I’m a transplant, I’ll admit it.
I never really visited Huntington as a kid. Although my family lived only 35 minutes away it was not a trip we made often. Huntington is home to Marshall University and two major hospitals – that was the extent of my knowledge as a child.
But in late summer of 2010, at 17 years old, I moved to this city for college. Since then I have proudly proclaimed Huntington as my home. When my husband and I were looking to purchase a house, we considered surrounding areas but nothing felt quite as right as the 1950s brick house with a bright red door we found inside city limits. We knew that for this season of life we had found our place.
A strong sense of community is something I’ve always held at high regard. Just this morning I was talking to my Mom and she told me her plans for the day – she and my Dad are helping facilitate a park dedication in my hometown. My dad was there bright and early to set out chairs while my mom was on her way to pick up hotdogs. This is what I grew up knowing; you help your neighbors and always strive for growth.
It saddens me that not all share my admiration for Huntington. I am not naive to the complex issues that face our city. It is no secret that many of our people are hurting and plagued by a disgusting drug epidemic. An epidemic that ruins families and is a breeding ground for crime. But what did hate ever accomplish? In a city I love dearly, one that welcomed me and watched me grow – what else is there to do?
I see it one of two ways:
You can run from a problem, or run towards it.
Many are running from it and I cannot completely blame them. That may be right for them. What is not right are statements like these: “I can’t wait to move out of this sh*t hole.” “Really, America’s Best Community? Is this a joke?” and the cruelest of all: “Just let them die” (referencing those abusing drugs).
That is the PG-13 version. You can read the rest floating around on social media. I am truly sad for those who feel this way.
Here’s the silver lining when it comes to Huntington – there are folks running towards it.
What does it look like to lean in to a problem? You see the writing on the wall, feel the uncertainty it brings, and decide to stay anyway. You seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly. I have said it one million times and I’ll say it again: At the end of my life I want to be known as a woman who fiercely loved God and loved people. That’s it. We must start there.
I see a group of people who are choosing to do just that. They’re facing the sin and destruction challenging our city and running right towards it. I am honored and grateful for each and every one you.
I want to share a few of my favorite organizations and shops. This is not a complete list but rather a collection of places taking up space in my life right now. Want to know how to be a part of the revitalization of your city? Pray for the people around you. Spend your time and money locally.
Faith + Fitness
New Heights Church – my faith community. My nearest and dearest people, serving Jesus and their city in the most beautiful way. I would love to meet you there. Sundays | 10:30 AM | Huntington High School | Find us at http://www.NewHeightsWV.com.
Brown Dog Yoga – my wellness + fitness community. I fell in love with yoga two years ago and have been encouraged by BDY ever since. Truly grateful for all the time I spend each week on the mat, at the barre, and on the bike. Visit http://www.browndogyoga.com for more information.
The Wild Ramp – you’ll find me here every Saturday morning. If I didn’t grow it in my garden, I bought it here. I love their commitment to local farmers and sustainable growth. And they host a weekly farmer’s market in the summer! Visit them on Facebook or http://www.thewildramp.com.
River and Rail Bakery – incredible breakfast, lunch, and coffee. Always friendly staff. Plus they have a suspended coffee fund – money reserved for those less fortunate who want to enjoy a freshly brewed coffee. Buy a cup, give a cup. http://www.facebook.com/riverandrailbakery
The Red Caboose – home to so many local artist’s work. Books, candles, greeting cards, jewelry… you name it, they’ve probably got it. I love browsing with a latte in hand from River and Rail. www.facebook.com/theredcaboosewv
Robert’s Running – where I purchase my running shoes. Locally owned and great customer service. They have shirts that say “Will run for beer” so, you know I’m on board. http://www.robertsrunning.com
Grindstone Coffeeology – espresso truck for the win! We love the drink and snack options and are always greeted by a friendly face. They recently opened a brick and mortar inside The Wild Ramp *insert praise hands here*. Follow them on Instagram @grindstonecoffeology.
Black Sheep Burrito & Brews – tacos for everyone!!! One of our favorite brunch and date night spots. We had our rehearsal dinner here in their reception area upstairs. Easy, fun, local, and usually host to some live music. http://www.blacksheepwv.com
Backyard Pizza & Raw Bar – pizza and beer and fried calamari? Yes, all of it. One of our go-to places to visit with friends. Local vibes and decor. http://www.facebook.com/BackyardPizzaandRawBar/
La Famiglia – sometimes we eat pizza three days a week and I’m not mad about it. Incredible Italian food and great wine options. Locally + family owned. http://www.lafamigliadeli.com
Huntington City Mission – always needing donations and volunteers. Loving your city should start with loving the people in it. Find more information at http://www.huntingtoncitymission.org.
Dress for Success River Cities – donate clothes, money, or time to empower women in our community. www.rivercities.dressforsuccess.org
Lily’s Place – did you know 1 in 10 babies born in Huntington suffer from NAS (Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome)? That’s an alarming statistic. You can have a tangible impact on this epidemic by donating supplies, money, or volunteering. For more, visit http://www.lilysplace.org/get-involved.
Necco – we have so many friends involved with Necco and fostering. Orphan care is crucial in our city and state. Whether you welcome children in your home, volunteer to babysit, or take dinner to a foster family – you have something to offer. Learn more at http://www.necco.com/locations/huntington.
For more insight on orphan care, listen here.
Let’s run towards it, not from it. Own your city and all of its problems – seek justice for the people and destruction around you. There is no other way to create community than to engage in community. Show up for your people and one day, when you need it, they’ll show up for you.
This does not even scratch the surface of all the amazing shops, organizations, and dining options in Huntington. I would love to hear your thoughts and favorites! Leave a comment below!