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Try This awarded 31 minigrant projects in 2020. See what incredible healthy-community efforts your fellow West Virginians pulled off despite the pandemic!

2 girls enjoy the Community Park Outdoor Games in Gassoway, WV
Slanesville Community Garden
Adaland Community Heritage Orchard
Pleasants County Water Rentals
Mountaintop Mentoring
Trail Enhancements for Improved Trail Navigation and Enjoyment

Click the arrows at left and right to see pictures from 2019-2020 projects



Adaland Community Heritage Orchard:

The Adaland Community Heritage Orchard project is supported by 11 Barbour County partners who want to build a healthier community through home gardening and healthy cooking/food preservation. Try This WV will let them buy 36 young apple trees (20 for planting and 16 to give away) and supplies for an heritage orchard planted on the Adaland Mansion property. The team will hold at least one workshop on planting and pruning trees and will provide at least 20 community attendees with a young apple tree to plant at their homes.

Project Lead: Virginia Shimek,


Farm to You:

Through partnerships with local farmers, “Farm to You,” operated by WVU Medicine East, provides patients of the Center for Diabetes and Metabolic Health with $10-15 value of local vegetables at pop-up farmers markets at the Center. Patients receive recipes and handouts to encourage healthy eating as part of their diabetes Rx. This Try This Mini-grant will quadruple the program’s outreach and increase the frequency of pop-up markets from once a month to twice a month. The grant also makes it possible to include pregnant and postpartum women in the target population.

Project Lead: Carla Toolan,



Burke Street Elementary School Garden Based Learning Project:

Burke Street Elementary School will use this grant to expand their gardening program. They will build two additional raised beds in their outdoor garden and work with the WVU Master Gardeners to implement a garden-based learning program on-site. They will host at least one family night and will promote their family garden plots. They will create small indoor aquaponics setups in each second and third grade classroom for winter months.

Project Lead: Dana Dejarnett,


Dig In Healthy Community Project:

The Dig In Healthy Community Project will organize a Madison farmers market, aiming for 15 vendors and 200 customers a week. The project will advertise through social media, local radio, and traditional flyers, banners and posters. The market will operate in a donated space. Dig In will also provide community garden space for at least 10 people and/or organizations that have no access to growing space.  Dig In will plow the space, with the help of at least 30 volunteers. The Try This grant pays for the tools required to get the garden off the ground.  The city of Madison will provide the lot, and WVU Extension Office will provide beginning gardening education to gardeners who want help getting started. Partners: Dig In Inc., WVU Extension, Porchsitters of Appalachia, Generation Saved, Childrens Home Society. WV State Auditor’s Office, Boone Memorial Hospital.

Project Lead: Forest Dolin,


Community Park Outdoor Games:

With this grant, children at two elementary schools will help choose and create new outdoor wellness opportunities at an active community park which also serves as the schools’ playground. The children will paint active outdoor games on the park’s concrete pad and will make a how-to-play video for each one, practicing collaborative team decision-making in the process. This project, sponsored by the Gassaway Community Improvement Council, will increase venues for community fitness programs already promoted by area health care organizations.

Project Lead: Lois Cole,


Follansbee Community Market:

The minigrant will help develop a Follansbee community market that will be both a public market and a business incubator in an area that has few market facilities. This market will pay for a tent covering for the market and water receptacles for venders and will help develop a public area where food demonstrations can take place.

Project Lead: Norm Schwertzfeger,

Deck Repair of Short Creek Bridge:

Vandals damaged two bridges on the Brooke Pioneer Trail, a popular biking, running, walking trail that links Wheeling to Wellsburg. The Brooke County Commission is repairing one. With funding from Try This, three northern panhandle trail associations will repair the second. Try This will pay for the materials, and the trail associations will supply the labor. Partners: Brooke Pioneer Trail Assn, Ohio Valley Trail Partners, Ohio Valley Trail Association.

Project Lead: Lenny Dewitt,


Water You Growing?:

This team created a model hydroponics program at Nichols Elementary and was joined by classrooms at Martha and Ona Elementary Schools. Despite the pandemic, students harvested several times, measuring, weighing and otherwise incorporating math and science. They will use the Farm to School program to sell greens to their cafeterias and will put together a “how-to” guide for other classroom teachers who would like to do the same.

Project Lead: Angie Kinder,


Try This Huntington:

Try This Huntington will more than double its garden space to 3,200 square feet, for 521 residents of the Marcum Terrace public housing property. Twelve gardening classes will be offered to adults, who will learn to grow produce and fruit trees. WVU Extension will buy lumber, seeds, and soil for three new raised beds and will host healthy cooking classes twice monthly during June through September 2021. Marshall Sustainability Department will start seeds, tend them till ready to plant, then help residents plant them. They will host gardening classes and mindfulness yoga classes in the garden open to all residents. A garden shed and two 8’ by 10’ meditation teepees (also serve as garden trellises) will be constructed, and meditation classes will be provided. Produce from the garden will be featured at six Healthy Summers on the Terrace events. Partners: Huntington WV Housing Authority, Cabell County Family Resource Center, Aetna Better Health of West Virginia, WVU Extension, Marshall University Sustainability Department, Facing Hunger Food Bank.

Project Lead: Shane Randolph,


Growing the Future of Local Food:

This project is aimed at increasing the amount of cold storage available in a food desert, Calhoun County, so Calhoun farmers can aggregate produce and plug into larger markets. The partners will create an 8’ X 12’ solar-powered cold storage facility that can operate with an LG 15,000 BTU air conditioner on a local farm. It will be available to other farmers and small businesses. In addition, The Outdoor Store has pledged to install a commercial refrigerator by May 1, 2021 and purchase 100% of produce from Calhoun County farmers. They aim to keep vegetables longer, showcase local farmers, and become a badly-needed small rural grocer. The partners will also build two raise bed gardens for low-income children to grow vegetables and learn gardening methods, and interface with local farmers. Students in the Calhoun County FRN’s Summer Feeding Program will add soil, start plants, and maintain the garden. Local farmers will donate seeds and will teach growing classes for children. Partners: WV Food and Farm Coalition,  individual farmers, Calhoun County Family Resource Network, The Outdoor Store.

Project Lead: Sierra Cox,


Farmers Market Expansion:

The Fayette County Farmers Market provides access to SNAP Stretch and Senior Voucher programs. The Oak Hill market currently meets in a large, open-air pavilion with no walls. making it appropriate for use from spring through fall. The Market Expansion Project will pay to enclose half of the pavilion with roll-up doors, making it usable most of the year. The grant will also pay for iuncreased marketing of the SNAPStrech and Senior Voucher programs at the market, drawing more customers.

Project Lead: Angela Perry,


Hampshire County Schools Farmers Market and Nutrition Education Program:

Throughout the school year, Hampshire County Schools will use this grant to help prepare children at three elementary schools to grow their own food and understand the need for a healthy diet.  At each school, grades Pre-K through 5 will participate in a school farmers market and a six-week gardening and nutrition-based curriculum provided by WVU Extension Service Youth Development staff. The curriculum, “Let’s Go, Eat, and Grow,” will teach students about the health benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables and provide the know-how to start growing and harvesting their own produce. Local farmers and growers will visit with the children to talk about growing food and farm life.

Project Lead: Shannon Ritchie,

Slanesville Community Garden:

This team will create a pollinator meadow next to the community garden and offer community learning workshops in the meadow.  WVU Extension will sponsor five educational garden days for at least 100 students, coordinating classroom garden education with visits to the garden. If visits are impossible, the lessons will be on video from the garden.  The team will use grant funds to set up a self-sufficient water system, using rain barrels. They will lay gravel pathways, and weed and clear the garden, and use the grant to buy maintainance tools, encouraging school and community participation. They have also committed to planting a small heritage orchard.

Project Lead: Candace DeLong,


From Garden to Pantry – Preserving What You Grow:

The Community Educational Outreach Service of Hancock County leads a multi-agency team that will conduct four sessions of canning classes, using the canning materials funded by this project. The team reports greatly-increased interest in canning and gardening since the onset of the pandemic. They will also conduct two sessions on dehydration, blanching and freezing.  A third round of two classes will cover preparation of jams and fruit juices. The team will follow up three months after.  WVU Extension personnel will teach the classes, which will be held at a county 4H camp.

Project Lead: Becky Weigers,


KMCC Youth Fitness Center:

The Kelly Miller Community Center Youth Fitness Center Program, located in a high-risk Clarksburg neighborhood, will provide school age students with a year-round fitness program, including  a weekly workout plan, martial arts, Kidding Around Yoga, and other physical fun activities to keep youth moving through each year (examples: Indoor soccer, T-ball, Basketball, Walk/Bike Family Club). Healthy food preparation and label-reading will be taught, and snacks & drink will be served through partnership with the Board of Education and City Parks & Recreation. From May through September, a Family Walking/Biking Club will allow families to get fit together. Partners: Monticello On-Going Revitalization Effort (MORE), West Virginia Prevention Solutions, Clarksburg Hung Gar Martial Arts School, Harrison County Board of Education, Clarksburg Parks and Recreation, Harrison County YMCA, Kelly Miller Community Center.

Project Lead: Sherri L. James,


Active (and Safely Distanced) Play Spaces:

16 schools, childcare centers, and adult service centers that serve low-income people will paint physical activity templates on existing blank play spaces and walkways, involving at least 3,500 children and adults in active, socially-distanced games and activities, some involving conflict resolution. Each site will organize a work day, involving at least 64 volunteers, to install the new features. Sherwin-Williams provided a substantial discount on high-quality, durable paint, allowing the $3000 grant to cover paint and supplies for all sites. Partners: Kanawha County 4-H Leaders Association, WVU Family Nutrition Program, Ruffner Elementary, Kanawha City Community Center, Cross Lanes Childcare and Learning Center, Dunlow Elementary.

Project Lead: Jessica Pollitt.

CVT Disc Golf Course:

Citing the limited opportunities for organized recreation in the Sissonville area, Camp Virgil Tate will install a beginner-friendly disc golf course on the grounds. Virgil Tate will introduce at least 100 youth to the sport and offer at least one disc golf event. Once the beginner-friendly course gains popularity, Camp Virgil Tate commits to add more difficulty and more physically-challenging holes to the disc golf course, to complement the current Camp trails. Camp Virgil Tate plans to attract 20 new volunteers in the construction of the course.

Project Lead: Jason Young,

Mountaintop Mentoring:

With this grant, the TaiChi Catalyst4Change will provide an active, intensive two-day immersion experience (Microadventure) for 15 at-risk youth involved in the group’s tai chil afterschool program at the Mary C. Snow Elementary. Aimed at reinforcing the program’s leadership and resilience development, the Microadventure will take place at a retreat center atop a thickly wooded mountain, a new experience for many youth. They will undergo intensive instruction in tai chi and other outdoor “green exercises” such as basketball and yoga and will have a daily hike with herbal plant instruction and evening storytelling and reflection with mentors.

Project Lead: Ron Wilkerson,


Nan’s Garden Extension:

Customers at Cafe Appalachia pay what they can for food. The Cafe provides culinary training for people in substance abuse rehabilitation. With this grant, the cafe will plant 15 fruit trees in the orchard that serves the cafe, create 2 bug houses and install 2 bee colonies. They will conduct Lunch-and-Learns for students from Montrose Elementary, South Charleston Middle School, and South Charleston High School.

Project Lead: Cheryl Laws,

Nan’s Garden Greenhouse and Hydroponic Lettuce Farm:

As part of an overall plan to create a recovery ecosystem within the Pollen8 environment, this project will add hydroponic and year round growing capabilities that will not only grow fresh produce but allow women in recovery to learn how to grow hydroponically. Café Appalachia will add a greenhouse and two indoor hydroponic towers and will offer three Lunch and Learns with West Virginia State University Extension to include winter seed germination and hydroponic growing. YouthBuild will provide the crew to help construct the greenhouse, under the leadership of a Try This AmeriCorps member: Project Partners: Pollen8, YouthBuild, WVSU Extension, Try This WV, community members.

Project Lead: Cheryl Laws,


Family vs. Family Healthy Choices Challenge:

The Big Ugly Community Center will provide at least 75 participating families with enjoyable, math-based cooking activities, delivered virtually, to do at home together, with recipes and ingredients provided. Families will submit recipes from their healthy cooking project, November through August, and ingredients for the “recipe of the month” will be provided the following month.  At least 150 photos or videos of healthy family food activities and physical activities will be posted on social media. Submitting families will be entered into a monthly drawing for prizes promoting healthy food (food processors, food preservation equipment, gardening tools) and recreation (badminton, volleyball, soccer, etc.)  Partners: Big Ugly Community Center, Lincoln Logan Boone Volunteer Center, Chief Logan Rec Center, Nutrition consultant, community members, Step by Step.

Project Lead: Marta Pate,


Lincoln County Community Tool Library:

The Fresh Start program of the Southwestern Regional Day Report Center is partnering with Lincoln County Extension and FRN, WV Food and Farm and other local organizations to create a tool and resource sharing “library” for Lincoln County gardeners, to be housed at the Fresh Start Community Garden in Lincoln County. The grant will help build a toolshed and will buy a rorotiller, weedeater, fence-hole pounder, hand tools, lopers and pruners and other garden tools.The team will conduct a community needs assessment and will provide gardening workshops and hold at least three community work days.

Project Lead: Elly Donahew,

Sustaining Mutual Aid - Community Response to Covid-19 and Food Insecurity (LINCOLN & LOGAN):

Grow Appalachia teaches hundreds of West Virginia families how to grow and prepare their own food. With this Try This grant, the Lincoln/Logan programs will adapt the six required gardening classes from in-person to 1:1 online classes taught by veteran gardeners. The grant also provides Step by Step with resources to expand community outreach and partnership development, allowing them to reach more people. It also makes it possible for the program to provide participants with baby chickens.

Project Lead: Marcelle St. Germain (Lincoln), & Bea Sias (Logan),


Logan County Farmers Market:

Logan County has not had a farmers market for several years. This grant will help start one by paying for construction of vendor stalls and display shelves. The team will collaborate with the Hungry Lamb Food Pantry to deliver 3,000 pounds of produce for the 2021 market, which will feature at least six vendors. At least 20 families will complete a healthy cooking class offered through the market, and a grand opening will be held in spring 2021.

Project Lead: Tyler Brewster,


McDowell County Canning Club:

With this grant, the McDowell County Canning Club will buy community canning kits which can be borrowed or checked out from a tool-share for individuals to can their food. This will allow them to go forward during the pandemic and be useful afterwards. The grant pays for pressure and water bath canners, portable cooktops, jars and canning guides that can also be used in required canning classes of the Grow Appalachia program administered through McDowell County Extension Service.. Individuals can “check out” a kit for home canning projects for a period of 3-4 days after attending a class, then return the kit to be sanitized for the next borrower.

Project Lead: Dana Lester,



Pleasants County Water Rentals:

Pleasants County Parks & Recreation will use this grant to buy watercraft for their new water rental service in an effort to provide sustainable water recreational opportunity and promote healthier lifestyles. Before writing the grant, the team consulted with a Point Pleasant team who did a similar Try This project. The French Creek water trail is a mapped and easily-graded recreational water path that provides four miles of water trails and a large bay suitable for classes.. Using already-established facilities and trails, Pleasants County Parks & Recreation will provide an affordable water rental service that provides kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards.

Project Lead: Daniel Najar,



Putnam County Paddle Cooperative a.k.a. The Paddle Co-Op:

This grant will greatly expand the ability of the Putnam County Paddling Cooperative to bring workshops to all corners of the county. The Cooperative offers local youth (and the young at heart) a safe and fun introduction to recreational paddle sports. This mini-grant will allow the Paddling Cooperative to buy a trailer as a mobile “boat-locker” to transport paddle-crafts to events, greatly expanding the number of events that can be offered.

Project Lead: Evan Young,


Trail Enhancements for Improved Trail Navigation and Enjoyment:

Upshur County Trails was formed in 2015 to improve trail conditions and create new trails in Upshur County. This grant will pay for a kiosk and signage on approximately 6 miles of trails on rural property situated on the Upshur County Recreational Park and Buckhannon-Upshur High School properties. Vocational students will create and install the signs and kiosk, as well as a wooden arch for the trail beginning. Signs will mark rail heads and directions at major intersections. Native plants, seeds, and rhizomes will be planted.

Project Lead: Rachel Weber,


Track Upgrade:

The Prichard Elementary School Track is the only child recreation location in a town that lacks a playground or community center. It is well-used, with students walking before school and riding bikes on the track. Community runners use it off school hours. The track is in such disrepair that the school principal called it a safety hazard. With the Try This minigrant, parent volunteers and PES Staff will upgrade the current 3,168 ft2 (1,056ft total length by 3ft wide) track by grading and fixing the surface and sealing the track after the upgrade is complete. After the track is finished, the school hopes to install playground equipment.

Project Lead: Kelly Bonar,


Grow Wayne:

This project will engage and install at least 30 family or community gardens by June 2021. The partners will operate a weekly farmer’s market from June – October, with participation of at least 7 growers. The project will provide six monthly educational workshops to growers involved in the program, with emphasis on organic gardening, cooking, and preservation. Partners: ACCESS WV, WVU Extension, Elmcrest Farm, Toms Creek Family Farm.

Project Lead: Lacy Davidson,  



A coalition of medical and non-profit groups in the Mid-Ohio Valley will work together with WVU Parkersburg to create a listing of resources that promote physical activity in their counties. Partnering with the Try This regional network, they will develop a shared website that all participating organizations can use to prescribe or refer community members to physical activity opportunities.  The Website will also include healthy challenges, an associated radio program, accurate information about health-related impacts of movement, and ways to incorporate movement and healthy habits into daily routines. Success will be tracked with challengerunner app. The team will meet monthly and hopes to launch the website by April 2021. Partners: Coplin Health Systems, Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department, Aetna Insurance, WVU-Parkersburg, WVU Extension, Results Radio.

Project Lead: Sarah Barton,


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