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West Virginia hospitality

By Lauren Arnold


Author Lauren Arnold


I wasn’t sure what to expect of my week in “Wild and Wonderful West Virginia.” To be honest, the “wild” part scared me. However, after twenty minutes at the Almost Heaven Habitat Volunteer Center, it was clear that our hosts were going out of their way to show us why they call West Virginia home.

From the impressive successes of AHHFH to the delicious chili, the local volunteers are proud to be part of this community, and eager to welcome us inside.

The next morning, we made the 30 minute trek across mountains to the Painter’s Point neighborhood to work on various projects. When we arrived on site, we received a warm welcome from affiliate staff followed by a tour of a family housing unit that includes affiliate-standard radiant floor heating. But the floor isn’t the only thing radiating. Staff members beam with pride as they explain how their energy-saving measures save families money.

As work continues, there is a palpable vibe, a feeling of welcome. Pendleton County wants us here. Local partner families, homeowners and volunteers work side-by-side with AmeriCorps members from as far away as Little Rock, Ark. and Omaha, Neb.

Perhaps the camaraderie felt is a result of our shared mission, our singular passion for partnering with families in need to build simple, decent houses. But I have a sneaking suspicion that it is West Virginia hospitality that has so quickly made this area feel like home.

Senator Robert Byrd once said something along the lines of, “When I am dead, and they cut me open, they will find West Virginia written on my heart,” a sentiment so easy to understand after spending just a few days in this special place.

Lauren Arnold is currently serving as a second year AmeriCorps/VISTA for Habitat for Humanity of Northern Columbiana County, Ohio. She has enjoyed her time with Habitat because has allowed her to give back to her hometown and build new relationships. What she’s looking forward to most at this year’s Build-a-Thon is talking with volunteers and partner families about what it is like to build and live in a “Habitat neighborhood.”