JMU volunteers spruce up McDowellBy WILSON BUTT
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Last Monday while I was in Pageton, I noticed a group of young men and women painting, making repairs to several homes, and rebuilding a small deck at another house. A van was parked nearby with James Madison University emblazoned on the sides. I asked the group who they were and what they were doing spending their Christmas break in McDowell County. One young lady with a dollop of white paint on her nose told me that they were doing volunteer work to help folks in the area. I asked her to take me to their leader and she did. Michael Maguire a senior finance and history major at JMU who hails from Midlothian, Va., stepped down from his ladder, extended his hand and introduced himself.
He told me that the JMU group is affiliated with Aid for America, a branch of Aid for the World. Many of the volunteers were members of Sigma Phi Epsilon, a Greek letter college fraternity that, incidentally, is the largest college fraternity in the nation with more than 14,000 undergraduate members. Volunteers representing Delta Delta Delta sorority; Kappa Alpha Theta, an international women’s fraternity founded in 1870 (the ladies do not call themselves a sorority); Alpha Sigma Tau National Sorority; and a few non-Greek letter volunteers also came down to the Free State with the Sig Eps to help. This was the group’s second visit to the area. They are under the direction of Dr. Mary Slade, a professor at JMU College of Education’s Exceptional Education program. Slade offered the intercultural practicum trip to Welch through the JMU Office of International Programs. Dr. Slade also led students on a relief trip to Biloxi, Miss., after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005.
JMU and Sigma Phi Epsilon volunteers have also volunteered their time to help with other beneficial projects in Welch. One of those projects was gutting out the Tyson Towers Apartments after a fire destroyed the building. Nathan Plowman with Aid for the World was also instrumental in working with Dr. Slade to bring the JMU volunteers to McDowell County.
The work that was going on in Pageton is just a small part of the JMU sponsored programs for Welch and McDowell County.
The area certainly appreciates these folks and they certainly deserve thanks and gratitude for their efforts. The JMU students sure were nice.