rain falls I think of you and remember all the things we used to do,” she wrote. “You would sit out for hours just listening to the sound, even if it was just showers. You’d watch it hit the ground.
“I wish you would come back to me, back to us, but I know that can never be. You're in God's trust.”