The People Speak: Early Lessons from the Pandemic

Community Forum scheduled for April 24 in Sweet Springs

SWEET SPRINGS, W.Va. – A forum for citizens to share their experiences throughout the COVID-19 pandemic will be held here at the Sweet Springs Resort Park on April 24 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Michael Barrick, owner of Grassroots Appalachia LLC and an organizer of the event explained, “The purpose of this gathering is to conduct a citizen and community review of lessons learned to date from the pandemic and publish the comments and findings in June.” He continued, “We will publish that review online and in print for the public, public health officials, emergency response officials, first responders, and first receivers (such as hospitals and nursing homes) to add to their own reviews.” He explained, “Much of my career in emergency management has been focused on identifying and helping vulnerable populations during crises. That is why we’ve titled it, ‘The People Speak: Early Lessons from the Pandemic.’ These first hand accounts will be valuable additions to official reviews of how this worldwide crisis affected the most vulnerable people in our communities.”

In addition to Grassroots Appalachia LLC, other sponsors of the forum are Sweet Springs Institute, Inc., Sweet Springs Resort Park Foundation, and the West Virginia chapter of Herbalists Without Borders.

Barrick observed, “We are clearly in a time when people want and expect to be heard. We know that public health and emergency management professionals will be conducting similar reviews for their agencies and communities. We believe the stories we’ll hear from our neighbors about what they have experienced, their feelings, and their concerns for the future will be a valuable addition to those official reviews.” 

A gathering of people at the 2019 Sweet Springs Sustainable Living Forum in Sweet Springs, W.Va.

Barrick added, “It is also an opportunity to tap into the value of storytelling in Appalachia. Storytelling is vital to processing events, especially those as life-changing as the pandemic has been. Providing people an opportunity to tell their stories will honor Appalachian folkways, provide valuable insight, and most importantly, create stronger communities through the spoken word.”

Forum co-sponsor Roseanna Sacco added, “I look forward to hearing from our neighbors. I am very hopeful.” She continued, “Our experience during the pandemic has shown us how rapidly human beings can organize and work through a steep learning curve to respond to a global threat. In a remarkably short period of time, our priorities have changed, our routines have shifted and our behavior has been modified. The next step is to find out what we have learned and what we can do, as a community, to be more prepared to meet our basic needs. I see this as a creative process where all our diverse points of view will be most welcome.”

Ms. Sacco is a co-founder of Sweet Springs Institute, Inc. a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization formed in 2008. Its purpose “Is to contribute to a new dream for humanity by cultivating ‘conscious integrity’ – the optimal state of well-being experienced when we interact in a way that enhances our connection to each other and to the all-encompassing whole of which we are a part.”

The Jefferson Hotel at Sweet Springs Resort Park, Sweet Springs, W.Va.

Barbara Volk of the West Virginia chapter of Herbalists Without Borders will speak about the health benefits of various herbs. Herbalists Without Borders is a volunteer organization dedicated to bringing herbal and alternative health practices to underserved communities. Volk is also president of the West Virginia Herb Association.  

The Sweet Springs Resort Park Foundation exists to restore the historic springs and buildings of the park property. It is also committed to working with individuals and organizations committed to creating sustainable Appalachian communities.

Barrick has extensive experience in the field of emergency management. He has worked as Emergency Preparedness Coordinator in two hospitals, has managed several disasters, including the H1N1 pandemic, triaged mass casualty incidents and has conducted numerous community disaster drills based on the National Incident Management System (NIMS). He holds a post-graduate certificate in Community Preparedness and Disaster Management from the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina, as well as numerous NIMS certifications. He is also owner of the regional internet publication, the Appalachian Chronicle.

All pandemic protocols as dictated by the Governor of the State of West Virginia and the CDC will be in place. It is free and open to the public. For further information, call (304) 445-6636 or (304) 536-1207.

Feature Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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