Hampshire County Pathways, the addiction recovery program that’s moving so it can expand, is a lifeline for some victims of the opioid epidemic that has ravaged West Virginia.
Just ask Apryl Dawson. She grabbed that lifeline 3 years ago and now she’s helping orchestrate the program and the move.
“It was exactly where I needed to be,” the 1994 Hampshire grad said. “It’s not everyone’s story, but it’s definitely mine.”
Dawson thought she hit rock bottom when she went back to jail in Winchester in 2017 after being busted for drugs. She was staying in a hotel there with her children.
But she had further to sink.
“Having my children taken was my rock bottom,” she says now.
She was not only charged with possession, but also child neglect and endangerment.
During her 7 months behind bars her children were taken for adoption by another family. Dawson couldn’t have any contact with them until she left jail and finished probation this April.
Now, she says, she’s rebuilding a healthy relationship with the kids, who, she says, are in a good place.
“It saved my life at the same time it saved theirs,” she said.
Once released from jail, Dawson arranged for her probation to be supervised here rather than Virginia and started attending meetings at Pathways.
And she found work — as a sealcoater.
“Sealcoating is only seasonal,” she noted. One day near the end of the season, she stopped by Pathways to say hi, only to be offered a job.
So she went to work in Pathways’ Lighthouse program, which provides residential placement for 8 women in recovery. Along with her Lighthouse work, Dawson also found time to attend 8 to 10 meetings a week “downstairs.”
That’s where Pathways hold sessions for NA and AA, peer counseling, free lunch, open computers, a dress-for-success clothing closet.
After a couple of years, Pathways sent her downstairs and up a notch as program director overseeing the different aspects.
Monday, she was at 134 W. Sioux Lane amid the drywall dust and paint helping reorganize the downstairs of the building that Pathways will rent as of Oct. 1.
“We’re trying to get everything done,” she said, “to open it up and make sure it’s perfect.”
Dawson wants to put as much into helping others with recovery as she has gotten herself.
“Working in the recovery field and being able to give back keeps me sober, keeps me clean,” she says.
She had gotten clean before, but it never stuck. Drugs became part of Dawson’s life when she was 20 or 21, she says.
Her drug of choice? “Heroin, opiates. The sad thing is I really didn’t discriminate.”
Clean now for 3 years and 3 months, battling heroin is a focus for her life and Pathways.
Sadly, it’s a growth business. After the move, Lighthouse can expand from 8 beds to 12. They’re needed, she says, because “the epidemic is as bad as it is.”
So Pathways grows in the number of people visiting the drop-in center and attending meetings. That makes the program’s reach “a beautiful thing because it’s a terrible epidemic and so many lives are being lost.”
She calls her life an open book, particularly to Pathways’ clients.
“In order for me to help people they need to understand this is what I’ve been through,” she explains.
“Once you choose recovery, things do get better.”
Schools in 3 neighboring counties have reported cases of COVID-19 since the weekend.
Hampshire County students and staff are still clear, after a 2-week lull in August, cases are again rising here.
Two new cases confirmed Monday brought Hampshire County’s total to 96 overall with 3 active. One person here died of the virus in April.
The 2 new cases followed 1 on Friday and 1 on Thursday. That’s the most since 4 were reported between Aug. 15-19.
Hardy, Mineral and Grant counties all announced school-related cases in the past 3 days.
In Mineral County, a student at Burlington Primary School has tested positive for the virus.
Superintendent Troy Ravenscroft confirmed the case Monday after the Mineral County Health Department said Sunday only that someone at the school had tested positive.
Grant County Schools reported cases connected to Union Educational Complex in Mount Storm and at Petersburg High School. The school system did not specify whether the case at Union was connected to a student or staff member. At Petersburg, the positive test was a family member of a high school staffer.
“An individual associated with Moorefield High School” has tested positive, Hardy County schools told parents Sunday night in an automated phone call and on social media.
The Hardy County Health Department said it is working to notify people who may have been exposed. Mineral County said anyone exposed to the Burlington student is in isolation. The Mineral Health Department said cleaning at Burlington has been completed.
Additionally, Grant County on Sunday confirmed the death of a 78-year-old man, the 2nd in the county in 2 days and the 8th overall there. Grant County has had 145 cases; 3 were active Tuesday.
Mineral County has had 153 cases as of Sunday night with 7 active. Hardy County has reported 77 cases and 3 active as of Friday.
That friendly face that has doled out prescriptions for more than a quarter century needs help — and those who know her are rallying to the cause.
Karen Borror, 54, was seriously injured in a 2-vehicle wreck Aug. 21 a half mile north of the Slanesville General Store.
The other driver, Terry Lee Weasenforth, 53, of Leesburg, Va., died when his 2010 Chrysler Sebring crossed the centerline and hit Borror’s Jeep Grand Cherokee head-on.
“She had just left work that Friday at 4:30,” said her friend and coworker at Romney’s Walgreens, Rebekah Heavener. “She had just gotten to Slanesville on her way home from work when the accident happened.”
Borror was lifeflighted to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown for treatment of her broken leg and 8 to 10 broken ribs.
The 3-and-a-half ensuing weeks have been challenging, costly and supportive, even though COVID-19 restrictions have pretty much eliminated personal visits from everyone except her husband, Danny Kerns.
Cards are pouring in from the many customers she has served over the years who have become friends.
“Every card that he brings in the hospital, he’s to keep them all together so she can respond with a thank you card,” Heavener said. “That’s just the type of person she is.”
Borror made a giant step in her recovery Friday when she was transferred from Ruby to War Memorial Hospital in Berkeley Springs for rehab.
That’s a positive from what Heavener called Borror’s “horrendous” stay in Morgantown.
Not only could she not have visitors other than her husband, her pain was excruciating.
The 1st surgery was on her broken leg, but, Heavener said, Borror still couldn’t get comfortable, trying to breathe with all those broken ribs. She spent some time on a ventilator.
Then doctors went back in, putting plates in her ribcage to alleviate the pressure on it.
“The pain level was really, really bad,” Heavener said.
Jumping in to help her co-worker of 18 years didn’t take much thought for Heavener.
“She’s a very, very giving person,” her friend said. She always had a kind word for a customer.
“The phone will be ringing and she doesn’t care; she’s going to finish talking to that customer standing in front her,” Heavener explained with a smile. “Sometimes I call her Chatty Kathy – seriously.”
Her connection with customers went beyond chatting – delivering prescriptions and sending cards to those in the hospital.
“She has been willing to go that extra mile to provide customers what they needed,” Heavener said.
So many customers wanted to do something to help her that Heavener started a fund to help pay Borror’s expenses. Just by word of mouth it pulled in $2,500 in the first week.
Now Lost Mountain Barbecue is planning a fundraiser for the injured pharmacy tech. Ten percent of net sales on the weekend of Oct. 2-4 will go to help Borror.
It’s just one measure of how much her friends, her coworkers and her customers miss her.
“She’s greatly missed here,” Heavener said. “We feel her loss here every day.”
ROMNEY — In the wake of passing the school bond in June, the planning, design and construction of the new schools will be moving forward right on schedule, if not ahead of it.
On Aug. 13, school board president Debbie Champ sent a letter to the School Building Authority in Charleston to make a case that the funding for Hampshire County Schools be given consideration on a “normal” schedule.
Since 2020 has been anything but normal, COVID-19 threw a wrench into the SBA’s meeting schedule, and it originally looked like the consideration for the funding wouldn’t be given until April 2021, setting the county pretty far behind the 8 ball.
Ernie Dellatorre, architect with McKinley Architecture and Engineering said there was a chance the approval could happen as soon as this month, but with a response from David Roach, director of the WV SBA presented by Champ at Monday night’s meeting, it’s more likely the timeframe will be right on schedule, with Hampshire County’s approval set for the SBA’s December meeting.
“Please be advised that the SBA is having a December quarterly meeting, which was not previously announced on our website,” Roach wrote. “While we are unable to put your request on our September agenda, I am pleased to announce that it will be placed on our December agenda, if not sooner.”
Also at Monday night’s meeting, the board approved fundraisers at Augusta Elementary, Romney Elementary, Romney Middle, Springfield-Green Spring Elementary and Hampshire High.
The HHS fundraisers were the only events that caused friction among the board, with the issue of girls and boys soccer, boys basketball and baseball selling concessions at WVU.
At their last meeting, the board debated sending HHS students to Morgantown during the COVID-19 pandemic, seeing as Mon County has been in the Red Zone over the last few weeks.
“I’m probably more adamantly opposed to that one at this time than I was at the last meeting,” Champ said Monday.
Board member Dee Dee Rinker backed Champ, adding, “It’s not going to get any better for a long time, not with all of those kids. Why would we expose anyone to it?”
The WVU concession fundraisers were put to a vote by the board, and it passed 3-2, with Rinker and Champ voting against approval.
However, the caveat is that Mon County has to be in the Green Zone, a prospect that board member Bernie Hott called “far-fetched.”
“Our students’ health isn’t for sale,” Champ said. “I don’t care what they pay us.”
Superintendent Jeff Pancione also presented his goals for the 2020-21 academic year at the Monday night meeting. These goals were to promote student achievement by setting high expectations/standards and monitoring instructional activities in schools, and to comprehend and promote financial education and c) to lead and direct the School Bond passage to construction.
Romney library connects community, even during pandemic
ROMNEY — The Hampshire County Public Library has been busy these days, even amid a global pandemic, trying to reach the community through their various creative and inclusive programs.
When the library levy appeared on the ballot in June, it was almost as if no one expected the result. The levy, which came about in 1987, has passed every year.
“It’s not a new thing, and the tax rates are actually going down lately,” said HCPL director Megan Shanholtz. “We’ve had quite a few people who said they were surprised it didn’t pass, and unhappy it didn’t pass. Quite a few people said that they didn’t know that it needed to pass by 60 percent. There’s been a lot of adapting.”
The library levy received 58 percent of the vote in June, missing the mark by an infuriatingly small percentage.
“I think there was just a sense of shock and surprise,” Shanholtz said. “I know I was certainly surprised.”
The levy is going back on the ballot in November, but even if it passes then, it won’t go into effect until the following July, meaning both the HCPL and the Capon Bridge Public Library will have to operate without that money for the year beginning July 1.
Right now, the Romney library is working hard to maneuver around the obstacle of the pandemic, leaning into virtual options for community programs.
“We’re doing a weekly virtual story time, and we’ve been doing little grab-and-go bags to accompany the story time,” Shanholtz described. “We’re adding [this month] sort of STEM-oriented grab-and-go bags, so we’re trying to promote a lot of things that are still things you can do.”
While the virtual options seem to be going well, making the switch back to in-person programs might not be too near in the future for the Romney library.
“We’re not really ready to start in-person programming,” Shanholtz said.
As far as the balance with the library’s programs, Shanholtz described a low-contact program that they’re restarting: 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten. It’s an early literacy program where families can grab the paperwork and take it home, read the books and come back and stick something on the wall of the library.
The pandemic took a backseat to the library’s summer reading program as well: Shanholtz said over 80 people participated.
“We’re really happy about that,” she said with a smile.
This month, Shanholtz said the library is taking submissions for their 1st-ever virtual community art show.
“We typically have a fall art show, but not now,” she said. “We’re taking submissions from the community and we’re going to display them on Oct. 12.”
It’s not just for artists, either. It’s open to everyone.
“Artists, community members, anyone,” she explained. “We’re going to put a slideshow together and put that up. I like the idea that it’s the entire community.”
This inclusive program is indicative of the broader role libraries play in the Hampshire County community. Shanholtz said over time, the role of the libraries has shifted somewhat, from strictly resources for research to a community hub.
“Libraries are starting to act more as community centers. People come here to spend time, visit with friends, study, but also while still fulfilling the traditional role of providing information, literature and movies.”
She also pointed out that Internet accessibility can be a little touch-and-go, and the library provides that resource.
The library opened its doors back up on July 20, and in order to minimize health risks in the building, they’re requiring masks and hand sanitizer upon entry, and of course, they are encouraging folks to practice social distancing.
The HCPL hours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., and nearly any resource the library offers within its walls can also be accessed curbside.
“Literally the only thing people can’t do curbside it browse the shelves,” Shanholtz said.