Highland Helpline Established – Pt. 1

As the listening area begins to comprehend the realities and challenges facing us in the coming days, solutions are often found on a grassroots level – people looking out and caring for their friends and neighbors in any way they can.

One of those solutions was the newly created Highland Helpline phone number, which grew out of the Highland Local Emergency Planning Commission’s regular March meeting. We spoke with Harley Gardner, the county’s Emergency Services Coordinator to learn more.

“At our past meeting, we went through our general business and agenda and I had a lot of individuals who were there who normally don’t attend. And during that time when we opened it up for public discussion, we got into the situation of what does the county need to do in order to serve our residents, during this time of possible pandemic situations within the county. I appointed a committee Janie Hughes and Nancy Witschy to form the possibility of a helpline or a call center or something of that nature. So we had that committee appointed Thursday night.

“Then a meeting was called on Friday morning at nine o’clock, and many of the stakeholders within the county were there – the medical, the VPAS, Department of Social Services, Sheriff’s Department, of course Highland Medical Center – we were in their conference room for that nine o’clock meeting. At that time, Nancy and Beth Pyles from McDowell came over and told us that at that time, they were ready to roll with a helpline for Highland County. Beth had developed within her congregation a helpline already, and had some response in the past week. So it had moved ahead to that point. So by Saturday, the helpline was up and running and they had volunteers to man that – so that is specifically for physical needs – it is not a medical helpline.”

The operators manning the phones can, however, point callers in the right direction for other resources.

“This is to give you direction to other agencies which might be able to meet whatever need you may have if you’re restricted to your home. This is for individuals who are either self-quarantined or medically quarantined or requested to stay home or even if you just can’t get out because of your physical condition. Any need that you might have, you can touch base with this helpline and they’ll direct you to the proper agency to contact.”

Mr. Gardner also provided other addresses for online assistance.

“And if you want to use the websites, and the CDC has an excellent website, the Virginia Department of Health has an excellent website as far as personal protection, and so forth – www.vdh.virginia.gov. they have a helpline as well for medical questions which is 877-ASK – VDH3.”

The Highland Helpline number is 540-474-2163.

In Part Two of this story, we’ll hear from Beth Pyles, minister of the McDowell Presbyterian Church, on how the idea came to fruition.

For Allegheny Mountain Radio, this is Alexis Small.

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

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