7 Stories About Appalachians Who Find Solutions And Rekindle Traditions


National stories about Appalachia sometimes overlook the people who are working on the ground to solve problems in their communities. This episode of Inside Appalachia highlights the work of several people who are thinking outside the box to find solutions.

We’ll hear about the Grace Life Coach Academy, which trains high school students in West Virginia to help their peers who struggle with substance abuse and trauma. The program focuses on building resilience among Appalachia’s young people. The Life Coach program has drawn national attention from others looking to duplicate similar efforts in their communities. Also, the program is now also working to help adults who are front-line workers during the coronavirus pandemic.  

We’ll also visit Weirton, West Virginia where volunteers from the Serbian immigrant community are trying to keep their culture and traditions alive despite population loss. 

In This Episode: 

Special Guest Host


Credit Lalena Price / WVPB
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Former host of Inside Appalachia and NPR Newscaster, Giles Snyder.

Longtime listeners of Inside Appalachia will recognize this week’s host as the original host of the show. Or, you might have heard him on NPR. 

Giles Snyder actually was the first host and producer for Inside Appalachia. He’s now based in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle and works as a newscaster for NPR. We invited him back as a guest host for this week’s episode. 

Death in Mud Lick

Eric Eyre is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. He broke some of the biggest stories on the opioid crisis with his investigative journalism. Snyder spoke with Eyre about his new book called “Death in Mud Lick: A Coal Country Fight Against the Drug Companies That Delivered the Opioid Epidemic.”

Eyre was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Investigative Reporting in 2017 for stories on the opioid crisis while he worked at the Charleston Gazette-Mail. He is now a senior investigative reporter at Mountain State Spotlight.


Credit Photo courtesy Focus Features
Actor Mark Ruffalo in a film still from “Dark Waters.”

Legal Battle Plot Of “Dark Waters” Film

Another legal battle that made national headlines in recent years is the decades-long saga over DuPont’s dumping of toxic chemicals in the Ohio Valley. The story is portrayed in the film released last year, “Dark Waters,” which stars Mark Ruffalo as lawyer Rob Billot, who defended chemical companies, until he decided to take a case against DuPont. 

Scientific studies eventually revealed that one of the materials used to make Teflon, called C8, or PFOA, can cause cancer. It’s an ongoing story that didn’t stop after the film’s release. Brittany Patterson reports the chemicals are showing up in more drinking water systems around the region.

100 Years Ago Women Won The Right To Vote

This year, more women than ever decided to run for the Democratic nomination for president, and recently Joe Biden selected Kamala Harris to be his running mate. But it was only 100 years ago that women earned the right to vote after 70 plus years of struggle that included everything from marches and protests to beatings, hunger strikes and forced feedings.

Today, much of that history is overlooked. But 2020 marks the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Across the nation, efforts have been made this year to remember the struggle. Earlier this winter, Eric Douglas sat down with Renate Pore and Rita Ray from the Kanawha Valley Chapter of the National Organization for Women. They discussed why it’s important to remember suffrage history and some of the ways it is being commemorated this year.


Chicken Blast

Portrayals about Appalachia often follow incorrect stereotypes that our region derives most of its culture from the Scots-Irish. 

In fact, our cultural roots can also be traced to Native Americans and African Americans, as well as immigrants from across the globe. For example, at the turn of the 20th century, Serbians fleeing religious persecution settled in the Upper Ohio Valley. They established a Serbian Eastern Orthodox Church and picnic grounds along the Ohio River in West Virginia and Ohio. 

Many found work in the steel mills and coal mines. The population has shrunk in recent years with the decline of those industries, but the Serbian community remains a noticeable presence in the river town of Steubenville, Ohio and nearby Weirton, West Virginia. They’re especially known throughout the region for one thing: roasted chicken. 

The Men’s Club of the church roasts 5,000 chickens every summer, in a weekly event they call a “Chicken Blast.” Last year, West Virginia State Folklorist Emily Hilliard went to check it out for a story that she produced as part of a collaboration between West Virginia Public Broadcasting, and the West Virginia Folklife Program at the West Virginia Humanities Council. The Chicken Blasts did go on this summer, with proper social distancing measures in place. But due to restrictions, event organizers did have to cut the season a little shorter this year. The last day to order chickens was Aug 26, but they hope to be back in action again next summer.

wvpublicnews · 7 Stories About Appalachians Who Find Solutions And Rekindle Traditions

Reflecting On Poverty


Credit Courtesy photo

Katherine Manley grew up in poverty in Logan County, West Virginia, but went on to teach in the same schools she attended. Mountain State Press recently published her memoir called “Don’t Tell Them You’re Cold” about the challenges she faced as a young girl and how she overcame them. 

The title refers to a time when she was begging for spare change on the streets of Logan, West Virginia with her father. Manley says her dad was afraid the authorities would take her away if she told anyone she was cold.

We had help producing Inside Appalachia this week from Appalachia Health News, a project of West Virginia Public broadcasting with support from Marshall Health and Charleston Area Medical Center. Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Dinosaur Burps and Spencer Elliot.

Roxy Todd is our producer. Eric Douglas is our associate producer. Andrea Billups is our executive producer. Glynis Board edited our show this week. Zander Aloi helped produce. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. 

You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia.

Inside Appalachia is a production of West Virginia Public Broadcasting.