Even In the Midst of Crisis, Inspiration and Creation Take Root in Appalachia


In this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia we hear a roundup of some of our region’s news, from recovery efforts in Kentucky following devastating tornadoes, to how infrastructure funding from Congress could benefit communities in Appalachia. We’ll also hear from teenagers in Western North Carolina share poetry about how they see themselves and their identities.

In This Episode:

Communities Rally To Support Tornado Victims 


Lisa Autry
A property on Willow Way sustained major tornado damage.

Parts of Kentucky, Tennessee and four other states are in recovery mode following deadly tornadoes last weekend that left a trail of devastation. Among the towns hardest hit was Bowling Green, Kentucky. In this episode we hear a story by WKYU’s Lisa Autry about the impacts the tornado had on this community, and efforts to help those who are suffering. Jennifer Capps, executive director at American Red Cross of South Central Kentucky, said it’s the worst local disaster she’s seen in her career.

“So today’s my 15th anniversary with the Red Cross,” Capps said. “It’s horrific. You don’t even see this in movies. It’s heart-wrenching. I can’t imagine what these families are going through.”

She thanked the community for “non-stop” donations of food, clothes, diapers, and hygiene items.

“At this point, we’re just trying to organize it and make sure everything is grouped together. Then we’ll probably ask the community to stop with that effort and then go to making monetary donations,” Capps said. “I’m also asking them to make sure those blood appointments over the next few weeks are filled so that we get the blood on the shelves that we need.”


Churches Step Up

Another community that was hit by the tornadoes in Kentucky is Mayfield, in the western part of the state. A day after the tornado, one church in Mayfield held its Sunday service even though its building was destroyed. Others provided food, clothing and shelter to those displaced, as Liam Niemeyer reports in a story he filed on Dec. 12.

First Christian Church of Mayfield Senior Minister Milton West said their communion table inside is salvageable, but not much else. He’s unsure if his congregation will ever again worship in the building, but that’s not what matters most to him now.

“The most important thing they gained is they saw each other. And it’s good for them, and it’s healthy, and it’s healing. And that’s how you overcome things,” West said.

Main Street Clarksburg, W.Va., with the Harrison County Courthouse and Chase Building, where the Harrison County Day Report Center is housed, on the left side of the street.

Jesse Wright
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
The infrastructure law could help Clarksburg, West Virginia, replace lead drinking water service lines.

Infrastructure Funding For Appalachia

The bipartisan infrastructure bill that became law last month has billions of dollars in it for roads, bridges, airports and transit systems in the Ohio Valley.

The law also addresses some of the region’s other pressing needs.

The $1 trillion infrastructure law has the potential to deliver big improvements to Appalachia. It will help reclaim abandoned mine sites, putting laid-off coal miners back to work.

It will help replace lead water pipes and clean up chemical contamination in water supplies.

It will also bring much-needed high-speed internet to rural communities, helping seniors on fixed incomes and children whose schools closed down during the coronavirus pandemic.

While some of the funding will produce immediate benefit for the region, other improvements may take years to complete. People familiar with the region’s needs see both short and long term impacts from the law, as Curtis Tate reports.

Children In Appalachia At High Risk Of Serious COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect Appalachia, with case numbers on the rise yet again. That includes children who are being hospitalized with serious cases of the disease. As Corinne Boyer reports, children in Appalachia are at a higher risk of developing a serious case of COVID, because of a high rate of childhood obesity.

Helping Teens Express Identity Through Poetry Writing Series


Courtesy: The StoryCraft Project
Antonio Stinson (center) records himself during StoryCraft, a youth storytelling initiative and collaboration between BPR and Asheville Writers In The Schools and Community. Also pictured: Clement (left), artist mentor Liz Garland, and Tori (right).

Who am I? It’s a question that teenagers wrestle with everywhere, as they discover their identities. In this episode we hear a series of stories, called Storycraft, produced by Blue Ridge Public Radio in Asheville. This summer, BPR teamed up with a nonprofit, Asheville Writers In The Schools and Community. Together, they hosted a series of workshops with teenagers and asked them the question: ‘Who Am I?’ The teenagers wrote poems based on the prompt, and we hear three of these in this episode.

StoryCraft is a storytelling initiative from America Amplified, a national public media collaboration focused on community engagement reporting.

Breonna Taylor’s Life Honored In App Called ‘Breonna’s Garden’

We also learn about a media project that honors the life of Breonna Taylor, who was shot by Louisville police in March 2020. Artists designed a digital app to function as a space for Taylor’s loved ones and community members to find solace. WFPL reporter Stephanie Wolf takes us into the augmented reality artwork, “Breonna’s Garden.”

When you download the app, you’re greeted with Taylor’s smile. In photos and videos, you see her dancing in the car with her sister. Then, you’re transported to the garden itself.

Breonna’s Garden” is full of her favorite things: tulips, butterflies and a hologram of her sister, Ju’Niyah Palmer, who shares memories.

The augmented reality art project pays respect to Taylor, an emergency room technician who aspired to become a nurse.

The artists behind “Breonna’s Garden” want it to focus on her life, not her death. They designed it to function as a place for Taylor’s family, friends and community members to find solace. The virtual flowers in the garden contain messages from friends, family and the public.

“I only get comfort in praying that you are with your granny looking over each other because I know how much you missed her,” said Tamika Palmer, Taylor’s mother, in one of the messages on the app. “We love you, and we miss you.”

Matt Jackfert And His Music Make It To Carnegie Hall

Matt Jackfert is a classical musician, composer, arranger—and radio host here at West Virginia Public Broadcasting, our home station.

And yes, he composed our own Inside Appalachia theme music. This holiday season, Matt’s at a milestone in his musical life that most can only dream of. Andrea Billups sat down with Jackfert to talk about his new work on a classic seasonal tune, “I Saw Three Ships.”

Crystal Good Aims To Change Media Landscape Through ‘Black By God’


Photo by Brian Canterbury. Original photo by Paul Corbit Brown
Crystal Good poses with a photo of herself when she was younger.

Sometimes, spending time away from your home makes you fully appreciate how much you love it, despite its downsides. It also helps you to see a place where you can try to make a difference. That’s what Crystal Good did. She’s a writer and entrepreneur who grew up in West Virginia but recently spent about two years in California. Last month, she returned home with an ambition to change the state’s media landscape. She recently launched a newspaper called Black By God, The West Virginian. It’s the only newspaper in the state that intentionally centers non-white voices.

“I know that this is needed, because how many black journalists are working in West Virginia right now?” Good said.

“Success for me is 10 years from now. I’ve got a whole bunch of emails saying, ‘I wrote my first article for Black By God.’ ‘I made my first podcast for Black By God.’ ‘I had my first paper route with Black By God.’ You know, I want to be that catalyst.”

Good also wants to see her publication become successful. And while she’s not 100 percent sure she’ll stay in the state—and admits there is a lot about it that frustrates her—it’s where she calls home. And always will. Good publishes her third issue of Black By God in Spring 2022.


Jessica Lilly
Mike Carver plays the trumpet in his left hand while keeping time with his right hand.

Marching Band Builds Community Pride In Mount Hope, W.Va.

Mount Hope High School in Fayette County, West Virginia, home of the Mustangs, closed in 2012, but the spirit can still be found in town, as Jessica Lilly reports.

“We’re a marching band (and) we have a bandwagon,” said one of the founding members Carrie Kid. “We are too old to march in parades but still like to be in the parades.”

They make it happy via the band-wagon, a flatbed trailer that most members ride on while playing an instrument. The band borrows a truck to haul the wagon.

The idea of an alumni band started back in 2011 when Kidd heard that Mount Hope High School would close.

“It was really to keep that Mustang pride alive,” Kidd said. “Because it’s something that is still important. It’s still a part of the town’s character itself.”

In 2017, Kidd started Harmony for Hope, a non-profit organization with a mission to unite Appalachians through art and music. The organization supports the band and has expanded to include several events and projects for the community.

“I had a skillset because I left, and I knew I can provide something to my community so I decided to come home and provide that,” Kidd said.

Our Inside Appalachia theme music is by Matt Jackfert. This episode also features Jackfert’s arrangement of “I Saw Three Ships.” Other music was provided by Wes Swing, Jake Schepps, and Dinosaur Burps.

Roxy Todd is our producer. Our executive producer is Andrea Billups. Kelley Libby is our editor. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi and Eric Douglas also helped produce this episode. You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia. You can also send us an email to