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Heart and Hand House

April 22, 2013

West Virginia – Tuesday, April 16

I packed up and headed to the nearby Wal-Mart to shop for the Heart and Hand House that will be my donation-of-the-day today. Then I drove just a little ways and made a stop in Clarksburg first for a little walking. Clarksburg’s claim to fame is being the birthplace of General Stonewall Jackson – one of the heroes of the Confederacy. I see some amusing signs along some of the roads – a sign advertising the Pinchgut Hollow Distillery is one of them! Then we drove up and down a lot of mountains until we came to Philippi, which is where the Heart and Hand House is located. I had looked at their website to see what items they needed, and ended up getting them cereal, peanut butter, pasta, muffin mixes, soup and some healthy snacks. The lady working there was busy on the phone at first, but by the time we got the groceries in, she was free to chat a bit, and she’s been working there a long time so it was really interesting to listen to some of the town history. Heart and Hand House currently helps 1,157 families and the numbers have been going up. They added 108 new families last year, and already have 38 new families this year. Lots of the economic problems for Philippa, and a couple neighboring towns, started back in 1994 when President Bill Clinton signed the NAFTA law (North American Free Trade Agreement.) I don’t pretend to understand what that’s all about, but the lady told me that this area was a big clothing factory area – one town manufactured shirts, one town made pants, and the third made uniforms. Within 6 months of NAFTA going into effect, the factories were gone (to Mexico I think) and the towns were full of unemployed workers, and they continue to struggle to this day. It’s hard to hear stories like that. Hearts and Hands doesn’t just supply food to those who need it – they also run a thrift store, and in the summers they have teams come in from various churches and other organizations to work on 25-35 home repair projects every summer. It’s a busy place!

After my visit there, Tula and I did almost 2 1/2 miles of walking throughout town. Philippi was the sight of the first planned Civil War battle, and the covered bridge that was built before the Civil War still stands – it survived the war (with both Union and Confederate troops using it) and survived a fire in the 1980s. Charred wood is still visible inside the bridge. Then I headed south along more mountain roads – I passed a sign that pointed out a Civil War battlefield park, and I thought there might be a trail or something there. But it looks like it’s private property now. Another sign said there were spectacular views at the top of the mountain, so as long as I was partway up, I continued driving. But the road got narrower and rockier, and I figured the van wasn’t the best vehicle to be climbing that mountain. So I managed to turn around, and found a pull-out spot and got out and walked a bit anyway – admiring the view from the mountainside.

Then we headed for Elkins, which turned out to be a fun town to walk around. Tula and I covered a couple miles, and she made friends with a fire station dalmation, who wanted to follow us, so I had to go get one of the firemen to keep her from coming along! I also saw some fire escape ladder-things, and either I haven’t been noticing them, or there aren’t many still in use. They’re sort of interesting, but I can’t imagine having the presence of mind to figure out how they work during an emergency! Since I’m still trying to let Tula rest a bit, I put her back in the car and finished off the last mile or so that I needed for today. I was going to head west a bit before stopping for the night (it seems like I had gone farther than I had, but all the curvy mountain roads add a lot of miles!), but bad weather was coming in, and I didn’t want to be caught driving in the mountains in the dark and rain. So we found a pet-friendly place, brought in some KFC, and called it a day. I got unloaded just in time – then it started to pour.
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