After years of familiarity with the program, I finally took the opportunity to become an active volunteer at the end of last July. Along with my daughter Carrie, I headed out on a Saturday afternoon for the six hour drive to Wyoming County, WV. Other than the few summer storms we encountered along the way, the drive was quite routine. Until we reached Pineville, where I announced my presence by colliding with a vehicle being driven by a local woman quite unprepared for the appearance of my car in the intersection she was driving through.

Even before any of us had unbuckled our seat belts to survey the damage, the great wail of a Civil Service siren sprang the small town into action. Within less than three minutes, a swarm of First Responders was on the scene. The volunteer Fire Department, which had fortuitously been holding a picnic on grounds adjacent to the accident scene, was quick to make sure we were all okay. They were unbelievably friendly; they even invited us to their picnic! While no one was injured, my car had to be towed away and I had no idea when I was going to get it back. Jenny – who along with Jill was waiting at the Pineville house for our arrival – arrived on the scene and took us to the house where what would turn out to be among the most memorable weeks of my life began in earnest.

From the time fellow volunteers got there and we joined those already there, a spirit of kindness and generosity took hold and did not let up for the entire week we were there. And that spirit was not confined by any means to the volunteers. Whether it was a homeowner in the County we were assisting, a VISTA volunteer we encountered or the mechanic who was so helpful in getting my car back on the road.
That is not to say that everything in that area is rosy; quite the contrary. Nearly every advantage most of us take for granted is absent there. One of the things that makes the experience of volunteering in Wyoming County so amazing is the grace and dignity with which those who endure so much misfortune carry themselves. There is a stoicism and strength of character about them which simply must be experienced to be appreciated.

Among the many memories I carry from that week were the nightly “Reflections”. Anyone who has had the privilege of sharing these with Dan knows of his fondness for a nightly theme. The theme of this reflection is :”You Can take it with you”. I chose that theme because for a long time after I got back to the daily grind, I found myself spiritually buoyed by the memory of my week in West Virginia, and by those I was blessed to spend that time with. Even now, and hopefully continuing to when I repeat the experience, I can adjust my sometimes negative worldview by reflecting on how, for all of its hatreds and cruelties, there is much beauty and kindness in the world, You just have to know where to find it. And I have found a bounty of it in the PV Program.

-Pat Wiley

Pat and Carrie are among the 19 members of the Wiley family who have volunteered with the PVs throughout the years, including three generations.