S U M M E R 2 0 0 9 N E W S L E T T E R
FRONTIER COMMUNICATIONS INVESTS IN WEST VIRGINIA TELECOMMUNICATIONS!
The recent agreement to purchase Verizon’s land line assets makes Frontier Communications the primary telecommunications provider in West Virginia and triples the company’s size overall. Services they provide to West Virginians amount to nearly 11 percent of the company’s total business volume.
Mike Swatts, General Manager for Frontier’s West Virginia Operations, expressed the company’s commitment to providing service to rural communities. “Serving Rural America IS our business. As a local, community-based communications company, Frontier has always been – and will always be – in the business of bringing people together. We pride ourselves in helping people stay connected.”
“As the needs of those communities have changed and grown, so, too, has Frontier. By continually evolving and adopting the very latest in technology, we will continue to deliver to our customers in America’s rural markets the opportunity to connect to the people, places and things most important to them. We feel that these individuals (and businesses) want and deserve the same capabilities in technology that are available in the metropolitan markets,” Mr. Swatts said.
Frontier Communications has been an important partner to the Alliance for many years. Alliance Executive Director, Marcel Fortin said, “Frontier provided $10,000 of funding for our first Broadband Assessment Project (BAP) in 2005. They saw the value of the survey and have been an important partner to the Alliance.”
“The Broadband Assessment Survey provided Frontier and others with added insight into the needs and desires of our customers,” explained Mr. Swatts. “Frontier has been a partner and provider of technology and communication services in West Virginia for a number of years. We look forward to a continued relationship with West Virginia state agencies and community grassroots organizations that are committed to improving the quality of life for West Virginians through new technology, broadband availability and network improvements.”
Frontier currently offers telephone services, DISH Satellite Television, internet services, ESPN360 streaming video, and bundled service packages with special services for homes, small business, and in-home offices. “Frontier employees deliver communications products that emphasize convenience, service and customer satisfaction,” said Mr. Swatts. For more information on services Frontier provides to your location, visit www.Frontier.com.
According to Frontier statistics, 94 percent of its West Virginia customer base has access to high speed internet service. “Broadband is an important part of our business,” said Mr. Swatts. “Frontier will invest in network infrastructure to expand the broadband reach and speed and to support new product and service offerings that are recognized for value and reliability.”
“Frontier has been a community-minded partner,” explains Mr. Fortin. “They have been very generous to organizations throughout the state who needed help establishing internet and phone services.”
For example, Frontier partnered with the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Davy, WV to provide free high speed internet service for a two-year period for their new computer center. The center was made possible through a USDA grant.
Frontier also partnered with the Town of Wardensville, WV to provide free phone and high speed internet service to the new computer center in the Wardensville Library (see full story below).
“We are proud to serve the rural markets in our county and understand the importance of giving back to the communities where our employees live and work,” said Mr. Swatts. “Being a good corporate citizen means taking a role in making the local communities better places for our customers and Frontier employees. Many of our employees sit on community boards, serve as Little League coaches, and support many nonprofit organizations such as the American Heart Association, the Chamber of Commerce, and the American Cancer Society.”
SHADY SPRINGS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS CONDUCT E-GOVERNMENT PROJECT IN RALEIGH COUNTY
Civics class at Shady Spring High School (SSHS) in Raleigh County, West Virginia decided to give their E-Government Project a visual identity by printing shirts to wear during their information gathering efforts. “My students were excited about the project,” said Deborah Gallaher, SSHS Civics Teacher and project coach. “They felt we needed shirts so officials would easily recognize us and our project. One student volunteered to create the logo and the class was pleased with the finished creation. We asked Student Council to help fund printing the shirts and they did.”
The Community Connect Foundation (CCF), the WV Department of Education, the Regional Education Service Agencies (RESAs), the WV Association of County Officials, the WV Municipal League the WV Office of Technology, and the Claude Worthington-Benedum Foundation have partnered to create county and municipality e-government websites launching from the WV.GOV state portal website. This new portal allows citizens and local governments to interact more effectively.
The project, which will take several years to deploy statewide, was first launched as a pilot in six cities and their counties to allow a process to develop for smooth implementation and maintenance. High school students gather information from the community to build and maintain local government websites to serve the needs of residents.
“Civics is such an important subject in our schools,” said Miss Gallaher. “I always use activities to provide hands-on experiences for my students, such as mock trials with actual lawyers present to assist our students as they play the roles of mock lawyers. E-Government fit perfectly into my curriculum. My ultimate goal is to produce productive citizens and with the help of E-Government I was able to accomplish that this year. I would love to repeat it next year.”
Miss Gallaher believes the E-Government Project provided valuable experience for her students. “With the help of our new technology, student filmed video, took pictures, prepared interview questions, and conducted interviews throughout the county,” Miss Gallaher said. “Students loved the opportunity to visit local officials and conduct interviews. My students turned out to be great interviewers. They were confident and looked very professional in their E-Government shirts.”
Students participating in the E-Government Project have access to laptop computers, digital and video cameras, and use of other tools that assist them in accomplishing their information gathering process. Each school district determines the level of course credit or community service student participants will earn. CCF purchases equipment suitable to meet the students’ needs. Upon completion of the project, the equipment becomes school property.
“Our students created two PowerPoint presentations that will be used continuously in SSHS for the next several years,” continued Miss Gallaher. “One will be used to inform students of the numerous higher educational opportunities within our immediate area and the state. Students used the computer to research colleges and universities in West Virginia and others took the video camera to local colleges. The presentation will be used in all grades 9-12 Social Studies Classes next year. It has already been shown to this year’s Junior Class.”
The second PowerPoint presentation documented the City of Beckley’s First Founder’s Day event. “The Founder’s Day presentation was given to the 11th Grade Teachers to use in class work,” explained Miss Gallaher. “A copy was also sent to the Raleigh County Historical Society.”
The students are preparing a third PowerPoint presentation about the public officials they interviewed, which will be used in next year’s Civics Classes at SSHS and some local colleges.
WARDENSVILLE LIBRARY HAS NEW COMPUTER CENTER
They say it started with a “hard-headed woman”. That woman, Pat Harmon led efforts to open a public library inside the town’s former high school building. The school was closed in 1979 by a consolidation. The building and grounds were given to the Town of Wardensville to use for community enhancement projects. The library was one of the first new uses for the retired school.
Today the Wardensville Library is the community’s central information depot -- with its new computer center, training classes, activities for children, and rrom for meetings and many other community activities. Although there is no cell phone service available in the rural town of only 300 people, residents now enjoy public access to the internet at broadband speeds in the library’s Computer Center.
The community library is not part of the public library system. It has operated entirely on volunteer efforts, strong community support and grant funding from many sources since 1994. Under the capable leadership of Ms. Harmon, the volunteer librarians are Marci Markley, Betty Merriman, Janis Lange, Anne Teschendorf, Sharon Moyer and Marlene Collins.
helped to clean out the old school building, get windows repaired and get some
books and supplies together. Wardensville Library has been open to the public
Ms. Harmon credits Carolyn Lyndaker for “helping us dream a bit.” Ms. Lyndaker found out about the Alliance minigrant program and hoped it could help establish a computer lab. This might sound more like a logical step and less like a dream for most libraries, but the library in Wardensville did not even have a telephone. Ms. Harmon remembered a man that had dropped by the library a year or more earlier. He had offered to help with any computer or internet issues, and she still had his phone number. “Many times people new to the area are looking for ways to contribute to community,” said Ms. Harmon.
The ladies gave the man, Gerry Wenham a call. Gerry and his wife Rita had purchased a retirement home in Wardensville where they spend their weekends. Mr. Wenham works in Washington, DC for USDA Rural Development. “With my farm background, career focused on rural development, computer knowledge and experience, and love for volunteering,” he explained, “I am fitting in well to the Wardensville Library’s need for a techie-type to help with the internet project. And I’m loving it! But most of the credit belongs to the Wardensville natives who have doggedly created a community library from scratch, using mostly donations and volunteer labor, and staffed it with volunteers for a decade before I arrived.”
So, the Computer Lab project team was established with Pat Harmon, Carolyn Lyndaker, Marlene Collins, Marci Markley, Gerry Wenham and Rita Wenham. They decided to start with four computers for public internet access and two computers for the use of the librarians. They have since added a small classroom off the library with five additional computers.
In the end, the total cost of the project was $20,000. “We are so thankful for the $5,000 from the Alliance and Benedum,” said Ms. Lyndaker. “And we are especially grateful for Marcel Fortin connecting us with Paul Espinosa from Frontier Communications. Frontier Communications donated phone and DSL services to the computer center for a year! We had no idea how we were going to pay for these essential services. We can’t thank Frontier enough for their generosity.”
The new phone line is useful for the librarians, but more importantly, it allows for telephone directory listings so others may find and use the library more easily.
Donations and equipment kept coming. “People are excited about being able to learn,” said Ms. Harmon. An organization in DC called So Others Might Eat (SOME) and Cambridge Research each donated computers. Other contributors include: Wardensville Lions Club, the VFW, Stephen Seipel, Keith Lyndaker-Schlabach, Carol Knight, Lee Orleans, and others.
A grant was received from the Hardy County Library for two additional computers, supplies and new books.
Computer classes have already started in Wardensville. There are three levels of Computer Skills classes. Internet Access classes on held on Saturdays with four 90-minute segments available. There is also a class to help parents learn texting languages and parental security issues.
Classes also use computers to address employability skills including typing, resume writing, etc. Basic literacy and GED students are provided with private study areas.
Children enjoy a summer reading program. The library hopes to find a staffing solution to accommodate after-school hours.
Gerry Wenham is at the library every Saturday to help people keep their own computers running well, while his wife Rita serves as the Saturday volunteer librarian. “I will help people maintain or build their own computers,” began Mr. Wenham. “Ideally, I’d like to develop a couple of computer repairmen locally.”
The Wardensville Library is the only public access internet in the area. “We plan to expand our public access to WiFi so people can use it when the library is closed,” said Ms. Lyndaker.
Ms. Harmon said, “Working with the Alliance widened our networking to include people outside our local area. We were able to meet new people with ideas and skills that contributed to our project.”
Wardensville Library has ongoing needs including obtaining current books, large print books, and audio books for circulation. If you would like to help the Wardensville Library, call to discuss your ideas at 304-874-3460 or email them to WardensvilleComputerCenter@frontiernet.net.
MEET JIM ANDERSON
He was raised in Pinch, graduated from Elkview High School, and married a coal miner’s daughter. Jim Anderson’s youth in West Virginia sounds like one many have shared. But his uncommon commitment to community leadership led him to become one of the founding members of the Alliance.
Mr. Anderson’s college studies in animal science, biology and economics led him to a teaching career in Braxton County. And that experience led him to work in the financial services department of the Farmer’s Home Administration, which later became USDA Rural Development.
Part of his work was assisting communities with development projects in attaining financial aid from the federal government. “I became very familiar with the issues involved in community projects,” said Anderson.
“Enterprise Communities were part of the USDA’s Empowerment Initiatives in the 1990s,” continued Anderson. “West Virginia was one of the top three states participating.”
Application to become a Champion Community required a disciplined Strategic Plan for community development. The USDA provided grant funding to enable the plan. “The real benefit was communities coming together to build their own plans and begin working together to accomplish their goals,” explains Anderson.
The USDA provided framework for communities that were organized and had a plan. As the USDA’s Representative in West Virginia, Mr. Anderson provided community development support, financial resources, and networking to the emerging Champion Communities.
Mary Hunt started at Benedum Foundation about the same time and had some experience with minigrant programs. “We thought that combining minigrants with the strategic plans might produce better outcomes from the funding provided by the
USDA and Benedum,” Said Anderson. “We started holding monthly meetings and inviting people to share their expertise and ideas. We all shared the same challenges. These were great meetings.”
“We all thought,” Anderson continued, “this should be shared with a larger group.” This was the beginning of the Alliance.
“I am pleased to see things that happened that were really good,” Anderson reflects.
“I drive by Corridor G and see the Yeager Monument in Lincoln County. People have embraced a community view and lots of projects have gotten done.”
“There were a lot of ‘Aha’ moments where people were empowered. They got it,” said Anderson. “A lot of times these were not earth-shattering events. They were little nuggets. Where an old man comes to a teacher at a minigrant program and realizes it’s not about the project – it’s about us meeting each other. Where people recognize opportunity to improve the community and step into a bigger self.”
If you have questions for Jim Anderson, he may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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