MCDOWELL COUNTY, WV (WVNS) — One couple in McDowell County is trying to lead the charge against the county’s access to clean water.
Having both grown up in the area, Bob and Linda McKinney were raised knowing the value of working hard and giving back to the community. Linda McKinney is the Director of Five Loaves and Two Fishes food bank in Kimball, but recently, food is not the item most requested from those in need.
“Water and food go hand in hand, so as people come in you learn the problems they are dealing with,” said McKinney.
She recently joined forces with Nestle and Deer Park Water as a part of their Made for a Better Tomorrow program. The campaign uses a one for one promise, meaning for every person who pledges to recycle their water, Deer Park will donate a jug of water to those in need in the county. McKinney uses the program to get people in the area as much water as possible.
“They bring me back empty jugs in that recycling bag, and 20 gallons fit in there, so I will give them 20 gallons of water,” said McKinney.
She gives up to 20 gallons of water at a time, and as she does, Nestle donates their own, and will do so until October 2021.
While Linda works on handling the immediate demand for food and water, her husband is working on creating a long term solution.
“We do more than just the bread, as we say I am the bread and he is the water,” said Linda.
Bob McKinney started working for Dig Deep last fall. The California-based company focuses on cleaning up streams and creating sustainable water sources for those in need. When they found out about the situation in McDowell county, they reached out to Bob and opened his eyes as well.
“Had people from California come here to wake me up to the water issue in this county,” said Bob, the Appalachian Project Manager for Dig Deep.
He works hand-in-hand with the county’s public service district, which is working on putting in new water lines across the area.
“Well our focus is once they get these lines installed, the homeowners are gonna need to have these lines run,” said Bob.
This is where Dig Deep comes in; they plan to pay to have the lines connected to people’s houses, and find new ways to reach the homes the PSD cannot afford.
While Bob is more then willing to have he and his wife help lead the charge, he hopes there is a day where they will not be needed.
“I’d like to see the day that the food bank wouldn’t be needed anymore, I’d like to see the day where maybe they get this situation in McDowell County situated and they wouldn’t need me anymore,” said Bob.
The Appalachia Regional Project is currently in phase two out of five. McKinney hopes to complete phase two by December of 2021.
With all the jugs of water given out, the food bank has to come up with a way to keep the county green; however, McDowell County does not have a recycling program, so they had to think outside of the box. Their solution came from a club in Wyoming County.
The Wyoming County Friends of the Earth Club began in 2018 as a beautification club. They then switched focus to recycling. When the One for One program came to McDowell County, they agreed to sort all of the recycled items collected at the food bank and take it to the Raleigh County Solid Waste Authority. The Authority pays the club, and the money they receive goes towards scholarships.
Teresa Blackmon, a volunteer with the club, said partnering with the food bank was a no-brainer.
“And provides the scholarship monies for the kids and takes the plastic off of the streets and the sides of the roads,” said Blackmon.
The Friends of the Earth Club is set to pick up their first group of recycling from the food bank in early July.