November 2016 
Giving Thanks to the 2015-2016 Team
The 2015-2016 AmeriCorps year has ended, and we’d like to share our accomplishments! The members outdid themselves totaling 64,743 total hours served as of November, 2016. 1,656 volunteers were managed, with a total of 20,356 volunteer hours. Public lands improved includes duties such as prescribed burns, historic preservation activities, trails improved, and ecosystem restoration, totaling 2,647.25 acres. As for beneficiaries, 119,754 beneficiaries were served throughout the 15-16 year. Congratulations to our members and partners on a job very well done! We appreciate your service and dedication to the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area AmeriCorps program, and wish you good luck in your future endeavors!

AFHA Nationally Recognized

Hands-on-Team restoring Stuart Cabin (photo by Heather Brindza)

By Alison Thornton
AFHA Program Associate  

The AFHA AmeriCorps program received national attention for our efforts in conservation, historic preservation, and community development. Program Associate Alison Thornton spoke to Regional Officers and the Washington Office of the United States Forest Service about AFHA’s partnerships through the AmeriCorps program this October.  AFHA was also featured on the USDA radio blog speaking about the multiple partnerships used on historic preservation projects on the Monongahela National Forest, through the Heritage Program. Take a listen to the radio blog

The Hands-on-Team has partnered with HistoriCorps and the Monongahela National Forest Heritage Program for two years at the Stuart Recreation Area, outside of Elkins. These historic preservation projects include cedar shake roofing a large pavilion, painting, residing, window work, and a variety of smaller tasks pertaining to building maintenance.

AFHA’s diverse partnerships allow the program, sites, and members to leverage more hours, effort, and volunteers on multiple projects, which is multiplied through the AmeriCorps network.

We appreciate the support of our partners, sites and supervisors, members, and the communities in our 16 county area. Without this support, we would not be able to reach as many people or complete as many projects. If you, or your organization, are interested in more information on AFHA and the AmeriCorps program, please contact us at, or check out our website and Facebook.

Riders of the Iron Road: A History of the American Hobo

Ed Griesel walking the rails
By Jessica Marks
AFHA AmeriCorps Member

The Randolph County Historical Society had their annual meeting last week with Ed Griesel as their guest speaker. Ed Griesel first became interested in hobos when he found out that his friend’s father was a hobo during the Great Depression. This personal connection to the subject led to Griesel researching, educating the public, and wanting to preserve the history of the American Hobo.

The presentation went over what a hobo is and how they emerged into America’s culture. The American Hobo’s beginnings do not have an exact date, but sometime after the Civil War hobos started appearing all over the country. “Hobos, not to confuse them with tramps or bums, are people with a skill who travel for work, whereas a tramp wanders but not for work, and a bum neither wanders nor works,” Griesel points out. “This distinction is an important one to make.”

At the end of the presentation, Griesel handed out cards with different “hobo symbols.” These symbols are a secret code for the hobos and would have been essential for a hobo when traveling cross country. Ideally, a hobo would know most symbols and when arriving to a new area these symbols could save their life. If one saw a cat etched on a post by a house, that meant a kind lady lives here. But, if one saw a symbol of a circle with two arrows pointed to the right running across the circle, they would know to hit the road fast. Symbols like these would have helped a hobo along the road. Griesel taught the audience about a little-known group on the fringes of society, but a group that is vital to the heartbeat of America. As Griesel writes, “The hobo was a wanderer, a down-and-outer, who crisscrossed the land searching for good luck and fortune during a time when none existed.”

The Unbearable Lightness of Being an AmeriCorps
2016-17 AFHA Team (photo by Logan Smith)
By Tyler Winstead
AFHA AmeriCorps Member

The life of an AmeriCorps is one of active engagement and involvement within the community. Whether prone in the wilderness clearing invasive species to protect and nurture the nature all of the AFHA region and beyond enjoy, or sitting with town officials and concerned citizens at city hall meetings, an AmeriCorps is constantly striving to be an asset to the community at-large. Although our roles are scarcely known outside of our site, we are immediately identifiable by our lanyards, our pins, our shirts, and ideally, our enthusiasm. This, as we know, comes with the responsibility of representing the program as a whole. We are polite, tactful, and understanding at all times. But inevitably, all the tact in the world can be worn by the realities we face. So how do we cope when our ambitions and passions are met by the limitations of our position or the greater powers of external influences?

This article comes as no coincidence, as many of us first-year AmeriCorps have now had enough experience to get an idea of what is and what is not achievable, just how feasible our major projects might be, and how much work we can handle at one time. For some, this could be a very difficult time which, when coupled with the coming weather, may make for a depressing season. Luckily, we have a support network to turn to when feeling overwhelmed and even a handful of folk who have been in this position before. “I talk a lot to people,” says Kate Marie, a second-year with the Hands-on-Team, “You might even consider it complaining in some areas of the world, but it works.” Blowing off steam with peers is a catharsis for Marie, “If I talk through what I'm feeling, give myself some time to come up with a solution/compromise, I can usually work things out.” If you are struggling with ideas, second-year Alex Thomas stationed at the Woodlands Development Group suggests, “[Throwing] as much stuff against the wall as possible. Most of it won’t stick, but when one does, you can run with it.” Lauren Merrill, serving a second year with the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, echoes Thomas, “I have found [that] I have had more success when I have multiple small projects. That way you aren’t left waiting for that one email in order to progress your project.”

But for those of us who are left waiting for that one email that decides the viability of a larger passion project, a dreadful sense of powerlessness looms heavy. “You have to be willing to give up control,” says JoLynn Powers, an AmeriCorps since January, “it’s a collaborative thing.” Powers’ recently completed major project was building a website for one of her AFHA sites, Elkins Main Street, which involved creating many features that were later to be deleted or edited before launch due to suggestions and requests by her non-profit. For many of us, an alienating bureaucratic procedure often rears its thorough, if hindering, head. “A [developer] friend told me,” relates Powers, “that they pay you for writing, and they pay you for erasing. It’s not your baby; it’s theirs.” Breezey Snyder from the Nature Conservancy laments a similar sentiment, “You have to be willing to draw the line somewhere, as sad as that may be.”

AmeriCorps planting hundreds of spruce trees that will continue to grow long after these AmeriCorps have completed their service
(photo by Heather Brindza)

On the potential flip side of relinquishing control, “There are many doors to try to get your idea accomplished,” Snyder says, “you have to talk with everyone that you can think of who may be able to help, then ask them if there is anyone else they can think of.” Just as much as there is a system in place to filter your ideas or work, there is also a network of professional and service-minded people to lean on. “I don’t think our AmeriCorps position limits us, other than time wise,” argues Merrill, “If anything, it opens up opportunities because others want to partner or assist us any way they can.” She then reiterates an important point, “Rather than cope with a project not going well, it’s better to accomplish small things.” Snyder, too, offers similar advice that helped her with her major project, “If you’re feeling burnt out, walk away. Do something else, then dive back in.”
Experiences within the AmeriCorps program are obviously varied and unique. Each of our services are one in a million, a million times over (earlier this year, AmeriCorps reached a total membership of over one million members since 1993). Still, no matter your site or branch of the program, the impact made remains as significant as you want it to be. Instead of dwelling on the incompletion or impossibility of a project, the work itself is rewarding and can still serve the community. “Start somewhere,” urges Snyder, “you never know what someone else will be able to do because of the work you’ve already done.” Our AmeriCorps service is of course an empowering endeavor, but can also be a lesson in humility through the gradual acceptance that steps taken are just as important as stairs completed. Powers sums up the importance of working towards a goal without necessarily seeing it materialize, “An AmeriCorps has to be attached enough to do the work, but detached enough to be able to walk away at the end of the year and say, ‘This is what I accomplished and I am able to pass it on to someone else next year.’”

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Experience the heritage of your area! Sites of the Month spotlights events and locations within the region, based on AFHA's four themes: forestry, history, culture, and nature.

Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area is a 2300 acre camping, shooting, fishing, and hunting hub located in Hedgesville, WV. Covered mostly in Virginia pine-oak and some distinct patches of old oak-hickory, Sleepy Creek offers 75 primitive camping sites, a shooting range, and boat launches, creating a well of opportunities for anyone looking to get outdoors for awhile. 

The Allegany Museum, located in Cumberland, MD, inspires visitors to discover the unique heritage of the region and its contribution to local and national development. The non-profit, volunteer-ran museum boasts exceptional exhibits on local glassware, Appalachian folk art, the Kelly-Springfield Tire Company, and much more, all housed in a gorgeous 1930s Art Deco and Neoclassical style building, constructed by local architect R. Holt Hitchins.  
Shift is a modern Appalachian restaurant located in Frostburg, MD. Renowned for its delicious and innovative take on natural, down-home style foods, Shift promises its visitors a unique experience with its emphasis on a "non-industrial approach to cooking." Shift is well-loved in the area for its insistence on local only products, partnering with community farmers and shifting its menu depending on the season, but always maintaining familiar Appalachian dishes.
The Cranberry Glades of Pocahontas County is the largest area of bogs, or acidic wetlands, in West Virginia, a unique and exotic ecosystem on 750 acres. This spectacular and beautiful area was established by the United States Forest Service in 1965 to protect and preserve over 60 unique plant species, many of them descending from seeds that took root here over 10,000 years ago. Enjoy walking on ADA-approved boardwalks through this one-of-kind ecosystem!
Do you have a suggestion for Sites of the Month? Email us at: and let us know your favorite sites throughout AFHA!
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Our mailing address is:
Appalachian Forest Heritage Area
P.O. Box 1206
Elkins, WV 26241