CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s opioid epidemic has created many vast and complicated problems. AT&T West Virginia isn’t looking to solve them all, but President Andy Feeney says they are willing to help do their part to help.
The company will give $50,000 dollars to the city of Charleston to help pay for razing abandoned and dilapidated structures in the city limits. The contribution was the result of a conversation between Feeney and members of the Charleston Fire and Police Departments.
“We asked what we can do to help, and they said abandoned structures. It’s dangerous for first responders and the neighbors. You’ll look at a street and there will be one or two abandoned structures, but there are eight others that are living and thriving. But those two that are boarded up create problems,” he said.
Often those abandoned homes attract the homeless or become a haven for drug activity. During the winter squatters will build a fire to keep warm and often the fire will get out of hand and burn down the house. Knocking down the houses at about $8,000 per structure is one way to stop the problem.
But for Feeney and AT&T West Virginia it doesn’t stop with writing a check. The company has a name for its program the “Believe Appalachia Initiative.” They made a similar contribution to the city of Huntington last year. Along with the money, AT&T pools all employees for a service project. They will do some much needed painting at city fire stations as they did a year ago in Huntington. According to Feeney, it was not only a service project but it became a team building exercise for his employees.
“They’re in different departments. Some are in the retail side, others are in the call center, and some are in the network side. People that don’t always engage with each other are out working together and actually laughing while they’re working,” Feeney said.
They also discovered while moving furniture to paint, the mattresses at the Huntington fire stations were worn out. The company pitched in more money to replace them. The same will happen in Charleston. The company will also make a contribution to the YWCA for its after school program and battered women’s’ shelter, both programs are overwhelmed by the opioid crises, but serve critical needs in the community.
Feeney says he hopes the AT&T initiative is copied and mimicked by other corporate groups. He hopes his employees set the example for others.
“We wear our ‘Believe’ shirts and hopefully other companies will see us and say, ‘Wow, AT&T is out here and we should step up too.’ Do more than just write the check. We work here, we have customers here, but we live here too and we care about the community,” he said.