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Benedum Foundation Names New Trustee
PITTSBURGH (September 22, 2015) - The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation announced that G. Nicholas Beckwith III has stepped down as an active Trustee of the Foundation and has been elected an Emeritus Trustee. Illah R. Nourbakhsh of Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute has been elected to replace Mr. Beckwith, effective immediately.
After receiving his Bachelor, Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science from Stanford University, and working at NASA, Dr. Nourbakhsh joined Carnegie Mellon University and now serves in various capacities, including Professor of Robotics and Head of the Robotics Masters Program.
Dr. Nourbakhsh’s research interests include community-based robotics and human-computer interaction. He started the CREATE (Community Robotics, Education, and Technology Empowerment) Lab to explore socially meaningful innovation and use of robotic technologies to advance experiential learning and citizen empowerment.
He has served as an advisor or board member to the International Robotics Education Forum, the Pittsburgh Neighborhood & Community Information System, Fred Rogers Center, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, and the Grable Foundation Community Cabinet, among many others. He has been honored by the June Harless Center for Rural Educational Research and Development at Marshall University (West Virginia), Carnegie Science Center, PennFutures, and Time Magazine. He has also been named a Kavli Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences.
Dr. Nourbakhsh has an extensive list of publications. The most recent is his book entitled Parenting for Technology Futures, which addresses the pressing question of how children can be best prepared for a hyper-technical future, and includes advice on how, at home and at school, children will gain the technology fluency which will be critical to future success regardless of career.
Mr. Beckwith has served the Benedum Foundation as a Trustee for over 26 years. The Foundation will continue to draw upon his extensive knowledge and commitment to the region to further the mission of the Foundation.
Over 400 registered for Try This WV Conference
June 3, 2015
By Dave Lavender
HUNTINGTON - Scroll over the Try This West Virginia website and good ideas pop out at you, as does the information to make these things happen where you live, on your block in your neck of the Mountain State woods.
Want to start a community garden or advocate for everyday recess or encourage breastfeeding, put up bike racks, start a running group or create active summer programs?
Everything you ever wanted to know about doing those 85 different projects is found on the web site in what director Kate Long calls "a feast of affordable, do-able ideas."
To help further fuel an even greater grassroots fire for making positive healthy changes in West Virginia, Try This West Virginia is hosting its second annual conference Friday and Saturday, June 5-6 on the campus of West Virginia Wesleyan in Buckhannon.
More than 400 people are pre-registered for the conference that will feature 40 breakout sessions (on everything from farmers markets and school gardens to bicycling and running programs), dozens of exhibitors, lots of health breaks for yoga, runs and exercise, as well as a keynote speech by Huntington Mayor Steve Williams.
Cost is $150 for the two days, and there are scholarships available for youth and adults. Go online at www.trythiswv.com/conference for more info.
Formed about 18 months ago, Try West Virginia is funded by The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, WV Office of Child Nutrition, WV Bureau of Public Health, Unicare Health Plan of WV, The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, The Bernard McDonough Foundation, Sisters of St. Joseph and Generous Promise Grant.
The purpose of the statewide coalition of about 20 groups is to promote healthy lifestyles and communities throughout West Virginia.
"We got up to speed very quickly as a state level organization because we are a coalition of 20 groups that already had their wheels rolling," Long said.
Those rolling wheels gathered a near Cass collection of steam at last year's conference. Long said last year's gathering drew more than 400 people to see 98 presenters in 30 different workshops, and really sparked a sense of pride and renewed spirits as folks from around the state got to see some of the fruits of the Try This minigrants.
In 2014, $82,000 in minigrants went to 42 different community teams from around the state that used the minigrants to help fuel positive change. Two of those grants were in Cabell County including the Fairfield Community Foodshare Project that helped build five community gardens created on vacant Huntington lots donated to the Build It Up! program by Huntington's Land Bank Program (HURA), and Try This Huntington (Cabell) that launched an effort to increase physical activity in the area for young families through zumba classes for adults and children, Mommy and Me Yoga, Supper in a Sack-Budgeting and Healthy Meal Preparation workshops, water aerobics classes, couponing and homemade baby food events.
Long said the laid-back conference of all the different folks digging in and making a difference is electrifying.
"Last year at our first conference we had 400 people yelling our slogan, 'It is up to us,'" Long said. "They yelled it enthusiastically. They know the state is not going to come down and hit them with a magic wand and the feds are not going to. We need help from the state and the feds but we are the ones who can start a running club, we can make a school-based health center. We can take all of these steps that add up to a healthy community."
Long said to help folks network year-round and create more change more quickly, the website is packed with great ideas and homegrown connections and ways to make them happen where you live.
"The website gives people a menu of what is possible because a lot of people would like to create a healthier community but they don't know what to do," Long said. "... There are hundreds of pictures on the website so when you go through it you get a wide variety of possibilities to choose from and when you choose something it gives you an array of resources that tell you how to do it. You can't go through that website without feeling proud of all of these efforts these West Virginians are trying to do about our situation."
The keynote speaker for the conference is Huntington mayor Steve Williams.
"It might seem odd at first glance for us to ask the mayor of Huntington to be our keynoter because Huntington has received a lot of press for having a lot of alarming chronic disease rates and topping a lot of the worst health lists but what better person when you look and see all of the efforts being made in Huntington to rebound and to come up," Long said. "Huntington is the underdog, and we love the underdog especially when the underdog is making great efforts. When I started looking at what all Huntington is doing on every front I was amazed."
Long said it was Try This' continued efforts to shine a light on best practices for healthy living initiatives that she kept running into Huntington's full-blown healthy living revival through such projects as the PATH (Paul Ambrose Trail for Health), Huntington's Kitchen, The Wild Ramp, Create Huntington and the Chat 'n' Chews, Critical Mass, SCRATCH (after-school gardening program through West Virginia State University), Burrito Riders, the Litter Gitters, the Greater Huntington Parks and Recreation District, the healthy lunch initiatives in Cabell County Schools, and many more.
One of the several sessions featuring Huntington will be "Creating Huntington: After Jamie Oliver" featuring folks from the city of Huntington, Huntington's Kitchen, Cabell County Schools and other entities.
"The list is just endless," Long said. "Huntington is laced through the Try This West Virginia site. When I stated looking for examples I always ran into Huntington so I say what better person to have as our keynoter than this mayor. He is genuine, he is enthusiastic and I can't wait to hear what he has to say. For the healthy organizations in Huntington it was like you had a marching band going down the street and along comes a great drum major."
Long said whether it is from the conference or from folks checking out the website and then teaming up with other local organizations to start a healthy program in their neighborhood, school or area, Try This is all about trying to work to make West Virginia holistically healthier and happier.
"As we develop more fit younger generations those chronic disease rates will come down and part of it is believing that it is possible, and part of what we want to do is to really beat the drum and to change perception," Long said. "I don't mean creating a false image but letting people know what is really happening across West Virginia and that we are moving in a good direction and we want them to want to join in."
River Town issues its 2014 Report
New River CTC to host BIG Idea Competition in Princeton, WV
The State Journal
May 20, 2015
PRINCETON, WV - In an effort to help solve a problem of empty storefronts in Princeton, WV, New River Community and Technical College will join the Princeton Renaissance Project, with funding from the Benedum Foundation, to host a BIG Idea Competition at 5:30 p.m. May 28.
“This is not your average entrepreneur competition — this is targeted to a specific downtown business district and local small businesses are working together to help ensure the success of the winning contestant,” said Jill Holliday, New River CTC regional director of operations for Mercer and Raleigh Counties.
New River CTC students and community members in the audience will vote to determine the contest winner. Admission is free of cost and open to the public.
The competition will be at New River CTC's Mercer County Campus, which recently opened in the former offices of First Community Bank on Mercer Street in Princeton. Each of the five contestants will give a five-minute business pitch presentation. Contestants then will be given three minutes to answer designated audience questions about their businesses.
Brookwood Corporation has offered one month of free rent if the winner chooses to locate in one of the company's available properties. In addition, the winning entrepreneur will receive a cash award of $1,000, along with prizes donated by local businesses and community groups.
On May 21, the five contestants will meet with business mentors at New River CTC's Mercer County campus to prepare for the competition.
For more information, contact Holliday by email at email@example.com or call 304-256-0262.
New River Community and Technical College serves nine counties in southeastern West Virginia from the Greenbrier Valley Campus (Lewisburg), Mercer County Campus (Princeton), Nicholas County Campus (Summersville) and Raleigh County Campus (Beaver/Beckley).
BDC helping communities in Brooke and Hancock counties eradicate blight
The State Journal
May 7, 2015
The Business Development Corporation of the Northern Panhandle is helping rid communities in West Virginia's Northern Panhandle counties of Brooke and Hancock of their blighted housing.
The BDC is currently working with the City of Weirton and Weirton Christian Center to demolish one abandoned downtown structure and is teaming with the city to address two others.
"(It's) our third abandoned house we have addressed in the panhandle,” BDC Executive Director Pat Ford said. “It really is a good opportunity to work with our partners in Weirton to spark some revitalization. It's not going to be a silver bullet. But I think our housing effort, coupled with our re-purposing of abandoned factories in Brooke and Hancock counties, can provide an impetus for some strategic revitalization efforts."
BDC Chairman Bill D'Alesio said the initiative will be a boon to Northern Panhandle communities “because we just do not have enough money to take care of all of these homes that have been abandoned.” D'Alesio said abandoned homes cause property values to decline, which can not only be detrimental to nearby property owners but also affects the community's ability to recruit business and industry.
"It's also a safety issue," adds Weirton Mayor George Kondik, pointing out that not only can kids can get hurt exploring them but miscreants also can use them for illicit activities.
Ford said Wells Fargo, the international banking and financial services company, acquires some houses after they have been foreclosed and, through its Community Urban Stabilization Program, partners with faith-based and other nonprofit groups to eliminate blight and make housing available to people with low- to moderate-incomes.
He said the BDC is currently looking at six residential properties in Brooke and Hancock counties to raze or renovate — two in Beech Bottom and one in Wellsburg, in addition to the three Weirton properties. Funding is through Wells Fargo, Hancock County Savings Bank and the Benedum Foundation.
"Communities up and down our panhandle continue to struggle with the negative effects of vacant and blighted homes, which in turn add to increased foreclosures and weaken neighborhood revitalization efforts," said Hancock County Commission President Mike Swartzmiller. "The BDC is pleased to work with panhandle officials to eliminate neighborhood blight.”
To date, the BDC has re-purposed a number of Weirton properties, including the former Weirton Heights Volunteer Fire Station on Pennsylvania Avenue, the former Jimmy Carey Stadium on Orchard Street, and the former Weirton Steel surplus properties on Three Springs Drive.
Group receives Benedum grant to shape healthy W.Va. day-care centers
March 27, 2015
HURRICANE — As 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds at My Family Daycare and Preschool watched, Mandy Curry packed a blender full of fruits and vegetables, starting with some familiar ones — bananas, strawberries, blueberries and carrots — before throwing a few curveballs into the mix.
“What do you think this is?” she asked the group, holding a leafy green cluster.
“Broccoli,” the preschoolers shouted.
“It does look like broccoli, doesn’t it? But it’s actually kale,” Curry said. “It’s the most nutritious vegetable on the planet.”
In all, Curry transformed nine fruits and vegetables into three snacks for the children to sample. Many of the children told Curry, the creator of the online meal planner Healthy Kids Inc., that they had never tried some of the things she’d served them, including kale, avocado, hummus and sugar snap peas.
“This is good; I love this food,” said 5-year-old Brayden Hall.
For Laura Dice, coordinator of KEYS 4 Healthy Kids, teaching more children about healthy habits is an instrumental part of changing West Virginia’s health outcomes for the better, and it’s something KEYS hopes to have a greater impact on over the next three years, with the help of a six-figure grant.
KEYS, which aims to inspire policies and changes to make West Virginia kids healthier, has received a $310,000 grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, the largest private funder in West Virginia.
The grant will allow KEYS to take its KEYS 2 HealthyStart initiative, which already has been implemented in day-care centers across Kanawha and Putnam counties, statewide over the next three years.
“We’re starting with 30 child-care centers statewide, and adding 30 new centers each year,” Dice said. “We’ll be doing workshops focused on healthy eating, physical activity and parent outreach, and between those workshops, we’re going to do site visits with the child-care centers and perform food demonstrations, cooking nights — where we invite parents to come cook with their kids — it’s going to be all-encompassing. We’re also going to have some form of gardening at every child-care center we work with, and that’s really awesome, because kids love seeing and growing their own food, and they’re far more likely to try it if they grow it themselves.”
Dr. Jamie Jeffrey, a pediatrician and the director of KEYS, said the early childhood focus of KEYS 2 HealthyStart is especially important — approximately one in three children between 2 and 19 years of age is overweight or obese, and roughly 27 percent of 2- to 5-year-olds are overweight or obese, she said. Weight problems in early childhood strongly correlate to similar issues later in life, she added — for children between 2 and 5, those with a normal body mass index have a roughly 10 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults. Comparatively, 2- to 5-year-olds with a BMI in the top-fifth percentile have a 90 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese as adults — and suffering related health issues, Jeffrey said.
“We’re really moving toward a primary prevention model, and that starts with learning more about healthy habits,” she said. “I saw six patients today, and not one of them said they ate more than two vegetables a day; I can’t start when they’re 11, 12 or 13 and tell them to start eating vegetables. It simply doesn’t work that way, especially when their brains and taste buds have gotten so used to high fat, salt and sugar.”
According to Jeffrey, birth to 3 years old — or the “first 1,000 days” — are the most integral years in determining a child’s overall development. Curry, a Hurricane resident, said shifting lifestyle choices for her young children are what led her to create Healthy Kids Inc., an online meal planner with more than 300 recipes, video tutorials from professional chefs and weekly meal plans geared toward families.
“It was created out of our desire to change, because we were two working parents, we were so busy and we were eating out a lot; we were eating out for convenience, we were eating microwave meals, we weren’t eating fruits and vegetables,” Curry said. “We knew we needed to change.”
Child-care centers interested in participating in KEYS 2HealthyStart can contact Dice at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. For more information on Healthy Kids Inc., including video links and meal plans, visit www.healthykidsinc .com.
Reach Lydia Nuzum at email@example.com, 304-348-5189 or follow @lydianuzum on Twitter.
Abandoned buildings: Help arriving for communities
This story was made available by the West Virginia Press Association through its statewide story-sharing service
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Nine communities in West Virginia will receive expert help addressing the issue of abandoned and dilapidated buildings in their main streets, business districts and neighborhoods courtesy of the Northern WV Brownfields Assistance Center at West Virginia University.
The communities of Moundsville, Parsons, Hamlin, Thomas, Whitesville, Terra Alta, Glenville, Charleston (West Side Main Street) and Morgantown will receive technical assistance grants, valued at $10,000 each, providing technical assistance and expertise to identify, research, and prioritize their abandoned buildings and create redevelopment plans to turn problem properties into community resources.
“Everyone will have a voice at the table because everyone is being impacted by these abandoned and dilapidated properties,” a spokesperson for the center said.
The grants are part of the Brownfield Assistance Center’s BAD (Brownfields, Abandoned, Dilapidated) Buildings Program.
According to Luke Elser, BAD Buildings Program Manager at WVU, each community will now examine a variety of potential solutions and determine which ones will actually work in their setting.
“All of the work will be done in collaboration between local elected officials and community volunteers – everyone will have a voice at the table because everyone is being impacted by these abandoned and dilapidated properties,” Elser says.
Funding for the BAD Buildings Program is being provided by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation through the West Virginia University Foundation.
For more information about the BAD Buildings Program or the Northern WV Brownfield Assistance Center, visit www.wvbrownfields.org, or contact Luke Elser, Northern WV Brownfields Assistance Center, 304-293-6990, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Livestock got lost? There’s an app for that
Charleston Daily Mail
March 19, 2015
A tragic event triggered the idea for a new invention that could help farmers track wandering livestock.
It could also be the beginning of a business for Evan Dodrill, a junior at West Virginia University majoring in animal science.
It was still dark outside in the early morning of Oct. 9, 2013 when 21 cattle escaped from his family’s 500-acre Greenbrier County farm. He was away at college when the livestock traveled about three miles beyond the boundaries of High Hill Farm in Asbury.
“Nineteen head were hit and killed by two tractor-trailers on Interstate 64,” Dodrill said. “Two were caught on a neighbor’s property.”
While the drivers were not injured, one of vehicles was totaled and the other was heavily damaged, he said.
Dodrill started thinking about what could be done to prevent any such occurrence in the future.
The result was the invention of The Herdsman, a product that allows farmers to track livestock from remote locations and receive alerts if the animals go outside a set boundary.
Dodrill compares the device to a GPS. It would work through a mobile application on a smartphone or other device. A chip and small battery pack would be placed in an ear tag on the animal.
“Most farmers tag their cattle anyway,” he said.
The plan is now in the development stage with a software company.
His invention recently won the inaugural Vanguard Agriculture Competition sponsored by the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing. As winner, he will receive a business assistance package valued at more than $10,000. The package is to include product design and development, business incubator space, and other services. He received his award during a ceremony on Feb. 27 at the West Virginia Small Farm Conference at the Charleston Civic Center.
The West Virginia Vanguard Agriculture Competition honors innovation and ingenuity in agriculture, recognizing an entrepreneur whose idea had the greatest potential to solve logistical challenges in the local food supply chain.
The contest is part of RCBI’s agricultural innovation initiative, an effort to improve opportunities for West Virginia’s farming and agricultural economy. Funded by a grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, the initiative supports a local foods system by promoting entrepreneurship and innovation. The competition is also supported by Unlimited Future, Inc. and The Wild Ramp.
While the recent win will boost Dodrill’s efforts, he is also participating in other competitions to try to raise more funds and awareness for his endeavors for a business to be called Shady Ridge Enterprises.
“Agricultural technology is a huge untapped potential market,” he said.
He has ideas for additional products but is not yet ready to reveal details.
The Herdsman would benefit numerous farmers, he said.
“I did a survey of over 50 farmers and the results showed 65 percent lose livestock due to leaving the farm and breaching boundaries,” he said.
Dodrill is the sixth generation to work on the family farm.
“I go home every other weekend and work on the farm,” he said. “I’m three hours away. I am always looking for new livestock and investments. I stay involved and up to date. The farm is now run by my Dad, my uncles, and their wives.”
The farm now includes about 55 head of cattle, eight Boer goats, and three draft horses.
Dodrill, 20, is the son of Danny and Stella Dodrill and has one sister, 14-year-old Maddie.
He is excited to see what happens with his latest invention as well as technology to follow that will help farmers.
Undergrad researchers bring findings to State Capitol
March 4, 2015
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Nearly a dozen colleges and universities from across West Virginia were represented during the 12th Annual Undergraduate Research Day Wednesday at the State Capitol, a day highlighting research projects at the Mountain State’s schools.
In all, more than 100 student researchers participated.
Among them was Dillon Muhly-Alexander, a Herndon Fellow from West Virginia University, who has worked with WV Foodlink which connects people to food resources.
“I want to stay in West Virginia and I want to help address the concerns for the future that West Virginia has and currently over 15 percent of West Virginians struggle in terms of having access to food on a regular basis,” said Muhly-Alexander.
WV Foodlink is a project from the Food Justice Laboratory in WVU’s Department of Geology and Geography.
The WV Foodlink partners are Facing Hunger Food Bank, Mountaineer Food Bank, Volunteer Organizations Active In Disasters, WV Farmer’s Market Association, West Virginia GIS Tech Center, WV Food and Farm Coalition, Appalachian Foodshed Project, Sisters of St. Joseph Charitable Fund and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.
At the organization’s website, people can search the state for food assistance through food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and other meal programs.
Currently, only a limited number of counties are part of that database, but Muhly-Alexander said the goal is to identify partners in all 55 counties before the end of the year.
“I really hope that people see the need for what Foodlink is doing and that we can continue to grow as a public resource,” Muhly-Alexander said on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
Other topics during Undergraduate Research Day included research on chemical spill response, a technique for identifying hot spots for deer-vehicle crashes in West Virginia and the evolution of azaleas in the southeast.
In addition to presenting their research, students and faculty members heard from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin during Wednesday’s event.
Participants had been scheduled to attend from Marshall University, WVU, Wheeling Jesuit University, West Virginia State University, WVU Institute of Technology, West Liberty University, University of Charleston, Shepherd University, Glenville State College, Concord University and Fairmont State University.