'Believe Appalachia’ aims to create change in Huntington

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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The sounds of people clapping and celebrating could be heard on Bruce Street in Huntington Thursday as a vacant home was torn down.

'Believe Appalachia' is a new partnership between AT&T and the City of Huntington, working to help fight the opioid epidemic in a number of different ways -- one of them being the teardown of three abandoned buildings.

It's in the heart of an area that has become known as 'Veterans Village.' Neighbors say the abandoned home had become a haven for drugs and crime.

"It's a God send that they are tearing that house down," said Rex Perry who lives near the home. "I'm real excited to see this," as he watched the house come down.

The tear down was just the first part of an initiative aimed at making Huntington a better place to live and work.

'Believe Appalachia' is a new partnership between AT&T and the City of Huntington, working to help fight the opioid epidemic in a number of different ways -- one of them being the teardown of three abandoned buildings. Nearly $24,000 is being put toward that effort.

The first was the home on Bruce Street. The other two will be torn down by the end of the year.

Huntington's Mayor Steve Williams says it is helping the city work toward its goal of tearing down 100 vacant structures by the end of the year.

The vacant lot on Bruce Street will eventually become the home for a local veteran that is homeless. It will be done through Habitat for Humanity of the Tri-State's Veterans Housing Initiative.

"In the near future, hopefully after this house is gone and demolition is complete, we will have a future veteran homebuyer that we will build a house for on this lot and continue the improvement of this neighborhood," said David Michael, CEO and Executive Director for Habitat for Humanity of the Tri-State.

Rex Perry was a recipient of one of those homes. He has lived in his for about four years.

The other part of the equation in this program is helping first responders in their efforts to combat the drug epidemic.

$20,000 is being used to help build a wellness center at the Huntington Police Department that will be used by police and firefighters.

It will be used to offer different services to first responders including mental health resources.

"Our first responders are the only ones who run directly toward danger when the rest of us are running away from it," said Mayor Steve Williams.

Andy Feeney with AT&T West Virginia says this partnership is meant to help lift the community and offer support to both first responders and neighbors.

"'Believe Appalachia' is the feeling of the people that live here in West Virginia and Appalachia region care about their communities," said Feeney. "We felt that that was a strong tie for this initiative that people care and and that's what this is all about. We have to make a difference and we have to do something in this community to make it better."

After the vacant home was torn down, employees from AT&T helped from Station No. 10 for the Huntington Fire Department.

Later in the year, the employees will be doing things like delivering meals to first responders that have to work around the holidays.