* Editor's Note: The following article is part of the West Virginia Press Association's series on the "Our Children, Our Future" Coalition. Journalist George Hohmann is following the coalition's efforts, providing reports from its organizational meetings through its attempts to have impactful legislation passed during the 2014 session of the West Virginia Legislative Session.
The 229 activists who attended the "Our Children, Our Future" workshops in Beckley and Bridgeport in late August were taking the first steps in what they hope will be a statewide movement to battle child poverty in West Virginia; however, they have big challenges ahead.
Organizers of this grassroots movement want state legislative approval next session for policies targeting what they see as the issues creating child poverty in West Virginia.
They cast a remarkably wide net to garner initial support. The West Virginia Coalition for Healthy Kids and Families and the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy sponsored the workshops under the "Our Children, Our Future" banner. The Beckley workshop had 35 co-sponsors; the Bridgeport workshop had 40.
People had many reasons for attending the workshops. Stephen Smith, executive director of the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, said, "Some of you are here for one issue. Others are here to gain skills and might have a couple of things you hope to change. Some of you are here for free food. And some of you are here to build something bigger."
The workshops examined 13 issues ranging from substance abuse policies to how to get an earned income tax credit enacted in West Virginia.
Several more issues may bubble up before the next formal event: A day-long symposium in Charleston on Sept. 24, followed with presentations to the Senate Select Committee on Children and Poverty on Sept. 25.
Activists who want to keep their issue on the table have been given a robust list of things they must do. They've been asked to: