Residents Discuss Health And Wellness Center For Northern Pocahontas County

Green Bank, WV – Rachel Taylor has a vision – a vision of a wellness center where people can exercise and attend educational classes on a wide variety of health and fitness topics. And she’d like to see that vision become a reality in northern Pocahontas County. Taylor and her cousin Stephanie Johnson spoke to a small crowd at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank about the idea last week.

Taylor, a native of Pocahontas, now works as a Physician’s Assistant at the health clinic in Durbin. Johnson, a graduate student in a Community and Development Planning program, is assisting her with organizational expertise. Taylor explains what she has in mind.

“The proposed project would be for a wellness/health care education facility to be built in the Green Bank/ northern Pocahontas area” she says. “This facility could be used as a public fitness center for individual and group exercise classes, health care education classes, and as a potential site for physical therapy services to serve the upper end of our county. Another consideration that I feel would be of a great benefit would be a small indoor heated handicapped accessible lap pool. This would be used for water therapy, water aerobics, swimming lessons, and for fitness, especially during the winter months.”

Taylor freely admits that she has little or no experience putting together a project of this magnitude. That’s why she’s drawing on the community organizing and grant writing skills of Johnson. But she says she’s also hoping to get others in the community involved as well.

“I’ve talked to several different people about site placement, different site opportunities” says Taylor. “I talked with Sid Gillespie who works at the Elkins YMCA to see how they run theirs, and he actually mentioned [the possibility] of becoming a branch of the YMCA; there’s both positives and negatives to that, so that’s a potential opportunity that we could look into. And then starting to look at some grant funding to get this off the ground; so that’s where we’re at as of right now.”

Taylor says some of the potential sites mentioned to her include county owned land in Green Bank across from the senior center, the annex behind Green Bank Elementary Middle School and the old Meck’s bakery. One of the biggest hurdles beyond building or remodeling a facility is how to sustain it once it’s open.

Stephanie Alexander, who was at the meeting as a representative of Pocahontas Memorial Hospital, says they might be able to turn a couple of negative aspects of the county into something positive for this project. She says Pocahontas has a high suicide rate and low birth weights; if the center were to offer classes covering these issues, they might qualify for some grant funding.

Ron Maddalena suggests trying to establish the value of such a center to the community as a way of determining whether it’s a feasible project to undertake.

“What would be the cost that most of the people in this room would want to pay for such a service” he says. “A hundred dollars a year, two hundred dollars; what do they charge at other wellness centers in other locations for membership. You can use those numbers to determine the membership costs.”

He says once you’ve established a membership cost, and get an idea how much of the population would be willing to pay those costs, it’s just a matter of doing the math to see if the project will work.

There is a similar community wellness center project underway adjacent to Marlinton Elementary through the county Parks & Recreation department. However, that project is being funding through a multimillion dollar grant secured by the late Senator Robert C. Byrd. P&R Director Lauren Bennett points out that they currently have a steady source of income via a percentage of the county Hotel/Motel tax. She says they also have a Memorandum of Understanding with the county Board of Education that will pay about 80% of the utility costs for the new facility.

Several in attendance suggested that Taylor hold more public meetings, in other locations to talk to residents about her proposal. In the meantime she urges anyone interested in helping get the project going to contact her at

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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