Broadband Program Features Booth at State Fair

The West Virginia State Fair got into full swing the weekend of August 10 with rides, games, and fireworks. On August 10th, Future Generations Rural America set up a booth to promote the WV Broadband Opportunities Program at the WV State Fair.

Residents from Raleigh, Pendleton, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Boone, Fayette, Monroe, Wyoming, Randolph, Preston, Barbour, and Greenbrier Counties visited the booth. People who stopped by the booth were given information on the broadband program and the locations of the 60 fire department and EMS station computer centers in WV. Patrons also received free goodies, such as tote bags and stationery. These stations have supported the program by establishing computer centers to help educate their communities in computer literacy and the multitude of benefits that come with high-speed Internet access.

Computer center mentors volunteered at the booth. Radio Greenbrier interviewed Joey McDaniel, a mentor from the Bradley-Prosperity Volunteer Fire Department, about the program. Other mentors that volunteered included: Kim Davis and Jean Bleigh of the Flatwoods VFD, Brenda Wilson of the Summers County VFD, and Amber Workman of the Fairlea VFD. Even Future Generations Rural America staff,  Ginger Wimer and LeeAnn Shreve, were seen volunteered that day.

"One of the most memorable people I talked with was an older gentleman from Preston County, who declared that he didn’t want to learn computers for himself," Wimer said. "He said he got this far not using a computer, he would die that way too. However, he was a big advocate of reversing the school consolidations that had occurred in his county, and implementation of distance learning using computers and broadband Internet. He was all for using it to educate the kids, but not for himself. He talked with me at length about the struggles his county has been experiencing due to consolidation and the ways things would be improved if the consolidation were reversed."

Another memorable booth patron had lost her job as a pharmacy technician and wanted to find financial aid to help her get training in another field. Concerned for her future, she was very interested in find a lab near her to start learning computer skills. 

Overall, Wimer felt that the day was a hugely successful in promoting the broadband program understanding people's needs thoughout the state.

"One of the things that blew me away was the number of people who were from areas where we have computer labs, and they had never even heard about the labs before. In one case, a couple from Bluefield said they couldn’t believe there was a lab like that in such a place as Matoaka, since it is such a small and dying community. I think we reached out to a lot of people. Even if they don't come to the lab themselves, I hope they spread the word to others," Wimer concluded.

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