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PRICHARD — One elementary school in Wayne County will soon be able to resurface its running track for student and community use after receiving a grant to fund the project.

Try This West Virginia recently announced that 21 community teams from 17 counties in the state will receive Try This mini grants to help them create healthy-community projects. The awards totaled $65,000.

Prichard Elementary School plans to use the funding to refurbish its track, which is in poor condition.

“You have no idea what this means in this small community,” said physical education teacher Ashley Williamson. “As our community is small and rural, we need this area to give people a place to go to exercise.”

The track is used both by those enrolled at the school and by members of the community.

Try This co-director Kate Long said the group will also be connecting the school with a natural playground consultant so they can pursue their dream of creating a recreational playground the community can use.

“We aim to help local people make a big difference with a little bit of seed money,” she said.

The 21 projects will be located in every corner of the state, including new farmers markets in Logan and Brooke counties, a disc golf course in Sissonville, school gardening programs in Cabell and Hampshire counties, and kayaking programs in Putnam and Pleasants counties. A total of 51 teams submitted funding applications.

In Cabell, three Barboursville classrooms plan to use their grant to grow hydroponic greens and integrate them in math and science curriculum, both in person and virtually.

Since 2014, Try This has awarded more than $750,000 in healthy-community mini-grants to more than 300 teams in all but five of the Mountain State’s 55 counties.

“The teams that receive these grants will be building orchards (Barbour and Kanawha), helping new gardeners get started (Lincoln and Logan), and doing a wide variety of other things that make it easier for people to be physically active or to eat healthy food,” Long said. “Research shows that physical activity and healthy eating lower the risk of the chronic diseases, obesity and depression that land West Virginia on the worst health lists.”

Long added that oftentimes, the recipients of these mini grants are able to turn the grants into even more money by asking the community for additional help. For every dollar awarded, she said Try This teams have averaged $11 more in additional grants, donations and volunteer hours.

“The grants are seed money, usually between $2,500 and $3,000,” Long said. “They give local people a way to go to the County Commission and say, ‘Look what we got. How about matching it?’ or to the local contractor to say, ‘We got this grant. How about sending a bulldozer over to level the ballfield?’”

Luke Creasy is a reporter for HD Media. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook @HDcreasy or reach him by phone at 304-526-2800.

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