Neighborhood Watch has been a recognized organization since its inception in 1972. Drawing from the principles of that organization, a group of Pocahontas County residents have joined forces to create Pocahontas Community Watch – a program which focuses on looking out for the people and neighborhoods in the county.
At its meet and greet meeting October 14, unofficial group leader Mike McKenney, who said he takes the lead mainly because “I have the loudest voice in the room,” explained the goals of the Watch group and welcomed community members who wish to help and join the program.
“Pocahontas County Community Watch is modeled [after] the books and materials from the National Neighborhood Watch Association which is put together by the National Sheriff’s Department Association,” McKenney said. “They provide standardized signage throughout the country and things like that. It’s kind of a neat thing. We use their handbooks; their signage; their modules.”
The national association has modules for personal security and disaster preparedness that members of the Watch group can learn, but there are also times the group makes its own modules, depending on what members want to learn and what the community needs.
“We kind of create them,” McKenney said. “We do a bunch of things that they don’t do modules for.”
Those things include training in how to read maps, use a compass, use of a handheld radio, knot tying and food preservation.
The group has also trained with other locals organizations, as it did in June with the Pocahontas County K-9 Search and Rescue.
“Some of the members went out into the backwoods and actually helped them search for a missing person,” McKenney said. “If you’re going to run out there and help K-9 search and rescue, I want to know that, one, you have a radio and you know how to make a proper radio call, and, two, you have a compass and know how to plot yourself on a map, so that if you find somebody you can call and say, ‘I found them,’ and you can tell where you are using the map and compass.”
Since March, the group has stayed busy with training sessions and activities that served the local communities.
“Early in the year, we delivered over a thousand pounds of food to Pocahontas County residents,” McKenney said. “We sourced the food, transported the food and delivered the food to quite a few families. That was actually a lot of fun, and a lot of people appreciated it.
“We picked up a lot of trash at Riverside earlier in the year,” he added.
McKenney explained that he and his wife, Brenda, noticed a lot of trash along the side of the road and brought it to the attention of the group. A group member contacted Mayor Sam Felton, who gave the go ahead and provided a trash truck for the cleanup project.
“It was a Thursday night – and the mayor asked, ‘When are you going to do it?’” McKenney recalled. “We looked around and said, ‘Saturday, nine a.m.’ We had fifteen people out there Saturday morning, nine a.m. It’s like, ‘let’s get this done and move on to something else.’”
The group is fast-acting in that sense and if it sees a need in the community, it doesn’t wait months to put a plan into action. It reacts immediately.
“The whole organization of the Watch – I think – is let’s go do it,” McKenney said. “Let’s not talk about it. Let’s take action. If it’s going to take fourteen meetings, we’re clearly not on a project we want to actually deal with. Let’s find something we can do to make a difference, right now, today, tonight.”
The group has also assisted Cub Scout Troop #33 with a cleanup of four miles of road, picked up trash during the Greenbrier River Race and painted the gazebo before Pioneer Days.
They also made first aid kits for members to have with them during events and have held training sessions to ensure everyone is knowledgeable of basic first aid assistance.
While the group does a lot of large tasks, the members also act on their own to help neighbors as much as possible.
McKenney said there were several occasions when a member or two helped individuals who were moving to get their belongings from Point A to Point B.
“I know Barry [Sharp] took one of the people over here at the apartment – I know they needed help to move her to North Carolina to her sister’s house,” McKenney said. “He actually took his truck and trailer and hauled her down there. It wasn’t his relative. We just helped other people who just needed a little extra manpower.”
It makes sense. The group’s motto is “Neighbors Helping Neighbors.” Several members of the group, including the McKenneys are transplants to the county so they aren’t as familiar with the area and their neighbors – a fact they would like to change with the help of the Watch.
“Nobody knows their neighbor anymore,” McKenney said. “You find out after the fact somebody is sick, somebody died, somebody’s been gone for months and somebody broke into their house and you’re like, ‘I didn’t even know they were gone.’ That’s a pretty sorry state of affairs. So that’s how this whole thing kind of got started off.
“We were just talking around to ourselves and said, ‘you know, there’s probably something we can do,’” he continued. “Neighbors helping neighbors. It’s not really just a motto. It’s kind of how we come up with doing things. Early on, we decided we wanted to do something that could actually make a difference in our community and get to know the neighbors and everybody else.”
The group doesn’t have an official membership and does not require a membership fee to be part of the Watch. All it needs are community members who want to lend a hand and be prepared to help those in need during the smallest of events to the largest disasters, such as floods, power outages and blizzards.
As for trainings, the group is always coming up with ideas, using the skills of its members to widen the abilities of all those involved. From weaponry to first aid to canning to butchering a pig, the group has a wide range of trainings under its belt and in its sights for the future.
The Watch holds meet and greet meetings the second Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at the American Legion Hall in Marlinton. Those interested in joining the effort are invited to attend.
“Nobody’s doing the things we’re doing because they want to be on the front page of the paper,” McKenney said. “We’re doing it because it can make a difference in the community we live in. You’re my neighbor, and if you’re in my community, it’s in my best interest to help you as much as I can as long as you want the help and you’re willing to meet us part way.”