Justin Bowers addresses the commission about Appalachian Impact utilizing the Hampton Community Building Thursday. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

Nonprofit that helps at-risk youth requests use of Hampton Community Building

BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Commission received their first request to utilize the Hampton Community Building.

The Upshur County Commission decided to accept letters of interest from nonprofits looking for a space when they took ownership of the building Oct. 7.

Justin Bowers with Appalachian Impact attended the Oct. 28 Upshur County Commission meeting to request use of the building.

“As with everybody, COVID hit us really hard, and our mentors were not allowed to be at the schools last year and our camps were put on hold a couple of years ago because there were some funding issues, so we’re trying to revitalize our programs,” Bowers said.

Appalachian Impact was started nine years ago to help at-risk children by operating mentoring programs in the schools, offering summer community camps that focus on literacy and creative arts, and their leadership cohorts program.

“We really wanted to explore this as a potential space to hold programs,” Bowers said. “I know it’s a little bit out of town, but I did go see it and it was great to see. I liked the look of the building, and I think it would be a great opportunity for us to do some different things,” Bowers said.

Bowers, the pastor of New Community Church in Buckhannon, explained how his role had recently changed.

“My role has shifted a little bit,” he said. “I’m still a pastor with the church here in town, but I’m also teaching the high school, in the business program, so we’re doing a lot with entrepreneurship, a lot with marketing and management, and I think there’s just a ton of potential if we had a space that was really focused on kids, high school students, middle school students that can be used as needed.”

He said the biggest struggle they have faced is finding a permanent space for programs.

“Most of the places we have looked at are either too much or not in the shape that we need them to be, and it feels like this may be an opportunity to explore see what’s needed,” Bowers said.  

The space will most likely be run by volunteers, and they want to make it available after school.

“We ran into scheduling problems during school because people have to work, so we were hoping to have a place in the evenings that we could open up and have a volunteer there for open tutoring because the kids are struggling to recover from COVID; it’s killing them,” Bowers said. “I think we would start with one or two days a week and hopefully develop this further.”

Upshur County Commissioner Terry Cutright asked if their organization would be able to pay for the building’s utilities. 

“We received a $10,000 grant about two-and-a-half years ago that we really have not touched because everything was shut down,” Bowers said. “I think we have the ability to do that as we get started, but I want to make sure that it’s sustainable …because I don’t know what the utilities running looks like, so I’m not sure how to answer that accurately.”

The commissioners decided to postpone making any decisions because another organization had also expressed interest in the building but have not yet presented their official proposal.

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