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Monday, Feb. 15, 1999

Alta Vista Center: A special place for children in need
by James Fisher

    Two 10-year-old brothers are living at the Genesis Youth Center Inc. The only other children close to them in age are 15 and 16 years old, which presents some unique problems for the children and the staff.
    Later this week, however, the brothers could be the first residents at the new Alta Vista Children's Center in Broad Oaks. Alta Vista will cater to children exactly like the brothers  kids who need help but may be too young to live at Genesis.
The brothers are within Genesis' age range, but Polly Clutter, director of Alta Vista, said younger children often have a more difficult time when they are housed with older children.
    "They're at Genesis and getting care, but because of their ages we feel we can better serve the kids here," she said.
The staff at Alta Vista will be able to address the things that make a difference to younger children, Clutter said.
"They have different needs as far as recreation and daily living," she said. "Everything here is tailor-made for smaller children. The furniture is smaller, the closets are smaller, everything is made for them. We feel that they don't need to grow up any quicker than they already have."
    The $500,000 center, which has been quickly constructed because of the mild winter, needs only to be inspected and certified by the state to begin accepting children, Clutter said. The state inspection is slated for Tuesday.
    The center is designed to cater to the needs of children between the ages of 5 and 11, Clutter said. This is only the second center in the state that is licensed for children that young, she said. Alta Vista can house eight children at one time.
    The entire center is designed to look as much like a family house as possible, she said. It has six bedrooms, two of them with bunk-beds, a large learning center where the children will have classroom studies, a family gathering room for visits, a television room with a dining area and a state-of-the-art kitchen.
    Clutter said in the spring the Xerox Corp. will build a playground in the back of the building with a swing-set and a pirate ship for the children to play on. Alta Vista is the third new program that Genesis Youth Center Inc. has started in the past 5 years, said Alta Vista Executive Director Tony Santilli.
    "What we're trying to do is keep the kids entirely within our system and not have them bounced around," he said. "We think that's important to the kids. Genesis Youth Center Inc. can now provide care and help for youth ranging in age from 5 to 21 through its various programs.
    Providing help for such a wide range of children helps the staff keep the families together, he said.
"We're still not done," he said. "We're always looking at new programs. We're looking at the kids we have to see what they need and what we can provide for them. "We're also looking to see how we can help the parents be equipped to raise their kids in this environment."
    Santilli said the new center gives him a sense of pride and satisfaction about himself and his staff. "If even one kid's life is helped, then I have succeeded," he said. "What we have done is set the standard for others in the system. I am blessed with a staff that doesn't quit. They will do everything and anything for the kids."

Former coach helps revive small town for the kids
by Torie Knight

    VALLEY HEAD-David Mace moved to Valley Head for one reason.. trout fishing. "I felt in my heart I was coming here to fish," Mace said. He does fish, nearly everyday. Last week, he caught 44 trout. But, that isn't all he does.
    Soon after he and his wife made the move from Roane County to Valley Head in Randolph County in September 1997, Mace noticed young people simply standing on street corners in this small town. He thought of his grandchildren in North Carolina who have access to all types of entertainment and lessons.He wanted to bring some of that to Valley Head.
    At Easter, he helped organize the first Easter egg hunt in recent years. About 30 children participated. The former little league coach also has plans for a baseball league and basketball team. "I like these kids better than fishing," Mace said. "These children here are just as capable as anywhere else."
    Others have joined Mace's efforts after recent deaths made them aware that something has to be done to help area youth. The community had three deaths from June to November of last year, including the suicide of a young man in the back of a police car. "That's a message to the people in the community that something has to be done," said United Methodist pastor Charlene Hamrick.
    Hamrick and Mace became co-chairs of a youth fellowship. For three months, they trained staff to help deal with youth problems through counseling, mentoring and youth activities. They wanted to avoid a "fly-by-night scam," Hamrick said.
 They've had four meetings with youth this year, including a pizza party and movie. "There definitely needed to be something here in the area," Hamrick said. "This is a very rural area. No drive-ins. No theaters. No roller rinks. No bowling alleys. So they find something else to do with their time."
    Valley Head is a small community of about 800, most of whom are elderly. It is about 15 miles from Mill Creek and 38 miles from Elkins. The town has two businesses. One is a store with two gas pumps and the other a pizza shop.
 It is known nationally for a local resident who was caught drinking and driving on his lawn tractor, his only form of transportation.
    Valley Head has no industry, which causes many people to leave the area, Hamrick said. "There is a generation missing here the middle generation," Hamrick said. "The middle-aged generation had to leave here."
    It hasn't always been that way. Valley Head used to have a bowling alley, theater and a coal mine that employed about 500. The youth group organizers are hoping to bring a revival to the community.
     The key to their success, however, focuses on a community center  something the community doesn't have. That, Mace said, would not only help youth, but also the senior citizens. "We can't give back anything because we don't have a place to give it back." Mace said.
    For now the youth group is meeting in Hamrick's church parsonage. The senior citizens don't meet at all. Valley Head has a fire house but it is difficult to access, local residents said.
    The community also has a union hall, but it belongs to a church and users must pay hourly rates for insurance reasons.
What they want is a free community center that can be accessible at all times, but they have no way to build it.
With few businesses, they can't ask for local dollars. "You can only go to the well so many times," said Hamrick, who pastors five churches in the Mingo United Methodist charge. "We don't have a way to produce the revenue."
    As for seniors, they can't travel to the center in Mill Creek because the community does not have public transportation, taxis or a senior citizens' bus. "I love it here, but this place needs help," Mace said.
    Despite the lack of a building, Mace said he and others are working to get youth busy. Later this month, the group will go snow tubing at Snowshoe Mountain ski resort.
    They also are scheduling a dance at the Slatyfork Community Building in Pocahontas County. Hamrick said trips to watch plays and live theater are in the future, as well. The goal is to create a safer environment and "just let kids be kids."
"Let's get together on this. There's a message here. We're losing our kids," Hamrick said.

Clarksburg police set to crack down on city violations
by James Fisher

    In the past, the Clarksburg Police Department has been fairly forgiving in allowing people time to pay their city citations for anything from speeding to loitering.
    But too many people have taken advantage of the department's leniency, said Clarksburg Police Chief Raymond Mazza. Now, police are cracking down. People who decide not to pay a citation or appear in court will have their drivers' licenses suspended, he said. "They have to pay the price," he said. "We're going to make sure that the penalty is issued through the DMV. We're out to make sure these people obey the law."
    A person who receives any city citation, other than a parking violation, has five working days to appear in municipal court, Mazza said. After that time, the department will forward the citation and a letter to the Division of Motor Vehicles asking the agency to suspend the person's license, he said. Mazza said the policy is not new; it just hasn't been strictly enforced.
    "This is something we've always done, just not on such a consistent basis," he said. "We've been letting it go, trying to be good neighbors, but people just run over you. Now, we're going after them." This policy will hit people where it hurts the most, Mazza said.
    "This could potentially cost a person their livelihood and cause severe problems," he said. "But driving is a privilege, not a right. We have called people, trying to be the community-based department we are striving to be. People ignore us, or say they will come in and then never do, so we're going to take the ultimate step."
    And not just West Virginia residents are affected by the policy. If an offender is from another state, Mazza said the department will forward the letter to that state to get the person's license suspended. Mazza stressed that it is not just people with moving violations who are targeted anyone with any citation will be suspended.
    "This covers everything from expired registration to speeding to shoplifting to disturbing the peace to curfew violations," he said. "These people are disrupting the lives and the peace of Clarksburg's citizens and they must realize they have to obey the law." Last week, Mazza finished sending outstanding 1998 citations to the DMV.
    He was unsure of the exact number of violations, but said it was easily in the hundreds. "If anyone feels they owe or are in violation, I would strongly urge them to call the office immediately and contact data entry personnel to avoid double fines and other fees," he said.
    Aside from the actual cost of the citation, the DMV charges $15 for each violation in reinstatement fees and may even require the person to be re-tested. Officers will also be provided with a list of the people who have been suspended, Mazza said. Driving with a suspended license carries a mandatory 24-hour jail term and a fine, he said.

Investigation continues in death of 20-year-old
by Julie Cryser

    Police found a 20-year-old Nutter Fort man dead in his vehicle in the parking lot of a convenience store in Weston late Saturday night and believe he may have died from carbon monoxide poisoning.
    Police transported the body of Eugene Hawkins to the State Medical Examiner's Office in Charleston. Hawkins was found lying back in the driver's seat of his late 1980s model vehicle Saturday at about 10:30 p.m.
    A customer who had stopped in at Sheetz in Weston earlier Saturday morning contacted police when he stopped back later that night and the vehicle was still there and running, according to Sgt. David Parks, with the Lewis County Sheriff's Department.
    Parks said Hawkins' window was rolled down about two inches, but it is still likely that carbon monoxide in the vehicle caused his death. "That's my high possibility right there," Parks said Sunday night.
    Hawkins, who was an independent newspaper delivery contractor for Clarksburg Publishing Co., had called his father about 5 a.m. Saturday morning and told him that he was tired and was going to pull over and sleep for a while, according to Bobby Gaston, circulation manager of Clarksburg Publishing Co. Parks said Hawkins' death will be treated as suspicious until the medical report is returned.

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