"One of the exciting things about this campaign is, in doing these community meetings, there's a tension that's prevalent," Smith said. "On the one hand, people are convinced it is very hard to get things done because they've seen the way people butt heads and there isn't progress and they've watched the jobs leave and they've watched the community associations crumble. There is a lot to be angry and frustrated about in the state right now.
"On the other hand, West Virginians are incredibly resilient and creative and have been making it work for so long that when an opportunity like this comes along . . . I mean, who are we? We're a new campaign — a few groups working together. The Healthy Kids and Families Coalition is made up of organizations but the 'Our Kids, Our Future' campaign is a loose network. Yet this opportunity of, 'Yes, I can be a part of something that has an impact and where I'm going to have the opportunity to express real ideas and do real things, and not just talk about it,' is empowering."
On Sept. 25 — the day after the symposium — the policy proposals will be presented to the state Senate Select Committee on Children and Poverty.
Workshops designed to help people learn how to develop policies are scheduled at the Dream Center in Beckley on Wednesday and at the Conference Center in Bridgeport on Friday.
"From the beginning there was a strong emphasis that this not be a Charleston-only thing," Smith said. "The Charleston symposium is happening because that's where the Legislature is."
Smith described the Beckley and Bridgeport workshops as Democracy in Action 101.
"We don't care about political affiliation. As long as you're willing to work and you care about having a state where kids don't grow up in poverty, come and learn how to make policy and win policy. This is especially for students, families, and teachers — people who care about the issues. Come get the skills."
Both workshops will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. "The morning will be two hours of policy advocacy and policy development, led by people who have a lot of experience working in the Legislature or on the campaign," Smith said. "Over lunch, half of these folks will get up and say, 'Here's what we're thinking about working on.' In the afternoon you'll have a chance to drill down into one area and talk about what the message is, who we should reach out to."
Toward the end of each workshop Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, the Senate majority leader and chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Children and Poverty, is scheduled "to talk about his experience as a lawmaker working with advocates," Smith said.
The workshops are free but registration is required. To register visit the West Virginia Community Development Hub online at www.wvhub.org/events-and
Follow the WVPA Kids' Health series in this newspaper or at