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Huntington honors Rosies

HUNTINGTON — Marie Scheff could do it, but she didn’t like it.

The 95-year-old woman was among thousands of women who took jobs in factories during World War II, replacing the men who went to war and oftentimes working on planes or equipment for the war effort. These women are now referred to Rosies, for Rosie the Riveter — the star of a workforce recruitment campaign who said “We Can Do It.”

Scheff worked in a plant in Chicago that made earphones for pilots. The work was soul-destroying, Scheff said Friday during an event honoring Rosies at Woodlands Retirement Community in Huntington.

“It was mind-boggling, to do the same chore day after day, month after month,” Scheff said. “It’s not to be romanticized. We had to do it.”

Keynote speaker for Friday’s event, Trevellya “Tee” Ford-Ahmed, said the Rosie legacy is more than stepping up to do “man’s” work or being caregivers or keeping things in order; it’s about putting all those skills together to be something greater.

Ford-Ahmed and 13 brothers and sisters grew up in London, West Virginia. All of her brothers joined the armed forces, and two of her sisters joined the Women’s Army Corps. Rosies are frequently associated with working in factories, but thousands also worked for the military — checking the science, writing the correspondences (as women had the typewriting and shorthand skills) and “making sure the bills got paid,” Ford-Ahmed said.

One of Ford-Ahmed’s sisters went to West Virginia State University for one semester before joining the Women’s Army Corp. It was her dream to go to college, but their father could only save enough money working in the coal mines for one semester.

“The only job she could get in West Virginia as a Black woman was cleaning houses, so she went into the Army,” she said.

Her other sister also joined, but still to this day, at more than 90 years of age, refuses to say what kind of work she did as she swore an oath to never reveal it when she got the job.

Scheff said Rosies are romanticized these days, just like John Wayne movies romanticized active war, but that’s OK. It helps the people who lived through those harrowing times rearrange their memories.

She herself likes to believe her brother, a Navy pilot, was wearing one of the earphones she worked on as he destroyed an enemy ship in the South Pacific for which he received the Navy Cross.

Ford-Ahmed said there are still Rosies today, actively using their unique skills as women to make the world better.

The group joined others around the world in ringing a bell at 1 p.m. to honor the work of the original Rosies.

Rule plans to retire from Cabell County Public Library

HUNTINGTON — The woman who’s helmed the Cabell County Public Library for decades is planning to retire.

Judy Rule, who is the library’s director, said she plans to stay in her role until next spring. A search committee met Wednesday to discuss the process to find a new director.

She first joined the library Sept. 5, 1967. Rule celebrated her 54th anniversary with the library on Sunday.

“I just feel that it is time to retire … I’ve always hoped and prayed that I would know when it’s time to retire, and it’s time to retire,” Rule said Wednesday.

The library’s Board of Directors, which is the search committee, met Wednesday to discuss the executive director’s job description and the process for the search, according to the meeting agenda. Board members also discussed advertising the job posting. The discussions were held in an executive session.

Any decisions on those items will likely be made at the next regular meeting of the board, which is Sept. 21, Rule said. A draft of the advertisement and job description will be discussed at that meeting. The search for the next director will begin after the meeting.

Rule said she originally planned to retire this year, but wanted to stay until after the new Barboursville Public Library branch is completed.

Rule became the director of the Cabell County Library in 1983. She started her first full-time librarian position with the library in 1967 after moving to Huntington. Rule studied at Concord University, where she worked in the college’s library, and then earned her master’s degree at Indiana University.

The library has seen several expansions and additions under Rule’s tenure. Earlier this year, the library system launched a campaign to match a grant for a new Barboursville library branch. Recently, Cabell County Public Library was named a National Medal Winner for Library Service. It was one of six recipients in the nation to receive the honor this year.

The award was confirmation of the good work the library has done, Rule said.

Rule said the coronavirus pandemic forced the library to switch to virtual programming, which is a service she believes should continue in the future, as it allows patrons to attend events when they otherwise may not. The library needs to build back after the pandemic and come back in a new way, she said.

Rule added that she would like to see the library continue to grow in the future. The next candidate should be a younger person who can continue on with the library’s values, she said.

“I would like to see the library continue to be an integral part of this community and not something [sitting] here on a pedestal,” Rule said.

Secret Santa gears up for another season in WV

The Secret Santa Foundation of West Virginia is preparing for another season of helping children in need during the Christmas season in Kanawha, Boone and Putnam counties.

The organization has been active since 1984.

“We want to make sure that people know about the program in general,” said administrator Katie MacCallum Nichols. “We’ve helped over one thousand children each Christmas, and some years we’ve topped two thousand.”

The organization’s board voted to cancel the annual in-person fundraising event in 2021 due to concerns regarding safety and COVID-19. Normally the event raises over $3,000.

“We didn’t want anyone to get ill from one of our events, as it would be a beer and pizza pairing and people would not be masked,” she said.

In the past, the organization received a private grant that provided for over 100 Boone County children, but this year, it was not extended.

Online raffles for restaurant and travel packages are in the planning stages to help fund the organization’s work. Specific information will be shared on the organization’s website and social media pages when available.

A donation link is available on the website as well via PayPal.

According to its website, the Charleston-based Secret Santa Foundation provides toys requested by the children in need. Each child completes a “wish list” of three toys and returns it to Secret Santa. The child is matched with a sponsor, or “Secret Santa,” who is responsible for purchasing the toys on the list.

Each gift is approximately $25. The sponsor is given the child’s first name, an identification number, and the child’s wish list. The gifts are labeled and bagged before they are delivered to a drop-off site by the sponsor. During the first week of December, the gifts are then gathered and brought to one central distribution point where they are sorted, counted and bundled for the parents to pick up before Christmas.

“The families indicate their child’s top three toy choices, so it isn’t just randomly assigned things and it is what these children actually want — and we try to fulfill those wishes up to the $25 mark and each child receives at least the three gifts.”

A Boone County native and Scott High graduate, MacCallum Nichols’ first experience in volunteering for the organization came in the 1990s.

“Technology has helped the process a lot since that time, but when you only see the process from the Madison end, you see already bagged gifts distributed to the families and when you see the backside of the process you realize the work that goes in through picking up and counting gifts at the drop-off locations and they are picked up and brought to a central location in Kanawha County and are counted three more times to ensure every child gets what they asked for. Then you understand the bigger picture.”

Today, correspondence with sponsors is conducted through email, which saves the organization a tremendous amount of postage costs. Volunteers wrap gifts and pick up donations at drop-off locations. Nine people serve as volunteers throughout the year. Approximately 60 volunteers help organize and distribute gifts.

“Our volunteers go to each drop-off location and we open each bag to make sure each child has three gifts in their bag,” she said.

“Anything that is donated to our program goes to a child in need,” she added.

Each year, toys for Boone County are sorted at the Madison Civic Center by approximately 30 local volunteers.

In 2018, 596 gifts were distributed in Boone County, 592 in 2019 and 404 in 2020 during the pandemic. Kanawha County saw 491, 493 and 414 and while serving just the tip of Putnam County, 12, 12 and 4.

For more information or to donate directly, visit wvsecretsanta.org and click on the “get involved” tab. Follow Secret Santa on Facebook at facebook.com/wvsecretsanta.