This morning we bring you another story in our series on how the towns of Grafton and Matewan are turning themselves around as part of a special collaboration. The transformation process for Grafton continued over the weekend with a chance for community members to not only clean up their city but to connect with one another, a crucial part of the effort.
Grafton is the northern town representative in the Turn this Town Around project. The historical birthplace of Mother’s Day, community members came together the day before to plant flowers, wash storefront windows, and apply mulch to gardens in the downtown.
There was a great deal of positive energy in the air as all along Main Street, people in bright orange shirts with the phrase “Turn This Town Around” on them, worked to clean up the town. Ann Summers is one of the volunteers who planted flowers.
"I want to turn it around, and we are going to do it," said Summers.
Just up the street, Alex Reneman and his three year old son Zane did some weeding. Reneman owns a software business in Grafton. He grew up here, moved away, and then came back to settle down and opened up shop.
"I think this is a great project, it creates and it also galvanizes a lot of the energy in the town. People of my generation and certainly afterwards, I think live in this myth that we can grow up in a community, live in it and not participate in helping it. I am here for my son to experience that early on and that’s who you need to be," he said.
During this Turn the Town Around venture, the people of Grafton, along with Matewan in Mingo County, will take on projects to make the town not only look better, but improve economically. Alex says he’s keeping an open mind about the entire project, and doesn’t have a particular goal or dream project.
"I just want to see the community come together and put some things of value together, that are part of a larger plan that really create value through the years to come," said Reneman.
Nearby, Julie Royce washes windows with a high school student. She’s also a native of Grafton. Grafton’s got some busy stores downtown, like a music store, and a Pool Room, but there are several empty storefronts and buildings. Royce says when she was growing up; the town was a little busier, but not by too much.
"When I was growing up it was pretty much the same. I can remember when I was very little; there were a few more businesses. J.C. Penny had a catalog store, it wasn’t a regular store, but you could go in and order from the catalog. There was one diner that was still down here and a pharmacy," she said.
Since it was Mother’s Day Weekend, there were some visitors downtown during the clean-up. Mother’s Day is perhaps the most important holiday in the town, since the first Mother’s Day was celebrated here more than 100 years ago. There’s a shrine downtown that honors mothers. One visitor to the town is Tonya Revell. She’s from Grafton. Massachusetts, that is. She wants to visit every other Grafton in the world and she decided to visit this one for the holiday.
"I think it’s wonderful and I’m especially happy to see so many young people involved, that’s the future of your town. It’s fun to see, at home I work on a lot of village clean ups. I love town clean ups," said Revell.
Revell says she will make another trip to Grafton, maybe when she’s on the way to Grafton, Ohio, to see how this one has improved.