CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- You know that "bad kid" in class who's always acting up and causing trouble?
Dural Miller was one of those kids. Now, at age 32, he wants you to know something about one of the reasons he did what he did.
"Some of my challenges came with not being able to read," he said. "When it was time for me to read, I would do something so I wouldn't have to. I would do something so that I would get kicked out of class.
"I ended up being labeled a bad guy. Really, I was just trying to hide the fact I couldn't read."
Fast-forward to 2012. On Tuesday, Miller and a host of volunteers, local groups and businesses will stage one big free turkey feast on the West Side of Charleston. The event arose out of Miller's struggles with illiteracy.
He is founder of the non-profit Keep Your Faith Corporation, devoted to helping young people with reading and spelling deficiencies. KYFC will serve up the 6th Annual Earl Wilson Community Dinner to more than 300 people, from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Tiskelwah Center, 600 Florida St.
The evening, co-sponsored by Mountain Mission, the West Virginia Power, the Dollar Energy Fund and Generation Charleston, with food and supplies also donated by Kroger and Sam's, is free and open to all.
The story behind the group's keystone annual event is certainly a personal one. Yet given the drumbeat of bad news from the West Side's often troubled streets, it's also a corrective: good news is possible, too, with key help from family, friends and church.
Miller recalled one day in middle school when he appealed heavenward for help with his illiteracy.
"I love the Lord," he said. "I cried out to him one night, just frustrated, not being able to read just the simplest things. I asked him if he showed me that I would promise I would show others."
Of course, life takes indirect paths getting to where it's going. More trouble lay ahead. Like many a young man on an unfriendly street where handguns are readily available, Miller once reached for one when threatened. He fired some shots and was caught; another West Side kid -- he was 19 -- seeming to deep-six his life.
"I got into a little trouble in a neighborhood situation," Miller recalled. "A guy caused some problem and me and him got into it. No one got hurt."
Convicted on a wanton endangerment charge, he served seven months home confinement, then seven months at the Anthony Correctional Center in White Sulphur Springs.
"I was just sorry I basically let some people down that I ended up like that," he said. "Being in there, I had a chance to sit down and figure out what I had to do."
Coming home, he had a few aces in hand -- his church and family and especially his cousin, Don Wilson, who was more like a brother. They'd grown up together and Don's father, Earl, had been a kind of father figure to Miller.
Unlike Dural, Don had always been a good student. He'd gone on to found several businesses in Charleston and is now a successful insurance industry figure in town. Don became more than a role model; he became a partner. He helped Miller to expand Keep Your Faith Corporation efforts with the help of his business contacts.