Matewan Hoping to Use Grant Funding to Make Change


This morning we take a look at the Turn this Town Around Project in Matewan, where they too found out about possible grant funding for the community. They hope the available funds are the key to revitalizing the town.

This is part of our continuing series on how 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. 

Kelly Webb is a 24-year-old resident of Matewan. But she isn’t your prototypical resident of the small town along the Tug River. The Detroit, Michigan native has only been in the area for 6 months, but in that short time she’s grown fond of her new home and wants it to succeed.

“The younger generation I feel is an important part to community service project, we basically set the precedent for generations to come and learning from the older generations and getting the youth involved, it just sets a pathway for when we have children,” Webb said.

Webb along with a group of approximately 20 others were in attendance in Matewan recently to find out the next step in the process of Turn this Town Around. It’s a project headed up by the West Virginia Community Development Hub to revitalize both Matewan in the southern part of the state and Grafton in the north. At meetings in both areas this week the residents found out about the available funding to their projects. A total of $75,000 could come to the community to support ideas like computer labs, walking and biking areas, tours and renovations of the historic jail.

“Everyone is going to have to band together and really participate to turn the town around,” Webb said.

The meeting this week served several purposes. First, to make the people of Matewan aware of the available funds, but also to make sure they realized there is no time like the present to brainstorm projects that would help the town. Kent Spellman is the executive director of the West Virginia Community Development Hub and wanted the crowd to know the funds from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation wouldn’t be there forever.

“Let me put it this way, there is a sense of urgency about this, the next meeting is July 1st and that’s when the attendance taking starts, so there is a sense of urgency for you to quickly identify the projects and build teams around them so you can access this funding in its entirety, there is going to have to be a lot of phone calling, e-mailing and talking to neighbors,” Spellman said.

What Spellman was talking about was the need to create small teams for each project. The hope is with the available funding that 20 different projects could be funded. Spellman and others hope to get more people involved in order to complete all of them in the time frame allowed.

Spellman thinks Matewan is a perfect place to undergo the challenge.

“This is sort of like a little trial by fire to see, what does Matewan really think of itself and what can it really accomplish, this is a challenge and it is a stretch and we understand that, but I think you’re up to it,” Spellman said.

Over the coming weeks the groups will meet with members of the development hub at workshops to work through the application process for each of the projects. Applications are due by August 1.

Webb said the people of Matewan realize that outside help was needed to turn the town into what they hope it could be.

“I realize that the people here are just beautiful people, they’re amazing, they live in the mountains and they’re in a rural community, but they make it work and realizing that sometimes there needs to be someone from the outside to come in and say hey we want to help you,” Webb said.

The groups will meet at workshops starting July 1st.