Active Southern West Virginia develops activities and programming to create a culture of exercise and physical activity in southern West Virginia. Transforming this region into a more physically active community is our main purpose. This vision is pursued through these programs:
Active SWV Community Captains
“A commitment to Active SWV is a commitment to yourself. When I promise someone else I’ll be somewhere to do something, I’m committed to showing up. Once I show up, I always feel better and I’m glad I did it”. -Joe Jett, Community Captain
This mission is achieved through community volunteers who lead regular physical activities around the four county New River Gorge region. These Community Captains are seeking healthier lifestyles themselves and experience accountability in leading groups. These volunteers are provided training and certifications to facilitate quality programs, while also creating the opportunity for Community Captains to obtain resume building qualifications.
Community Captain Lori Keller says, “I love teaching yoga because it has helped me so much both mentally and physically. The chair yoga class that I teach is meant for people who may not think that they are physically able to do much. ANYBODY can do this! I wanted to create a comfortable environment for people in our community who really need exercise and to feel better about themselves who may not be able to afford to go to a fitness center or even feel comfortable going to one. The atmosphere of my class is so amazing. I started this class to reach out to ALL people no matter what their physical limitations.” Read more here.
Community Captain Rene Moore says, “The free programs are a benefit to our population for so many different reasons. The greatest I think, is that it helps to have someone to be active with. It can be difficult to commit to being active if you don’t have like minded people around or someone to be accountable to. The programs also give families and friends the opportunity to try or “sample” new activities together such as stand up paddle boarding or snowshoeing without the financial commitment. Residents can explore classes that they may not have had the opportunity or resources to try such as yoga and Tai Chi.” Read more here.
Community Captain Wendy Scott says, “I try to remember all the individuals who may no be physically able to be active. We are not promised tomorrow. Use our abilities while we can. Just like we can influence others to do the same. I find motivation from other volunteers and Community Captains. Social media is also very motivating for me. When I see others being active and enjoying life, I want to do the same.” Read more about Wendy starting as a paddle board instructor and then leading a dog walking group in the winter by clicking here.
Community Captain Joe Jett says, “I love teaching Tai Chi because of the difference it makes in the lives of people. People come up to me after class and comment on how much better they feel, they feel calm and relaxed. It varies, but some people have had profound improvements with their joints popping back in place, and relief from pain. I believe everyone benefits some, and some people benefit a lot.” Read more here.
Community Captain Erin Clay says,“Physical activity is so good for people, not just physically but mentally. We have so many tough situations in our lives and when I see the change that can happen in someone’s quality of life when they become active I just want to spread that as much as possible. From postpartum depression to drug addiction and economic hardship – health and wellness can help you turn it around”. Read more here.
In our daily lives we face obstacles that make it difficult for us to maintain a healthy lifestyle, Lauren’s advice about how to overcome these daily obstacles and stay healthy is simple, “Make it a priority, I value my health and body so taking the time daily to be active is always at the top of my list. If you choose to make health a priority, then it’s actually easy”. Read more about Community Captain Lauren Meade here.
When Community Captain Charlene Diggs was asked what motivated her to become a leader and mentor in her community, leading the way for a more physically active community, Charlene responded, “With so much violence and negative energy in our city maybe if someone saw a person that looked like them being involved they too would want to get involved and turn that negative energy into something positive like being active.” Read more here.
Community Captain Kim Berry says “It can seem daunting to lead a group in your area or even to be more physically active at first, but I find that getting out there with a like-minded group of folks is just as addictive as popping open a can of Pringles, once you start you aren’t going to want to stop.”
Throughout his recovery he has championed the cause of walking and hiking for the sake of personal fulfillment, and nearly each day he employs social media to broadcast positive messages and encourage others to find their own paths. Over the last year he also joined the efforts of Active Southern West Virginia as a Community Captain, guiding walks and hikes, and he recently accepted the invitation to become a member of the institution’s board, helping guide its efforts to encourage residents of southern West Virginia to enjoy active lifestyles. Read more here.
Community Captain Teeya Mills says, “Frowns motivated me to help others make positive changes. I am motivated when I feel good and I am smiling. Being physically active makes me feel good and smile. As I began to see more frowns and people struggling with depression and addiction I set out to make changes.”
Community Captain Joe Gutshall retired from construction work to pursue a Masters in Science Degree in School Health Education and now working with Collins Middle School in Oak Hill, WV. Consider this your invitation to his annual Devil Dash 5k the Saturday before Halloween. Read more about Joe here.
Community Captain Hilary Nicolau was one of the first volunteers for Active SWV leading a weekly Monday Mile group. She was very successful in getting her family and friends running a one mile trail loop on a regular schedule. Hilary warmly invited first time runners to the group and always stayed at their pace. Hilary continues to volunteer with the 4-H Kids Run Club at Fayetteville Elementary School.
Community Captain, Kids Run Club Coach, and Active SWV Board Member Kate Miller says, “Set goals (make sure they are measurable and stick to them), find a partner who will hold you accountable to achieving your goals, reward yourself when you reach a milestone (but not with cake), schedule physical activity into your day, make sure you enjoy whatever you are doing to get in shape, remember that fitness is a lifelong process (you never just arrive), your body is your temple – your vehicle through life…it is a gift…honor it – the better you treat it, the better it will treat you. I could go on and on with ways to overcome obstacles, but in the end, it is a mindset. You have to make yourself a priority.”
Community Captain Autumn Bess says, “No matter where you are at in your journey there are people out there who you will inspire. You might be just what they needed. Share your journey. Stop thinking about becoming physically active and do something – today…right now. It might be a stretch or walking a few steps. Just do it…and do a little bit more tomorrow…and the next day. Don’t compete with the world…….just work on being a better you each and every day.“ Read more here.
Community Captain Abby Barrett says, “If you are thinking about becoming a Community Captain and are nervous that you don’t have the time or resources to organize an Active SWV group, the Active SWV staff are wonderful and will patiently guide you in any way that they can. It has been a very rewarding experience to see the accomplishments of the Active SWV Montgomery training team from the beginning of their training all the way up to the Jingle Bell 5k we ran in December. Even if you are not interested in becoming a Community Captain, joining a community group is a great way to make new friends and get the support you need to reach your physical activity goals.” Read more here.
Community Captain, Training Team Coach, and Active SWV Board Member Missy Burleson has been with the organization from the beginning. She is a great example of working towards certifications in order to offer more skills to her participants. Missy is great at motivating new runners towards 5K goals! Read more here.
These are just a few of the Community Captains that have made a huge impact on the communities around them. Additional volunteer Community Captains are; Garrett Leggit, Mathew Bailey, Amy Thomas, Jean Evansmore, Sue Slater, Melissa Grey, Terry Hoskins, and Kathy Garencer.
The participants of the Community Captain programs are heroes themselves for overcoming barriers to a more active lifestyle. Each commitment to joining a program is a success and when a habit of physical activity is created, the success is life changing. Please help us in celebrating these successful individuals.
Meet participant of the month, Karen Bowyer from Mount Hope. Karen joined the Bradley/Prosperity Morning Mile walking group for 1 year in April. Karen started walking because her orthopedist recommended exercise to help her arthritic knee. She says the Active SWV walking group “gets me out every Saturday morning because it’s my ‘appointed time’ for exercise”. She also has started walking during the week, aside from the group helping her stay consistent it also is something that she enjoys. “I enjoy talking to the others while we walk, it makes the time fly by”.
A special message from Community Captain Levi Moore; “Karen, the girls and I are both fortunate to have met you and proud of you for what you’ve accomplished. You’ve been involved with the Morning Mile for one year now and have walked many, many miles with us. Not only have you motivated yourself to be more active, but you’ve been the motivating force in getting loved ones active as well. You are our most dedicated participant, but more than that, you’ve become a friend as well. The Bradley/Prosperity Morning Mile would not be what it is today without you. Thank you from all of us and congratulations on your one year anniversary,” said Community Captain, Levi Moore.
Aletha Stolar has been participating in Active SWV Community Captain programs since 2016 and is training to become a Community Captain herself.
“I enjoy being active and I like learning new ways to do that. Variety is the spice of life, right? When the opportunity came to take a free Tai Chi class from Active Southern WV Community Captain, Joe Jett; I jumped on the opportunity. In the past, I tried learning Tai Chi from a book. It just didn’t work for me. Having Joe talk us through the forms and modeling the moves made all the difference! I immediately felt the stirring of energy and the beauty of the feel that comes with doing the movements – past and future melt away as I stay in the moment of each move. I think I did three, one-hour classes of Tai Chi Qi Gong this past Fall.
When the opportunity came to do a free, 12-week series this new year on Tai Chi Yang style with Joe; I once again jumped on the opportunity. We just completed seven of 12 classes on Thursday, February 23. My balance has improved along with a sense of accomplishment and well being. Active Southern WV recently began recruiting volunteers for Community Captains for their initiative – Get Active in the Park. Because I love Tai Chi and what it’s given to me, I want to share that opportunity with others as a Community Captain. I want to give back for what has been given to me for free. The least I can do is to step up as a volunteer. “
Linda has been regularly attending the Active SWV Oak Hill Beginner Tai Chi program and Dan was able to catch the last October Tai Chi program this past Wednesday.
Dan Doyle had this to say after attending his first Active SWV Tai Chi program:”I have to do it in a group to learn. It’s a great start I love Tai Chi, I feel like I have been doing it for a thousand years.”
Linda Stein says:”I really enjoy it, I really appreciate that this is here.
Joe is great teacher, very kind, patient and supportive. It’s been easy to come and participate.”
Zach Nunally and Bill Bergendahl of Mount Hope have been nominated as participants of the month by Community Captain Jean Evansmore. They are both members of the Mt. Hope Walking Group.The group meets Monday through Friday at 7:30am at DuBois on main in Mt. Hope. The group has been walking together for over a year.
Zach Nunally, (Left in picture) recently joined the group because he says, “I enjoy staying active by walking through the beautiful town of Mt Hope, enjoying the views I’ve known for a while, and exploring the places I’ve never seen. It is easy to be committed to exercise when I incorporate other things that I love to do.”
Bill Bergendahl, (Right in picture) has been walking with this group for over a year, he walks rain or shine. He also is in charge of the music; the group walks to classic tunes every morning, it is a real treat. Community Captain Jean Evansmore says that she gets her motivation to walk from the group, they help her stay on track, and say yes to walking, even in the pouring rain!
Geneva Hall from Edmond, WV has been nominated as participant of the month by Community Captain Sue Slater. Geneva is a member of the Trail to a New You Walking Group that meets every Saturday morning at 9 am to walk on the Midland Trail High School Track. The group started in early summer and has become a great way for members to get healthy while socializing. Geneva Hall says she joined because, “there is good company and it helps me stay healthy.”
Sara Beth Mattis has been nominated for July Participant of the Month by Hinton Walking Group Community Captain Kim Berry. Sara Beth joined the group to become more active not only for herself but for her family. Sara Beth is a full time mom as well as a photographer for Mountain Plex Properties. Community Captain Kim Berry says “Sara Beth is a delight to be around”. Sara Beth has been a motivated and consistent participant, for this reason we thank her for joining Active SWV Hinton Walking Group.