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►  West Virginia rafting company to hold free trip on Elk River

A West Virginia rafting company is offering a free trip on the Elk River on Labor Day.

The nonprofit West Virginia Rivers Coalition says in a news release that outfitter ACE Adventure Resort will conduct the 3.5-mile trip on September 4 that will finish up at Charleston’s Coonskin Park, where a picnic with live music will be held afterward.

The coalition says the trip is open to kayaks, canoes, rafts and anything else that floats. ACE Adventure will have a limited number of seats on its rafts as part of the flotilla and will have a free shuttle service.

ACE Adventure spokesman Haynes Mansfield says the trip calls attention to the importance of protecting West Virginia’s rivers.


►  13 West Virginia counties owe $5.5M in late jail bills

West Virginia officials say 13 counties are more than 90 days past due on their payments to house inmates at the state’s regional jails, with late bills totaling around $5.5 million.

Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety spokesman Jim Messina says the past due payments has put a strain on the Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority, and an increase in the per diem rate to cover costs would hurt counties that are paid up on their bills. The RJA board will revisit the per diem rate in October.

County commissions currently pay $48.25 per inmate per day for regional jail inmates who are arrested within their counties.

Messina says counties get assistance from the Treasurer’s Office’s Regional Jail Operations Partial Reimbursement Fund to offset the jail bills.


►  Man builds wall with historic stones from demolished church

A Fairmont resident has helped keep historic church stones alive in the city.

The First United Methodist Church was constructed September 24, 1911 on the corner of Fairmont Avenue and Fourth Street and stood until January 20, 2013, according to DD Meighen. Its ground serves as the present-day location for CVS Pharmacy.

The church held many memories for the residents of Fairmont, and Mike Carkin said he wanted to “keep those memories alive for the people of Fairmont.”

Carkin moved to Fairmont from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in 2013. When he heard of the demolition of the church, he knew he wanted to help preserve the history for the city.

“Construction has been a big part of my family, and it has been passed down for generations,” Carkin said. “I have a passion for restoring things, so when I heard they were taking down that old church, it inspired me to do something.”

Carkin was able to work out a deal with the contractors, and he was able to gather a significant amount of the church’s stones.

“To see all of that beautiful church stone go unused, it would be an atrocity,” Carkin said.

Carkin had no plan originally as to what he would do with the stone, but as he was renovating his own house, he had an idea. Carkin envisioned two walls built with the stones in his own backyard.

“It is a shame not more of the stones could have been saved, but I just wanted to let the people of Fairmont know that these stones are being kept alive somewhere in their city,” Carkin said.

“I have always heard so many wonderful and happy stories from people about the church, whether their grandmother got married there or they grew up in that church. I’m just glad I was able to make use of these stones, and be able to share their beauty with the next person who moves into this house.”

Currently, Carkin’s home is listed for sale. He and his family are looking to relocate because of a new employment opportunity.

He said he put in more than 200 “man hours” using his own two hands in the construction. While it is not quite finished, Carkin looks forward to its finalization.

“My work is certainly not perfect, but it looks age appropriate with the historic stone,” Carkin said.


►  Former Olympian publishes book on bipolar disorder

After spending most of her adult life hiding her mental illness from everyone, including herself, Amy Gamble of Sherrard is bravely telling the world about her battle with bipolar disorder.

In her book “Bipolar Disorder: My Biggest Competitor,” Gamble — an Olympic athlete and John Marshall High School basketball All-American who played on scholarship for the late Pat Summitt’s Tennessee Volunteers — describes her descent into mental illness, which began during her freshman year of college.

The self-published book was released last week and by Thursday had hit No. 1 in Amazon’s bipolar disorder category.

Gamble tells how the illness, which also affects her mother, pitched her head first into a nightmare of highs and lows. While it robbed her of her dreams of playing Division 1 ball, it also helped vault her to the U.S. Olympic handball team, which led to traveling the world and competing at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. She was a top performer in sales for Merck, the pharmaceutical giant, but ironically her untreated illness plunged her to the bottom rungs of society. She became stuck in a revolving door of mental hospitals, doctors’ offices and even jails across the U.S., discovering deep-rooted deficiencies in the systems that are supposed to help the country’s most vulnerable citizens.

At the scariest point, she found herself wandering aimlessly at night in a snow-covered mountain forest on the Montana/Idaho border with only moccasins on her feet and a sweatshirt to keep her warm. She was hopelessly lost, freezing and not in her right mind.

“I am blessed to have survived,” said Gamble in her Wheeling office located in the Youth Services Systems building. After moving home and finally receiving the proper care, she is now the part-time executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Wheeling chapter.

She is a mental health advocate, speaking to more than 4,000 people in the past two years to raise awareness and provide skills to link people to resources. Most of all, she wants to give people hope that recovery is possible. She hasn’t had an episode of psychosis in five years.

“I think it was a miracle, quite honestly. I’m supposed to be here. I’m supposed to help people,” Gamble said.

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“I don’t love anything about bipolar disorder” is how she opens her book’s second chapter. Some people, she notes, say the manic stage of bipolar helps them achieve more than they ever could while stable. Others say they do their best creative writing during their depressive episodes. Later in the book she acknowledges she benefited at times from her hypermanic episodes, but the severe depression she experienced was horrific.

“I would trade all my athletic achievements and experiences for the chance to have had a life without the hardships caused by bipolar disorder,” she writes.

The hardest times usually came during and after what she describes as a psychotic episode. For her, the episodes occurred during a period of severe depression or mania. These were the times she was out of control, experiencing delusions and hallucinations. This is when her run-ins with the law occurred and when she truly was a danger to herself and others.

While these experiences stand out because of their severity, the daily havoc wreaked by her untreated illness took its toll in many ways — on her relationships, family, career, physical health and bank account, for instance. She has dedicated the book to her mother, her biggest fan, who always supported her. In the book, she also extols the virtues of her four-legged friends who always loved her unconditionally and stayed by her side.

“I cannot say enough good things about pets,” she writes. She currently shares her childhood home in Sherrard with her mother, her dog, Brownie, and her cat, Mr. Kitty.

Once she acknowledged she needed help, Gamble unfortunately was put on an inadequate treatment plan by a Pittsburgh psychiatrist whose name she changed in the book (although many other names she retains, including her siblings and friends, such as Libby Cosmides of Wheeling and pastors Tim and Linda Seidler of The Experience Church). She writes that she received therapy from 2005 to 2011 but only got worse during that time.

It wasn’t until after she was lost in the mountains in December 2012 that she received the help she needed at a hospital in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, the hometown of Patty Duke, who also had bipolar disorder and was outspoken about it. Once she returned from there, she began seeing her mother’s psychiatrist, who only made slight changes to the medications prescribed in Idaho because Gamble complained of sluggishness.

On her path to recovery, Gamble found education and peer support to be key components to success. She read everything she could about the disease. Until a nurse in Coeur d’Alene compassionately explained bipolar to her in detail, Gamble said she never understood what was wrong with her.

Now she hopes to help others understand. Her goal is to remove the stigma of mental illness, and further, to eradicate what she calls the “super-stigma” of psychosis. She is a trainer in Mental Health First Aid and speaks to people of all ages — she especially enjoys talking to teens and is dedicated to reaching college students because that’s the age mental illness is more likely to present itself.

After wrestling with guilt over her past actions while ill, she has accepted it as part of her journey. Able to safely dream again, her goal is to become a national speaker.

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Gamble cites her faith in God as giving her hope against the odds, and says her upbringing on her family’s Sherrard farm gave her an uncompromising work ethic and never-give-up attitude. She said at heart, she’s a small-town farm girl, and she’s comfortable living back in the Ohio Valley.

Toward the end of the book, she writes: “My journey had been about extreme highs and lows, with bipolar disorder running the show. Now it’s about living a peaceful existence and making a difference one person at a time, especially the person looking back at me in the mirror.”

She said it was hard to write about her darkest times, but her story is easier to share than some, because it has a happy ending.

“And really, the ending is just the beginning. I think this book will open a lot of doors.”


►  3 die in separate fires in West Virginia

The West Virginia Fire Marshal says three people have died in separate house fires over the weekend.

The office said in statements on Facebook that crews found the site where a home burned in a remote area of Nicholas County and bones found in the debris were sent to the medical examiner for identification. A cause for the blaze hasn’t been determined.

Another fire death was reported in Berkeley County. The fire marshal says a 69-year-old female died after being pulled from the home and a firefighter was treated for burns suffered during search and rescue operations. The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

Another blaze in McDowell County killed a 68-year-old female. The fire marshal said that fire was caused by a cooking mishap and ruled accidental.


►  Ex-police officer accused of beating woman in West Virginia

A former police officer accused of beating a woman in West Virginia is facing felony charges.

A former Bluefield police officer who left the department in 1994 waived the time limit for a preliminary hearing August 21 on charges of malicious wounding and domestic battery.

A criminal complaint filed by police patrolman B.M. Lambert says a woman told officers she was beaten by 59-year-old Ted Walter Hatfield at a home in the early morning hours of August 13.

Lambert says her face and clothing were covered in blood. She told officers Hatfield threw her down in the driveway, hit her head off the ground multiple times and kicked her in the rib-area. Hatfield told officers the victim fell twice in the garage after exiting his truck.


►  West Virginia bell ringing to honor ‘Rosie the Riveters’

A Labor Day event will celebrate U.S. working women during World War II.

The Charleston-based nonprofit group Thanks! Plain and Simple says in a news release it is organizing bell ringing events statewide at 1 p.m. on September 04.

They will take place at the state Capitol in Charleston, the Mountain Lakes Amphitheater in Flatwoods, the Harpers Ferry Woman’s Club, Pullman Square in Huntington, and at Rowlesburg’s Szilagyi Center for Visual and Performing Arts.

Millions of women worked at defense plants to supply the U.S. war effort. Their real lives were behind the cultural icon known as Rosie the Riveter. Thanks! Plain and Simple has worked to preserve their stories for future generations.

--> Tuesday, August 29, 2017
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