Follansbee chamber gets money to bring wall

FOLLANSBEE – The City Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday received two donations to bring a mobile version of Washington’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial to the city and heard from a leader of C.H.A.N.G.E Inc., who commented on the agency’s 30th anniversary.

Catherine Ferrari, president and chief executive officer of Hancock County Savings Bank, and Eric Fithyan, owner of James Funeral Home, were on hand to present $1,000 donations on behalf of each of the two businesses. Chamber President Tony Paesano said the donations allowed the chamber to reach its goal of about $3,000 for efforts by the Follansbee Community Days Committee to bring the monument to the festival in July.

City Council has allocated $25,000 for the monument, which bears the names of more than 50,000 men and women, including several military nurses who were killed in the Vietnam War or are missing in action.

Paesano said, “Bringing the wall here allows us to honor the men and women of the armed forces who paid the ultimate price for our freedom and those who remain missing.

“We want to honor and respect all Vietnam veterans and every veteran.”

He noted there are at least a dozen local residents who were killed while serving in the war.

Ferrari said her brother served two tours of duty there, adding, “I know many people with family members who served during that time. We need to show those veterans respect and pay tribute to those who were killed.”

Fithyan said he hopes the monument will help to educate younger residents about the war by offering the opportunity for local veterans to reflect on the war with younger visitors to the monument.

Tentative plans call for the monument to be displayed at the Follansbee Middle School football field near the Follansbee Park parking area, which became the new home to Follansbee Community Days last year.

Chamber members also heard from Jim Boniey, chief operating officer of community services for C.H.A.N.G.E. Inc., who reflected on the organization’s growth as it celebrates its 30th anniversary this month.

Boniey noted it began in 1983 when a group of Weirton clergy gathered at the former Elby’s Restaurant to discuss helping the many local steelworkers who had been laid off. Located initially in a room at Cove Presbyterian Church, it employed two, including current Executive Director Judy Raveaux, who helped to provide resources to residents seeking jobs.

He said since 1990, it’s expanded, moving to its current site at the former Simon’s Furniture building on West Street, where it also operates its Family Medical Care Community Health Center, among other services.

Boniey said the center serves uninsured and insured area residents, striving to provide affordable health care for all.

He added demand from Ohioans for the center’s services has led to its upcoming expansion in Wintersville.

He said the agency established the Lighthouse Domestic Violence Shelter in response to concerns by local law enforcement officials that women and children who left their homes because of domestic violence had to be relocated outside the county.

Boniey said staying temporarily at the local shelter allows the children to remain in their schools or the same school district. He said the shelter has a capacity to serve eight adults and children and frequently is full.

Boniey added the agency recently purchased two homes and rehabilitated them to serve as temporary homes for domestic violence victims attempting to gain independence.

Boniey said the agency’s job transportation program provided 8,900 rides to and from work or school to 439 residents in Brooke and Hancock counties last year. He said it and similar programs will be cut from funding by the West Virginia Department of Transportation next year, but the agency hopes to secure other funds to maintain it.

He said in 2012 the agency served 8,503 meals to 681 children in after-school programs and 1,104 children in summer lunch programs held at local parks and schools.

In related business, Paesano said the chamber has worked with local churches to provide food for children in need at Hooverson Heights Primary School, who each weekend receive backpacks filled with nonperishable food in an effort started by Hooverson Heights Church of Christ and a similar effort at Jefferson Primary School.

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