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Saturday fundraiser aims to help new minority health group

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Former television anchor Martin Staunton is helping organize a fundraiser Saturday that will partially help a new organization called the Minority Health Advocacy Group.

Featuring nine different live bands -- including several country-music bands and a Christian rock band, the fundraiser will take place at Tamarack in Beckley, just off the West Virginia Turnpike, between 1 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

"The person who organized the concert is Corey Chambers, a really good singer himself, who is only 17 years old," Staunton said.

Half the proceeds will go to the new advocacy group, while the other half will go to Staunton to help pay for his long hospitalizations and medical treatment received by Teresa Marie Staunton, his 48-year-old wife, who died Sept. 7 from a massive stroke. The couple has two daughters.

Staunton said he himself has been in the hospital 17 times to get treatment for diabetes, beginning in October 2011.

"Back around 2000," Staunton said, "the Centers for Disease Control conducted studies that identified health disparities along racial lines. West Virginia was identified as a state with major disparities.

"African-Americans suffer serious complications from diabetes at a rate six times higher than white West Virginians.

"Some health behaviors are individual. As a diabetes patient, I can control how much sugar I take into my body," Staunton said. "But there are some problems beyond individuals.

"If you live in Mount Hope, which is 22 percent black, and want to buy bananas and fresh vegetables, you can't find them," he said. "Mount Hope is also the site of the new national Boy Scout Camp. But if anyone wants to buy a banana or an apple, they have to drive to Beckley or Oak Hill.

"This is just one example of the thing that minority health advocacy groups want to improve."

Rev. Phillip Copney, pastor of a Mount Hope church, is spearheading efforts to get a fresh grocery store in his town, Staunton said. Copney is vice president of the new advocacy group.

The new group will work with the Office of Minority Affairs, a section of the state Department of Health and Human Resources created by the Legislature last year.

Staunton said his financial problems are becoming more difficult because he cannot get a new job after being released from his television job because of health problems. He worked as an anchor reporter for WCHS and WOWK in Charleston and WVNS in Beckley.

"I have a 'non-compete' contract which prevents me from working for another television station [in West Virginia] until next February."

Before she died, Teresa Staunton worked 14 years for the Mayor's Office of Economic and Community Development here in Charleston. Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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