New VISTA will be working to better prepare Pocahontas County in the event of a disaster
MARLINTON, WV – A new VISTA member is excited to have landed himself here in Pocahontas County. His name is Jason Wiggins, but he prefers to go by “Buster.” Originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, Buster is a VISTA member who will be working out of the Family Resource Network in Marlinton.
Buster said he found what he was looking for in Pocahontas County. He spent a lot of time in the Ozarks, and he enjoys rural living.
“I came here in September as a volunteer for two weeks and fell in love with the community,” says Buster. “I specifically came out here looking for a rural community to begin my service. After meeting Laura Young, I met her in October, and she called me within a couple of weeks to come out and start helping with the Harvest House Food Pantry.”
Between Halloween and Christmas last year Buster served more than 300 volunteer hours.
“And in that, the relationship with Laura became very strong,” he says. “And in January she approached me with this idea of this VISTA.”
He said he’s already got a pretty good idea of what he’ll be doing at the FRN, and it mostly revolves around disaster preparedness.
“Essentially this project would be a four year project beginning with the development of a steering committee made up of local service providers and community members,” explains Buster. “We’re going to work with our local emergency services coordinator to develop a directory of Pocahontas County emergency preparedness guide.”
He said they plan on distributing the directory to every household in the county, tailored to the specific part of the county you live in.
“So that when there is a disaster, depending upon where you are in the county, we’re going to have contact information for you to know who to call for help for whatever services you need for whatever disaster,” says Buster. “The topography of Pocahontas County varies, so what we need down here in Marlinton is different than what they need up in Cass.”
One facet of the project focuses on family, school and community readiness.
“We’re going to work with school age children to help them develop family shelter-in-place kits,” he says. “What we’ve found, when we do have a disaster, such as our freezes and what not, it takes up to 72 hours for disaster units to mobilize. And so we want to help families create a safety net for themselves so they can be prepared for those first three days.”
Buster said he’ll be working with Pocahontas County Emergency Services Coordinator Shawn Dunbrack.
“Helping him implement action plans, that he’s already developing, for the Homeland Security Emergency Operations Plan that’s being mobilized throughout the nation this year,” he says.
Streamlining a readiness program will prevent any duplication of services if anything unforeseen were to happen.
“We don’t want to really reinvent the wheel,” Buster says. “There’s already a lot of things that are available to the community right now that have already been created. So what we want to do is help people understand what is available to them, so that things can move more efficiently. So that way volunteer services don’t walk on each other or get in each other’s way, because that can be, sometimes, the hardest thing.”
Buster said he already feels at home here in Pocahontas County.
“Extremely excited,” he says. “I love this town, I love this community. I’ve felt a lot of warm regard where I live downtown here in Marlinton.”