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Article from the... The Register-Herald

In 1966, Mount Hope High School said goodbye to a special class of students. Among them were future religious leaders, musicians, successful business leaders and an advocate for mine safety.

More than 45 years later, they re-united to form the Mountain of Hope Non Profit Organization with the purpose of providing educational scholarships and employment opportunities for disadvantaged residents of southern West Virginia. “We’re trying to “pay it forward” says Mickey Plumley, the organizations’ Vice President.

On a Friday evening in 2012, the group presented their first collegiate scholarship to Vernon Chittum of Oak Hill High School. U.S. Senator Joe Manchin presented the scholarship to Vernon on behalf of the organization.

The Mountain of Hope Organization was the brainchild of Rev. Charles McKenney who was a star running back on Mt. Hope High School’s football team. An entrepreneur and a reverend at House of Prayer Church in Jersey City, N.J., McKenney says he had always wanted to do something for his hometown. In May 0f 2010 he called a number of his classmates and fellow football team members from the 1966 Class AA State Champion Team and asked for their help in creating a charitable organization. The group formed an advisory board and founded the 501(3) C Corporation shortly thereafter.

Mt. Hope High School had integrated with Dubois High School in the early 1960’s and according to McKenney, the atmosphere was just like the one depicted in the movie “Remember The Titans”.

“The football team is really what mended the black and white athletes, students and teachers together and served as an example for the entire community to follow” says McKenney. “We were all equally poor and had grown up together in the small town of Mt. Hope. Race didn’t really matter to us and we had each other’s back if anyone was being verbally or physically attacked”. He added, “We had a saying that we were all brothers from another mother”.

“Back in those days, Mt. Hope was in it’s heyday. Coal Mining was booming and main street was thriving with business and social activities. It was an atmosphere just like the “Happy Day” television show”, says Plumley.

“With the depressed economy in the area today, we want to help out to give the youth of Mt. Hope, Oak Hill, Fayetteville and all of southern West Virginia an opportunity to further their education as well as create local employment opportunities”, says McKenney

Applications for the Mountain of Hope Scholarship were distributed to all Fayette County Schools in January and selection was based on academic achievement, community involvement and financial need. Each applicant was asked to write a statement about why he or she deserved the award.

“Vernon Chittum’s application was most impressive. He stated that he wanted to dedicate his career to helping others” says Plumley. Vernon is a youth fellowship director at his church and was also the recipient of other local scholarships as well. He plans on attending Concord University this fall majoring in business and sports management.

So far the Mountain of Hope Organization has raised funds through charitable contributions from the Board Members and others but plans on conducting fundraising activities including a High School Fashion Show this fall and a Gospel Concert next spring.

In addition to Plumley and McKenney, the original Board Members of the organization included: Rev. Matthew Watts, Ethel Cathy- Austin and Jerry Adams from Charleston as well as Phil Tissue, Dennis Keffer, Nathan Shelton, Rev. Bill Fruit, Jack Spadaro, Rose Payne, Carolyn Cheese and Sharon Bradley, all of whom resided in Fayette County, as well as Willie B. Pritchett of Ft. Washington, Maryland.

For more information about The Mountain of Hope Foundation visit the group's Facebook page.

Tax-deductible contributions should be made out to The Mountain of Hope Organization and can be mailed to Jerry Adams 109 Gettysburg Road, Charleston, W.Va. 25309.

The article above was originally written by reporter C.V. Moore for The Register-Herald of Beckley, WV

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Mountain Of Hope Organization
PO Box 323
Mount Hope, W.Va   25880
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