My name is Malina Suity. I’m a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and it’s becoming a pattern in my life that I just keep leaving and coming back home over and over again. I’ve left this time to serve in Preserve WV AmeriCorps at Main Street Fairmont, to learn how to, and help, preserve and develop some true architectural treasures a little bit further up the Mon than I’m used to. In the past, I left to attend Ohio Wesleyan University and receive a BA in English and Medieval Studies. I came back, left Pittsburgh again to see what life was like in New York City, and came back when I realized it wasn’t for me. I left again to pursue a Master’s degree in Public History at the University of West Florida in Pensacola. And when I came back home again, I thought it was for good. I served in AmeriCorps in Pittsburgh through KEYS Service Corps at Reading is Fundamental Pittsburgh. That opportunity raised my awareness of the crisis in education, but also in our historic neighborhoods, not just in my city, but across the region. And when I finished my term, I decided to join up again, this time with a focus on my passion: history and preservation.
When I found out about PAWV’s program, I was immediately interested because I can see the work that needs to be done in West Virginia is so similar to the needs of Western Pennsylvania. My family knows better than many in Pittsburgh how a thriving coal town can disappear in just a few decades when the mine closes. My grandmother has lived all her life in Harwick, PA where her father was a foreman at the Harwick Mine. She married a coal miner and he built their little ranch house by hand on a plot of land right next door to the house she was born in. But, after the mine closed over 40 years ago now, the town has shrunk, in size due to the expansion of an express highway, and even in the minds of residents who think of it as just another part of Cheswick or Springdale and most likely don’t know there was even a mine there.
I hope to share my experience and optimism with the community to which I’ve come. I hope to help accelerate the change that people can already see coming to Fairmont. My projects at Main Street will include, planning and implementing a Developer’s Tour of the city, developing the Farmers Market, and collaborating on cultural heritage tourism initiatives such as the Coal Heritage Museum. I believe that education and collaboration are key to any community project like preservation, you have to know enough to decide to do something, and you have to know enough people who share your goals to achieve them.
This service initiative is administered by the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia, the statewide grassroots nonprofit dedicated to the support and promotion of historic preservation in the Mountain State. The PreserveWV AmeriCorps members develop and participate in a variety of community projects related to historic resource improvement, historic preservation, heritage tourism development, and nonprofit organizational capacity building. For more information, visit www.pawv.org. PreserveWV AmeriCorps is funded in part by Volunteer West Virginia, the state’s Commission for National and Community Service, and by the Commission for National and Community Service.