Sarah Lowther Hensley

Freelance News Reporter

Sarah Lowther Hensley is a writer living in Fairmont, W.Va, with her husband, son, and Tess the rescue pup.

She has worked as a public radio journalist (West Virginia Public Radio, WCBE-FM in Columbus, Radio Deutsche Welle) and in higher education administration (Fairmont State University and Pierpont Community & Technical College).

Sarah has covered the fall of the Berlin Wall, anchored morning drive news, lobbied legislators, volunteered as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for abused children, and performed Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with the Heidelberger Studentenkantorei.

She’s a rabid fan of the Metropolitan Opera, German cop shows and Anne of Green Gables.

An alumna of West Virginia Wesleyan (B.A. in International Studies) and Middlebury College (M.A. in German), she is a 1998 graduate of Leadership West Virginia.

Sarah blogs at


Forest Festival
9:00 pm
Tue September 30, 2014

Lost Tradition Returns to Mountain State Forest Festival

Credit Mountain State Forest Festival Facebook Page

The 78th Annual Mountain State Forest Festival is underway in Elkins this week. Amid this year’s festivities and fun, an old tradition is making a comeback.

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Historic Preservation
6:03 pm
Fri September 26, 2014

Fairmont Lights a Fire Under Historic Preservation Effort

Credit Courtesy Firehouse Cafe Facebook Page

The City of Fairmont is closer to moving forward on a downtown historic preservation project which officials hope will attract creative people and additional activity. Fairmont City Council officially accepted a State Historic Preservation Grant this week and filed a related covenant restricting how the building – the old city firehouse – can be used. The grant of nearly $50,000 will be matched by the city and will help pay for a new roof on the building.

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Race Relations
7:48 pm
Thu September 25, 2014

Sixty Years Ago: Black and White at East-West

Credit Courtesy D. D. Meighen

Sixty years ago this week, two Marion County Schools - Dunbar High School and Fairmont Senior High School - met for the first – and last – time on the football field. Local historians say it was the first gridiron meeting in West Virginia of an all-black school and an all-white school. It came amid the tensions surrounding that year’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling on school segregation.

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Child Advocates
9:05 pm
Tue September 23, 2014

Growing Awareness of Need for Child Advocates

Marion County Circuit Court Judge Michael Aloi swears in a CASA volunteer. The volunteer, Tracy Taylor, now serves as the Executive Director of the WV CASA Association.
Credit CASA of Marion County

Court Appointed Special Advocate programs operate in many West Virginia counties, serving the victims of child abuse and neglect. As county program directors, board members and volunteers gather in Wheeling this week for an annual meeting, they’ll get to know Tracy Taylor, the new Executive Director of the program’s state umbrella organization. Taylor hopes to foster program stability and expansion.

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Higher Education
8:35 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

Strengthening Institutions: Two West Virginia Schools Receive Title III Grants

Credit Sarah Lowther Hensley

Two West Virginia higher education institutions got some great news this month from the federal government.

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9:39 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Crazy For Poe In A One-Man Show

Credit Seven Stories Theatre Company

Nestled near the West Fork River in Weston, the imposing stone structure of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum will be the scene this weekend for the world premiere of a play focused on the life and work of Edgar Allan Poe. The playwright sees the unique location, Poe’s tragic life story, and the enduring characters he created as a perfect match. 

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Community Development
9:03 pm
Thu September 4, 2014

Downtown Grafton Puts Its Mark On "First Friday"

Credit Sarah Lowther Hensley

We continue our coverage of the Turn this Town Around Project. The towns of Grafton and Matewan are turning themselves around through a special collaborative project between West Virginia Public Broadcasting, West Virginia Focus magazine and the West Virginia Community Development Hub. 

The citizens of Grafton will be gathering downtown this evening for “First Friday”– an initiative that’s grown out of the Turn This Town Around project. The goal is to promote downtown Grafton by hosting special events and activities and extending downtown business hours on the first Friday of every month.

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Disaster Planning
5:37 pm
Tue September 2, 2014

National Focus in September: Be Prepared

Credit FEMA

September is National Preparedness Month. The West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management wants citizens, businesses and communities to make sure they’re ready in the event of disaster.

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Community Development
8:00 pm
Mon September 1, 2014

A Greene Light for Downtown Fairmont

Credit Sarah Lowther Hensley

Public agencies, private businesses, foundations and non-profit groups are constantly striving to inject life and energy into local communities. There is no one-size-fits-all formula for successful community development, but sometimes having the right person in the right place at the right time can make all the difference.

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5:53 pm
Tue August 26, 2014

Staging the Auction to Sell the Collection of a Lifetime

Frances Yeend and James Benner in an Illustration photo for a 1953 article about vocal technique written by Frances Yeend for The Etude Magazine.
Credit West Virginia and Regional History Center

More than fifty years of marriage… plus two international performing careers… plus a shared passion for seeking out eclectic and interesting objects… adds up to one remarkable collection. World-famous opera singer Frances Yeend  and her husband amassed just such a collection. It’ll be auctioned off starting this weekend at the Sagebrush Roundup near Fairmont.

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Traditional Arts
6:50 pm
Thu August 21, 2014

Pricketts Fort Forges New Connections By Teaching Old Skills

Ed Harris and Jim Mays pay close attention as Greg Bray demonstrates blacksmithing techniques.
Credit Sarah Lowther Hensley

The blacksmith is one of the most enduring figures from the early days of American history. The art form calls to mind strength, ingenuity and craftsmanship…fire, iron and sweat. But in the age of technology and 3-D printers, what’s to become of this time-tested trade? One West Virginia state park is taking steps to forge new interest in traditional arts.

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9:57 pm
Wed August 6, 2014

Connecting Veterans and Their Benefits: One On One

Credit Sarah Lowther Hensley

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been rocked by scandal in recent months, with reports of long wait times and rigged wait lists. But the American Legion has stepped up to say the V.A. is a “system worth saving.” As part of that effort, the Legion has launched a series of town hall meetings and set up temporary command centers around the country to help answer questions veterans have about their benefits. The Legion set up shop this week in north central West Virginia.

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Community Development
6:48 pm
Tue August 5, 2014

Turn This Town Around Project Proposals Getting Final Polish

Credit Sarah Lowther Hensley

We continue our coverage of the Turn this Town Around Project. The towns of Grafton and Matewan are turning themselves around through a special collaborative project between West Virginia Public Broadcasting, West Virginia Focus magazine and the West Virginia Community Development Hub. 

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6:16 am
Mon August 4, 2014

Helping Veterans Maneuver the VA System: The American Legion Stages Outreach


  The American Legion is sending a team of experts to West Virginia this week to help veterans access their Veterans Administration health care benefits and services. The group is holding a town hall meeting in Shinnston Monday evening and setting up a “Veterans Crisis Command Center” there Tuesday and Wednesday.

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5:02 am
Fri August 1, 2014

Educating About Electric Shock Drowning: One Mom's Mission

Safety experts warn you should never swim within 100 yards of a boat dock or marina
Credit Sarah Lowther Hensley

A new law designed to keep West Virginians safe around boating docks and marinas was originally supposed to go into effect August 1, 2014, but has been delayed until January 1, 2015. The Michael Cunningham Act was passed last year, after a Bridgeport teenager was killed as a result of Electric Shock Drowning. 

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Public Education
4:56 pm
Mon July 28, 2014

Randolph County Searching for Solution to Crumbling School

Harman School
Credit Randolph County Board of Education

The Randolph County Board of Education has called a special meeting for Tuesday evening to address structural problems with the Harman School. The facility suffered a roof collapse over the July 4th weekend. 

A plaster ceiling caved into a classroom, bringing with it two tons of debris.  A post-collapse inspection of the school, built in the 1950s, determined it is not safe for use.

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Civic Engagement
3:30 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

Keys to Grassroots Policy Success: Wide Net, Narrow Focus

Citizens participate in the Northern West Virginia Regional Policy Workshop and Community Training in Clarksburg
Credit Sarah Lowther Hensley

If you spend any time at the West Virginia state capitol during the annual 60-day legislative session, you’ll notice many voices clamoring for the attention of our state’s part-time lawmakers.  All citizens are welcome to approach legislators with ideas and requests, but average citizens generally don’t have the time or the know-how to impact state policy decisions.  One grassroots initiative has been working to change that. 

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Community Engagement
11:19 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

Grafton Turns Out for Turn This Town Around

People packed into the Church of the Good Shepherd for Monday night's Turn This Town Around meeting in Grafton
Credit Sarah Lowther Hensley

We continue our coverage of the Turn this Town Around Project. This series follows two towns, Grafton in north central West Virginia and Matewan in southern West Virginia, as they undergo projects to help the towns look better and revitalize community development. Monday night, Grafton held its third public training workshop to help teams continue to focus their efforts and get ready to apply for funding.

The welcome surprise at Monday’s meeting was an overwhelming turnout. More than 135 people showed up, excited and ready to talk about how to “turn their town around.” For many of them, it was their first “Turn this Town Around” meeting. 

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Community Engagement
6:45 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

“Fairmont 101”: Learning Basics of Local Government

Credit Sarah Lowther Hensley

Operating a city is a complicated business. Cities provide a variety of services from public safety and road repair to clean water and public parks. There are multiple departments, a mish-mash of funding streams, and oodles of state and federal regulations to observe. The City of Fairmont, West Virginia has launched an interactive program to make sure its citizens understand the city’s role and responsibilities and its processes for serving the public: “Fairmont 101”.

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5:17 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

Grafton Welcomes Swimmers for Summer Championship

Photo by Kevin Stead


For more than half a century, swim teams in north central West Virginia have gathered in Clarksburg for an annual summer competition. But the pool that served as the invitational’s home has closed. Organizers have decided to continue the tradition, but rotate its location from year to year. 

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