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In 2015, Nellis Elementary School closed and left behind a vacant building. Meanwhile, residents had been wanting a place to meet, and serve the community.
That’s when Anita Perdue had the idea to turn the empty building into a community center.
“We’ve always wanted one, So when we saw the opportunity to take something and refurbish it into something that was needed, we jumped on the opportunity,” Perdue said.
Thus the B.A.R.N. was created – an acronym for the communities it initially served: Brushton, Ashford, Ridgeview and Nellis. Now it is partnered with the Boone County Family Support center to support a greater area.
The organization provides free items and services to the community and gives community members a place to meet. They host events, often in partnership with other government or community organizations.
Vaccinations And Christmas Celebrations
Last week the B.A.R.N. hosted the Boone County Department of Health in their community events room for a flu shot drive. Wanda Smith attended the event and got this year’s flu shot along with her husband, Luther and daughter Nioka Righter.
All five of her kids went to Nellis Elementary. Now they come to the building for shots and their great grandchildren’s little league games. This year Wanda Smith is hosting her 14 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren at the B.A.R.N. for Thanksgiving.
“It’s really nice. We have a huge family. So we have our Thanksgiving and Christmas here in the gym. Every year for Christmas and Thanksgiving since it was a community center,” she said.
B.A.R.N. also provides resources for the community like free clothing, library books, WiFi, free meals, pet food, hygienic products, vaccines, cleaning supplies, fitness classes, meal delivery services – and the list goes on.
Dakota Smith is the director of the B.A.R.N. and helps keep everything from clothes to food stocked and ready for the community.
“This is one of our food pantry rooms. We have two refrigerators and two freezers. We’re hoping to add to the funding so we can get more meat for our community,” Dakota Smith said.
He said the organization has a few different sources of food for families through different partnerships with organizations like the U.S. Department of Agriculture where they get free food, and the Mountaineer Food Bank where they get foods at deeply reduced rates.
“As it stands right now, we’re serving between 250 and 350 families or individuals a month. And that’s not quite good enough. So we’re seeking to expand our funding,” he said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1 in 4 Boone County residents live in poverty. Boone County was also a region devastated by the opioid epidemic, which at one point had 1 in 4 residents receiving an opioid prescription and continues to see overdoses from opioids.
“The needs are great. And also I think that you know, I’m a believer in God. And I think that that’s what we’re here for us to serve one another. I really do,” Perdue said.
She said this grass roots community center exemplifies the heart and soul of Appalachian mountain living.