The Big Ugly Community Center in southern Lincoln County is the only public building (including grocery stores and schools) for a 30 minute drive in any direction. The Center was developed after a 1993 consolidation drive closed the building which was the area’s only school. Neighbors hauled water from a local stream and purified it with bleach to scrub down the walls to reclaim the badly vandalized building in 1995 and Step by Step has hosted continuous after school and summer programs for children since that winter. The Center also features a small computer lab, an extensive children’s library, a greenhouse, a jobs training crew sponsored by Coalfield Development Corporation. The Center has hosted over 60 full year volunteers, 100 summer volunteers and over 1000 college volunteers over the last two decades.
The Center is sponsored by Step by Step, a community education and leadership nonprofit will turn 30 in 2018. Step by Step has a long-term commitment to food security and has helped launch over a dozen after school supper, snack, summer hot breakfast and lunch programs in the area. West Virginia Dreamers is the organization’s framework for working with families to support their children from birth to independent adulthood and was recognized as a national model by the Pew Partnerships’ “Wanted: Solutions for America” initiative in 2002. Step by Step’s Grow Appalachia, after school and summer sites are key parts of Lincoln Logan Dreamers, a two-county effort to work toward a 100% high school graduation rate.
Big Ugly will include monthly cooking classes, plant and healthy food distribution. At the end of the 2017 season Big Ugly site included 37 families, collaboration with Head Start to encourage gardeners with young children, and community gardens tied in with Big Ugly’s after school and summer programs and that will be highlights of a natural playground being built in 2018.
Step by Step is also hosts the Grow Appalachia program in nearby Logan. Last year they had over 50 families and continued collaboration with two substance abuse recovery homes.
Together the Lincoln, Boone and Logan county gardeners raised over 146,000 pounds of vegetables in 2017.