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Discovering McDowell County

In an effort to help McDowell County, I contacted a pastor named Father Tony and drove out to Welch with a truck full of donations. We worked together for three days to help the residents of the poorest county in the United States.

During lunch with Julie O’Brien, the general manager of ProJet Aviation and a Board Member of BYBM, I told her about the project I did in Washington, DC. I explained how good it felt to help the two homeless men and how I would like to do it again but go in the other direction. Julie liked my idea, so she directed me toward McDowell County, West Virginia. She said I might be needed there.

I had never heard of McDowell County, but after reading more about this county’s plight, I decided BYBM should make an expedition there. I wanted to partner up with a local church to work with someone who could give me insight into the county. Unfortunately, this proved to be more difficult than expected. I left messages at different churches but didn’t receive many returning calls.

Richard Zaher sitting in front of a sign from McDowell County

After a few days, one church called back. A pastor from Welch, Father Tony, loved my idea. He invited me to visit but also wanted me to be prepared. He said the county is in a desperate state and that seeing people in need can be overwhelming. That was all I had to know. Father Tony’s warning didn’t discourage me. It made me more determined than ever!

I wanted to visit but didn’t want to show up empty-handed. So I rented a truck and filled it up with food. I drove through the mountains for five hours and arrived in McDowell. There, I met Father Tony for the first time. We got along right away, so I stayed at the church for three days, and we passed out supplies to the families. The time I spent there also gave me a chance to hear the needs and ideas of the locals. I am grateful for the wonderful people I’ve met. The relationships forged during my trip to McDowell were the perfect gateway to our future initiatives in this county. I knew I’d be back there soon.

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