Meet the Preserve WV AmeriCorps – Jason

img_20160930_165727My name is Jason Wright and I was born and raised in north central West Virginia, specifically Marion, Harrison, and Monongalia Counties. I graduated from Lincoln High School in Shinnston in 1989. I spent the 1990s working in the food service industry and as a musician. Tiring of this lifestyle, I attended West Virginia University for several years before moving to Bloomington, Indiana from 2006 to 2013. Having returned to the Mountain State, I went back to WVU to finish my bachelor’s degree in geography. This I achieved in December, 2015.

I have always had a deep and abiding love of history and politics, especially that of West Virginia. I am a Knight of the Golden Horseshoe, given to select WV eighth grade students who score highly on an exam testing knowledge on West Virginia citizenship, civics and government, economics, geography, history and current events. Another contributing factor to my love of history is my growing up in a family of historical reenactors, which in my case involved the French and Indian Wars era (from approximately the 1740s to the early 1760s) and the fur trappers era (from around 1800 to 1840). This made me want to know about how everyday people lived their lives during different eras: what did they have in common? What was different?

I came to AmeriCorps because I was interested in doing volunteer work for the city of Fairmont, where I now reside. Sandra Scaffidi, who is Fairmont’s City Planner, as well as President of the Board of Directors of the PAWV, suggested that I also might be interested in seeing what AmeriCorps had to offer in terms of contributing to the betterment of my home region. For my volunteer work with the city, Ms. Scaffidi currently has a project underway to remap Fairmont’s historic districts. The maps the city currently has were compiled upwards of twenty years ago, and there have been quite a few changes to some of the historic buildings in the meantime. Some buildings have been demolished, others altered enough to not really be considered as contributing to the historic character of the districts. My role is to survey all of the listed sites to see if they are still contributing. This is upwards of 500 buildings, so this is going to take a while! While not a part of AmeriCorps, I find that it is very rewarding.

Since I returned from Indiana, I have been rather shocked at seeing the blight that is occurring in all of the towns and cities that I grew up in. Living in Morgantown from 1989 to 2006 and Bloomington from 2006 to 2013 shielded me from seeing the decline of north central West Virginia. I have a strong desire to do whatever I can to help the area find a new direction for progress and I feel that being a part of the Preserve WV AmeriCorps program will be beneficial to developing my belief that preserving the area’s history is vital to restoring its sense of community.

AmeriCorps  I have been taken on at the West Augusta Historical Society in Mannington. The society runs a museum at the site of the Wilson School. It also is in possession of a round barn, one of only two that still exist in the state. My responsibilities with the society include creating new exhibits for the old Mannington High School, which closed in 1979, and for George Bowers, who was a prominent entrepreneur and politician from the first half of the twentieth century. Also, I am learning PastPerfect museum cataloging software in order to digitally keep track of the vast amounts of items that are to be found in the museum’s collection. Another thing I need to do is increase the amount of volunteers assisting with the WAHS. Maintaining these sites is a constant battle, and the more hands contributing to repairs and cleaning, the better.

Whenever I’m not to be found cataloging, moving, and cleaning in Mannington, or surveying historic buildings in Fairmont, I can be found cooking at Crab Shack Caribba in Cheat Lake (Morgantown area) or tending to my black cherry tomato plants with my wonderful partner of the past 17 years, Jennifer.

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