Beckley Rings in the Holidays with Pop-Up Shops

By Christine Kinder, WVSU Extension Agent

Downtown Beckley is ringing in the holiday season with a variety of special events relating to Shop Small Saturday, the annual event to encourage shopping at local small businesses.

The Downtown Beckley Business Association (DBBA) is thrilled to once again host the Small Business Saturday Pop-Up Shops Nov. 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for Shop Small Saturday.

The event will strengthen the economic base of our local community by supporting small, independent businesses and property owners by creating pop-up shops in The Grant building on Neville St. and promoting retail businesses along Main St. and Neville St. downtown. This event allows business owners the opportunity to be exposed to hundreds of new customers and is also an opportunity for pop-up vendors to explore the possibilities of a downtown location.

Small Business Saturday, an annual national event sponsored by American Express, provides communities an opportunity to advertise their local businesses through “swag” containing promotional materials such as balloons, banners, stickers and the very popular Shop Small tote bag to entice customers to come out and shop.

To help promote our event this year, we partnered with Beckley Rocks! to plan a painted rock scavenger hunt throughout downtown. Beckley Rocks! and DBBA recently held a rock painting party, which provided the community a fun space to create painted rocks to use for the hunt. The rocks will be hidden around downtown and inside of participating retail shops to encourage people to get out and explore downtown Beckley.

Participating shops include: Dragon’s Den Comics and Games, On Point Acupuncture, Roma’s Pizza, Tickety Boo Mercantile, Melody’s, Grand Food Bazaar, Kilted Barber, Matt’s Main Street Barber Shop and Shave, Brown Dog Bottom, and The Consignment Company on Main. We hope this will attract even more customers and that they will discover new shops and spend money locally to support our independent businesses.

The holiday spirit will be flowing through the streets, as businesses will have decorated windows thanks to the Holiday Window Decorating Contest sponsored by the DBBA. We are encouraging businesses downtown to decorate their windows before the Nov. 25 event by holding a contest where the community will vote for their favorite window. The winning window will be awarded a trophy, and all participants will earn appreciation for helping to brighten up our downtown.

Check out the Small Business Saturday Pop-Up Shops flier here.

To learn more, contact WVSU Extension Agent Christine Kinder.

WVSU Program Aims to Help Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

The concept of family has evolved in recent years, and one particular family dynamic is rapidly increasing. Grandparents are continuously stepping into the role of parent by becoming fulltime caregivers to their grandchildren, and West Virginia is among the most impacted states. According to U.S. Census data, West Virginia ranks fourth in the nation for grandparents raising one or more of their grandchildren.

To help meet the growing needs of this population, West Virginia State University (WVSU) launched Healthy Grandfamilies, a series of free informational sessions and resources, including follow-up support with a licensed social worker. The project seeks to help ease the transition many grandparents face as they once again become a parent, often to very young children and with issues that didn’t exist when they first were raising children.

Topics in the discussion sessions range from how to address social media to navigating the school system.

“Most of the issues dealt with in our sessions, I have been a part of firsthand,” said WVSU Extension Specialist Bonnie Dunn, who leads the sessions. Dunn herself is the product of a grandfamily, an experience she draws upon to connect with participants. “Social media wasn’t an issue back in the 50s and 60s, but everything else – stress, finances, legal issues, healthy living – it’s all timeless.”

In addition to the discussion sessions, which also focus on such topics as communication, technology, nutrition and stress management, participants are provided three months of free follow-up services with a licensed social worker that include assistance with locating community resources, confidential help in meeting family needs and advocacy services.

The program is also proving to be a haven for emotional support. Dunn quickly discovered that participants are overwhelmingly raising grandchildren because of a substance abuse issue with the biological parent. While providing such information isn’t a requirement, it is coming to light anyway – along with the guilt associated with it.

“It became very obvious that many of these grandparents feel like they have failed – that their children wouldn’t be in the situation they are in if they had been better parents,” Dunn said. “That simply isn’t true, but it’s an issue we try and help them work through as best we can.”

To date, the program has reached approximately 80 grandparents raising more than 150 grandchildren – and counting. After a strong launch in Kanawha County, W.Va., the program has expanded into two additional counties, with hopes of graduating 100 participants by the end of 2017. Plans are underway to expand into three more counties in 2018.

To learn more, visit www.HealthyGrandfamilies.com.

Healthy Grandfamilies is funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Capacity Building Grants Program, Award No. 2015-38821-24374.

Celebrate National Farmers Market Week August 7-13

By Jenny Totten, CARD Extension Agent

August 7-13, 2016, is National Farmers Market Week, where farmers markets all over the country are engaging customers in special events. By the beginning of this year, there were more than 8,500 farmers markets in the U.S. – that is 50% more than just five years ago!

If you aren’t already shopping at your local farmers market, what are you waiting for? A trip to the market is a great way to not only support local farmers and get fresher, healthier foods. It’s also a fun family activity for you and your kids. Here are some fun ways to engage the children in your community and your entire family in being a part of the local food system.

The first one is simple: Find your local farmers market. Research where your community’s markets are and what time they are open. The West Virginia Farmers Market Association maintains a list of member markets for the state. Children love seeing all of the fresh products, and farmers love talking to potential new, young customers. A word of caution: famers do not appreciate having their produce handled constantly. Remember that, in most cases, this is their livelihood, so handle with care only the items you intend to purchase, as best you can.

farmersmarketweek2Educate yourself on where your food is coming from. Produce bought at the local supermarket and big box stores is most likely not West Virginia grown. For example, most tomatoes come from Florida, grapes from California, apples from Washington, potatoes from Idaho, and onions from as far away as Peru! When you buy from the local farmers market, you can be guaranteed that your foods are coming fresh from the farm down the street, down the road or in a nearby town. By knowing how far your food has traveled, you’ll better understand the benefits of buying local – the food is fresher for you and you’re helping your community farmers! Share this information with your children, even showing them the distances of common food travel on a map or globe. It’s a great visual for the youngsters to learn the importance of buying local and supporting small farmers.

Play the “local food hula hoop game” with your children. This is a fun way to show how far food actually has to travel, work on food recognition for the younger crew and get some exercise in, too! Here’s how you do it.

Local Food Hula Hoop Game

Materials: 10-12 hula hoops or sidewalk chalk; fake plastic fruits and vegetables or laminated pictures, some for West Virginia (apples, lettuce, tomato, pepper, peas, beans grapes) and some for Mexico (pepper, tomato, beans, mango, banana, grapes)

Optional, but fun: pictures of the maps of countries and states that you travel through to get from Mexico to West Virginia (Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky); picture of a grocery store; pictures of two farms


  • Draw one giant circle or lay down one hula hoop for the grocery store
  • Pick the “Local Food” side of the playing area and draw a circle or lay down a hula hoop for the WV Farm
  • On the other side, draw or lay down one hula hoop for each state/country that the food must travel through, then add one more circle for the Mexico farm
  • Place WV foods in the WV farm, place Mexico foods in the Mexico farm

Playing the Game:

  • One person is the grocery store manager and must make food orders. The other players each pick West Virginia or Mexico to represent.
  • The grocery store manager calls out fruits and vegetables and one farmer from each side must choose their vegetable or fruit and hop from circle to circle to get the order to the store.
  • SOME foods will not be available at all farm locations.

Questions to ask:

  • Which food do you think is fresher?
  • What happens when there is a food recall out of a Mexican farm?
  • What about if there is bad weather along the truck route?

These are just a couple ideas – and a fun game – to introduce farmers markets into your family life. To learn more about farmers markets and National Farmers Market Week, visit the Farmers Market Coalition website!

Mentoring in My Community: A Lifetime Commitment, Make a Difference Today

by Kaysha Moreno, Extension Agent

Our youth are faced daily with many challenges from school to raging hormones to peer pressure and life as a whole. “Research shows that mentees usually perform better in their program and after they get out of school, than students without mentors” (W. Brad Johnson, PhD, a psychology professor at the U.S. Naval Academy and author of several books about mentoring.)

Research shows that Students who meet regularly with their mentors are 52% less likely than their peers to skip a day of school and 37% less likely to skip a class.

  • Youth who meet regularly with their mentors are 46% less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs and 27% less likely to start drinking.
  • Seventy-six percent of at-risk young adults who had a mentor aspire to enroll in and graduate from college versus half of at-risk young adults who had no mentor. They are also more likely to be enrolled in college.
  • Mentoring reduces “depressive symptoms” and increases “social acceptance, academic attitudes and grades.”

Finding a mentor is not always an easy task; many look to peers in their immediate surroundings, but often times they are misguided and usually tend to focus on immediate matters and short-term assignments rather than career goals and how to achieve them. I’m not saying that this is in anyway wrong, but short-term mentoring is usually due to misguided advice given to the mentors or the fact that they have a strong sense of feeling like “I am not mentor material.” So what is mentor material? Being a mentor does not mean you have to know all the answers, and it does not mean that you have to be at the pinnacle of your career. You already have more to offer than you think. Being a mentor requires attentiveness, commitment to meeting with the mentee and sticking with it. You will find that you will get just as much as you give, if not more. If you’re interested in being a mentor, keep these key points in mind:

  • Be open to sharing. Yes, you need to listen, but also be willing to share. Your ups and downs will help your mentee navigate their challenges. There is no perfectly smooth ride in anyone’s career. Be willing to share your mistakes and failures, those are great lessons for your mentee as well.
  • Be Committed. If you are helping someone, you must be committed to doing so and to putting in the time to make the relationship work, for the long term.
  • Have Integrity. You must be respected and respectable to be a good mentor. Be an honest person. It’s the way to be – even if you’re not a mentor!
  • Be engaged. Hey, you can’t be a mentor just because it “sounds” like the right thing to do. Be present in the life of your mentee. This will be a personal relationship with give and take, a lot of listening and a lot of support.

I’ve often advocated learning from successful people in your life or field. Watching how your heroes operate and dissecting how they communicate is a great learning tool and a great way for you to be a better leader yourself. Mentoring is about being transparent and revealing your best self. It’s about finding your best voice and learning what not to share and exactly what to share if you want someone to be just as successful as you, if not better. Meenoo Rami gets it perfect in “Thrive” when she describes her many mentors and how they’ve each played a distinct role in her growth as an educator. In the book, she lists:

  • The mentor who helps me see what’s possible in my practice.
  • The mentor who dares me into new work.
  • The mentor who helps me fine-tune my instruction.
  • The mentor who helps me find community.
  • The mentor who helps me see what’s possible in my writing life.
  • The mentor who helps me share my work publicly.
  • The mentor who helps me stay balanced.

These folks range from her principal, to a highly regarded author for English teachers to in-school colleagues, to her sister. That’s exactly how mentoring works in real life!

Mentoring provides meaningful and necessary connections that impact the people involved in a great way. For those who are being mentored, the impact shows in academics, socially and economically. For those doing the mentoring it can build management skills and leadership skills, it can expand your professional network, and it also provides the great feeling of empowerment by giving back to the community.

There are many ways to get involved and mentor in your community. Here at West Virginia State University Extension Service we are dedicated to the future of our communities. We have many mentoring opportunities from 4-H mentoring, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), agriculture, etc. If you are interested in being a volunteer for any of these programs, please contact WVSU Extension Service. But your options are not limited to just WVSU. Perform an online search for volunteer opportunities in your area and you will have an array of options like Americorps, Big Brothers Big Sisters, YWCA, and many, many more.

At a time of great social need for our youth, why not be that person that will inspire change and teach life lessons that will help the youth succeed in life.

WVSU Celebrates 125 Years

This year, West Virginia State University is celebrating our 125th anniversary. As an 1890 Land-Grant University, we’re able to offer an innovative platform of Cooperative Extension programs to help make your life better. But WVSU Extension Service has had a long and interesting journey to get where we are today. Let’s take a look back at the history of WVSU’s land-grant status.

In 1891, WVSU was founded an 1890 Land-Grant Institution under the Second Morrill Act to provide “instruction in agriculture, the mechanical arts, English language and the various branches of mathematical, physical, natural and economic science: to the black citizens of the state where these students had no access to other higher education institutions.” WVSU faithfully and successfully met its duties in an outstanding manner. However, in 1956, the West Virginia State Board of Education voted to surrender the land-grant status of WVSU and transfer all personnel and expense funds to West Virginia University, the state’s 1862 Land-Grant Institution.

125logoFor decades, alumni of the university interested in regaining land-grant status looked for the right time, place, and persons to reverse the decision made in 1957. In 1988, President Hazo W. Carter Jr. undertook this endeavor. That fall, he and several members of his staff traveled to Washington to meet with the staffs of West Virginia’s Congressional delegates and representatives of the Secretary of the USDA to explore the feasibility of regaining land-grant status. The Congressional delegation was supportive, but pointed out the first step was to have the state legislature re-designate WVSU as an 1890 Land-Grant Institution.

In 1991, House Bill 2124 was passed unanimously by both the House and Senate to re-designate WVSU as an 1890 Land-Grant Institution. In 1999, Senator Robert C. Byrd amended House Bill 1906 to once again establish WVSU as a land-grant institution, eligible for research and extension funding as established under the Second Morrill Act of 1890. After approval by Congress, President Bill Clinton signed the FY2000 Agricultural Appropriations Bill.

Although WVSU received land-grant research and extension funding in FY2000, the USDA Office of General Council of the USDA stated that more explicit amending language was necessary for full inclusion of WVSU as an 1890 Land-Grant Institution. Senator Byrd introduced such an amendment, and in November 2001, with the passage and subsequent signing of the FY2002 Agricultural Appropriations Bill, the University regained its birthright and once again became an official and fully recognized 1890 Land-Grant Institution.

Starting then with a staff of one, Extension programs at WVSU quickly found a footing and have grown ever since. Beginning with a program presence in Kanawha County, our reach has grown to more than 30 counties throughout the state, with innovative program efforts in 4-H, alternative agriculture, community development, family and consumer sciences, and much more.

Happy Anniversary, WVSU! We look forward to another wonderful 125 years to come!

Getting to Know Assistant Program Director Kelli Batch

Our “Getting to Know…” series introduces you to our extension educators, both professionally and a little personally, so you can learn more about the people helping to extend knowledge and change lives in your community.

Kelli Batch is the Assistant Program Director of Resilient Youth and Families. She oversees the Family & Consumer Sciences and 4-H Youth Development programs, while securing funding and partnerships for program and staff sustainability. Kelli has been a part of the State family for nine years. Originally from Dunbar, Kelli has a BA in psychology from WVU and an MA in Leadership Studies from Marshall University.

What was your job before you came to WVSU?
Bank teller.

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
Working with youth and impacting their lives through our programs.

If you weren’t working with Extension, what would your dream job be?
Owning a restaurant.

When you’re not at work, what can we find you doing?
Reading suspense novels, doing crafts with my children, cooking and watching movies.

Do you have any hidden talents?

What was the last book you read?
The Street Lawyer by John Grisham.

Name your favorite city that you’ve visited.
Las Vegas.

What is the best meal you’ve ever had?
Parmesan crusted halibut and rice pilaf at Chop House.

What is a “must see/must do” in your county?
Explore the hiking trails or visit the casino.

If you have any questions for Kelli about what she does or how you can get involved with 4-H, contact her at kelli.batch@wvstateu.edu or (304) 766-4285.