Highlight the good – This summer has been extraordinary. I have been given an opportunity to see first hand how one or two committed individuals can make a positive impact on an entire community. Over twenty years ago, one man was impacted by the needs in his community. It began with one can of food distributed by one man and has since developed into a multi-faceted grassroots organization – Of One Accord, Inc. – which provides vital services to its community members. But in addition to these services, the agency wears many hats. It’s a social network – community members from every walk of life congregate together and discuss ways to improve the living and working conditions in their communities or they simply stop by to say ‘howdy.’ It’s an advocate – men and women, young and old identify local needs, voice their concerns and develop initiatives that are sometimes provocative, sometimes cutting-edge and sometimes counter cultural. It’s hope – over 300 committed individuals volunteer with the agency each year, many year after year, and willingly give of themselves, their time and resources to lend a helping hand to someone in need.

Inspire greatness – Over the past few weeks, I have experienced every emotion possible…elation, laughter, sadness, joy, hope and inspiration. I have learned the stories of our precious seniors. I have cried with them as they tell me stories of loss and hardship. I have laughed with them as they tell me stories about the ‘good ole days’ – pickin’ berries, churnin’ butter and makin’ music out on the front porch. I have been inspired by their tenacity and strength and I have also shared in their grief when I am told stories of how they feel forgotten by family, friend and community. These seniors are a walking history, living testaments, a repository of knowledge. We have learned together one from another. And although I can sense that I have impacted their lives in meaningful ways through various health promotion activities, these men and women have also educated me. Through their life stories, I have learned how to cope during crisis, how to manage with limited resources and how to cook up some good vittles even if the cupboards are bare!

Encourage mutual responsibility – It’s just plain old simple mathematics! There is strength in numbers. When people join together for a common purpose, we can make a world of impact. My friend, Sue, is someone making a world of difference. Together, we can make change happen. We can empower our communities through citizen engagement. We can mobilize other likeminded community members and promote social responsibility for health. One by one, we can make lasting change! And although there are unique challenges facing rural communities, a little hard work, grit and determination by one or two local residents can = a thriving community of hope. A big shout out to Big Kenny Alphin and the Love Everybody Foundation for making this opportunity possible here in Appalachia!