The Try This team
Brittney Barlett has directed Try This since September 2020, with mentoring by the former director. She lives in Weston with her husband and 3 dogs, where she is active with community organizations like Lewis First. A former high-school teacher, she is passionate about healthy-community activities and oversees the Jane Lew community garden.
Try This Executive
Try This fiscal
Deanna signed up to coordinate the fiscal management of Try This funding, but she has been much more, a source of constant encouragement. A Weston resident and mother of two boys, she also directs the statewide alliance of FRNs and oversees 52 other programs for Lewis County that benefit low-income people.
Kate Long, an original founder of Try This, was an award-winning journalist before Try This began in 2013. She is basically going back to journalism and will be spotlighting inspiring West Virginians and their programs.
A Fayette County native, she lives in Charleston and loves to paint pictures, write songs, and make clay sculpture.
Melissa started with Try This as an AmeriCorps volunteer in 2018. For 18 months, she has been the invaluable Try This Administrative Assistant, the queen of spreadsheets. Melissa also serves as AmeriCorps supervisor. She lives in Charleston with three kids and a bunch of cats and dogs.
serving Try This
Laura Anderson has shown a real talent for media in her time with Try This. She documented the Lewis County effort to feed children during the pandemic. Mother of three, she is particularly interested in helping central WV counties coordinate land and trail systems.
serving Try This
Charleston resident Kionn Burt has contributed mightily to the well-being of Try This minigrant partner, Cafe Appalachia (see below). A talented media producer, he created a Web site for a Try This partner and has been an invaluable help to the Cafe Appalachia project.
AmeriCorps serving Try This,
Laurie Ruberg of Wheeling is a natural organizer with skills in many directions, who loves to connect people in healthy activities. She is working on a series of videos on hydroponics and helping the new Grow Appalachia team get the ball rolling.
AmeriCorps, serving Try This
Lexi Carder, a Pleasants County native, is also a student at WVU Parkersburg. She has already produced a video about an outstanding local food pantry and is helping inventory all opportunities for physical activity in the Mid-Ohio Valley counties. She practices what she preaches, exercising regularly and preparing healthy food!
A letter from the Try This director
Dear Try This network,
I can't say enough how proud and humbled I am to be leading Try This West Virginia. Try This has meant
so much to so many West Virginians, myself included. I've been graciously mentored into this new role, and
I'm thrilled to be steering this amazing ship onward,.with the support of generous funders, partners and staff.
And I mainly can't wait till I can start meeting many of you in person!
I can report that, despite the pandemic, the Try This network has grown this year.
Thirty-one local teams won minigrants and have already started work. See the descriptions here.
Try This has started down the path of setting up four regional networks. (The northern panhandle regional group has already won a four-county gardening grant!)
Four AmeriCorps workers have done wonderful work with minigrants and partners. All are inventorying physical activity opportunities in their counties.
Fourteen schools - 347 teachers - won grants to train their entire staffs in mindful stress reduction, thanks to a Try This/Mindful WV collaboration. (Mindful WV has grown into a statewide network. It began with a Try This minigrant in 2017!)
Collaborations are under way with several partners.
10 funders, state and national, have put Try This on good footing to go forward.
Try This media is expanding. The Try This Connections sessions have drawn more than 6,000 views, averaging more than 500 apiece so far. We can't have a conference yet, but we can certainly get online and enjoy each other! Former director Kate Long has gone back to being a journalist, this time for Try This, as media director.
Will we have a conference this year? We don't know yet. If we can't get together in person, we'll think of Plan B!
Yes, it's been challenging to take on the executive director role of a statewide organization in the middle of a global pandemic and all its uncertainty. But that's counter-balanced by the team of compassionate, energetic, smart West Virginians Try This has brought together. That includes those I've met online or haven't met yet - so I haven't regretted my choice to take this job for a moment.
I can't wait for the day when I can travel the state and actually meet you face to face!
Meanwhile, stay safe,
Spring 2021 note from Brittney Barlett
A few weeks ago, a couple friends and I dug up daffodils in Doddridge County to be used in community projects, thanks to the generosity of Beth Crowder.
On April 18th I delivered some daffodils to JoLynn Powers, Director of Adaland Mansion in
Barbour County, and got to see the Alderson Broaddus Rugby Team help Adaland help plant
their very own apple orchard! This project was sparked by a Try This minigrant, so it was
especially exciting to be able to see it unfold.
Try This funded an orchard, some planting and pruning classes and some take-home
seedlings. The Adaland crew also plan to convert a nearby building on the property into cold
storage and processing for an apple butter and apple cider operation in collaboration with
other local apple orchards. They want to make it a teaching experience for the community,
which is something they already do with their historical tours and learning exhibits
in the historical mansion and barn.
As part of the Try This minigrant, JoLynn distributed apple trees to the public, partnering with WVU Extension to create an educational video on how to do it yourself. The trees came with a quick run-down by JoLynn, an instructional packet, and a lot of smiles. But it’s not ending there! The folks at Adaland will also be distributing West Virginia apples in the fall with a canning demonstration, teaching folks how to make their very own apple sauce from planting the tree to eating the delicious results!
The thing I heard JoLynn say more than once as she hurried about directing folks, sharing knowledge with every
step, was: "This is what it's all about."
She's right. And this often happens with Try This minigrants. A seed is planted, then it just keeps growing.
A community coming together to learn, to create something bigger than themselves, can change lives. People
can get healthier and happier. And that's what's happening all across West Virginia right now.
I’m a personal example of this. When I moved to Weston just over six years ago at 24, I had never been involved
in a sense of “community”. I’d never volunteered or engaged in organizing efforts. But within my first year, after
securing a job as a teacher and finding myself struggling to find friends and meaning in our new home, my
husband convinced me to go to a Lewis County First meeting, a local volunteer group focused on making our
Despite dragging my feet about it, I went. And two days later, I was out in the Jane Lew Park drilling together the first of 24 community garden beds for a project I still help manage until this day. And it wasn’t until years later that I discovered that I had helped build a Try This project.
Since then I’ve been involved in two statewide teacher strikes, become an experienced community organizer, managed large community events and projects, volunteered multiple times a week in some capacity, and made connections in every county in West Virginia. Folks come to me now as a leader, and I know that I’m just one story out of 347 minigrant projects since 2014 that have fostered collaboration, created change, and lifted up new leaders who will do great things with the seed Try This has planted.
I can't wait to visit more projects and hear what other projects people are interested in seeing in their area, and I can’t wait to meet the future leaders who will make them happen.
You can contact me at email@example.com.