CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Organizers of a five-year venture aimed at rescuing impoverished McDowell County and its troubled schools are expected to have an overall plan ready to launch next month.
Former first lady Gayle Manchin, who is vice president of the West Virginia Board of Education, said six committees have formed their part of the massive project.
Those include housing, infrastructure and transportation, jobs and the economy, early-childhood issues, technology, and "wraparound" services, such as mental health services and after-school programs.
"All these different entities are creating their piece of the plan," Manchin said, "and then we will be putting that together to create the plan we move forward on -- short-term goals and long-term goals."
Reconnecting McDowell lead coordinator Bob Brown said Thursday that meetings on the official rollout will be held either on Sept. 10 and 11, or Sept. 19 and 20. He hopes to have the dates confirmed by late next week.
So far, 87 partners have signed up, Brown said. The American Federation of Teachers labor union helped assemble the public/private partnership, which includes coal companies and other corporations, along with nonprofit foundations and other labor unions.
Brown is an official with the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association, which is affiliated with AFT's West Virginia chapter.
Many more groups are interested in joining, he said.
Brown met Thursday morning with the West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services to discuss dealing with hunger issues among McDowell County seniors. He said the bureau pointed him to a nonprofit group that could help start such a program.
He's also in discussions with Playworks, a nonprofit group that promotes access to children's recreation equipment -- "something that's sorely lacking in McDowell County," Brown said.
Part of the issue with getting more partners is having a concrete plan in place, and Brown said he expects the numbers to grow as prospective partners find out about the project's specifics.
"That's one of the reasons for the importance of this September meeting," Brown said. "We have people who are working with us who have not signed on who want to make sure it's a comprehensive plan and want a piece of the action.