HUNTINGTON — When it comes to long holiday trips, there's one place most people don't plan to visit but end up at anyway, happy to see the familiar blue sign.
It typically reads, "Rest area, 1 mile."
Whether motorists are looking to stretch their legs, take a quick restroom break or are in search of a snack and a caffeine jolt, most seasoned drivers know that rest areas are the perfect place to do just that.
And while many travelers assume each rest stop will come with all those desired amenities, they tend to forget there's always someone behind the scenes making sure they have just what they need.
In Huntington, the rest area is maintained by William Hill, a native of the town he serves.
Located just a mile from the Hal Greer Boulevard exit on Interstate 64 eastbound, Hill, 30, takes care of everything from keeping the facilities clean and stocked to mowing, weed eating and, when necessary, shoveling snow.
Hill said he has served as the caretaker for this particular rest stop for the past five years and enjoys being able to provide a service to weary travelers.
"People tell me all the time that this is one of the cleanest rest areas they have been through, so that's nice to hear," he said.
In addition to the compliments, Hill said every now and then he runs into customers asking for directions, but for the most part he keeps to himself and focuses on the tasks at hands.
"I just like working outside," he said. "My favorite part is actually using the snowplow."
Having worked at the rest area for several years, Hill said he's found that the busiest time of day is from about noon to 2 p.m. Although he has no idea how many people come through his rest stop on a given day, Hill said it's always busier around the holidays.
Hill is employed through Goodwill Industries of KYOWVA, which actually maintains several state facilities in the area.
For more than 20 years, Alissa Stewart, CEO of Goodwill Industries of KYOWVA, said the agency has been contracted through the state to maintain a number of rest areas, DMVs and other state buildings in the four counties it serves — Cabell, Wayne, Lincoln and Mason.
"Most people think that Goodwill is just retail, but there are 163 separate Goodwill nonprofit organizations in the U.S. and Canada, and each of those separate nonprofits meets their community needs how they see fit," she said.
Even more unique than the building Goodwill maintains is its partnership with West Virginia Association of Rehabilitation Facilities (WVARF), Stewart said.
WVARF is a nonprofit company that manages work contracts between state government agencies and Community Rehabilitation Programs (CRPs), which serve people with various disabilities.
As part of the partnership, Stewart said at least 60 percent of those jobs must go to a person with a disability.
"It's a great way that everyone can be employed," she said.
While Goodwill already strives to hire folks with diverse backgrounds, Stewart said knowing these jobs are set aside for people with certain needs ensures they are given the
best chance to find a job.
"It's just a great program," she said.
In addition to maintaining several state facilities, Stewart said Goodwill maintains all public stream accesses in its four-county region.
"People have no idea everything that we do," she said.
To help get the word out about all of its programs, Stewart said on the back of every Goodwill building is a large sign that says, "I had no idea," and lists all the programs Goodwill offers.
"This way, every time somebody donates to us, they can see where their donations go," she said.
During this time of thanks and giving, Stewart said it's a good reminder for folks to see just how far their donations really go.