Community improvement work is grounded in relationships. In Doddridge County, WVU Extension Agent Zona Hutson is always working to connect people, organizations, and causes to improve the quality of life for residents.

In her work with WVU Extension, Hutson spearheads the 4-H program, and she serves on the advisory board of the Doddridge County Community Foundation (DCCF). “My organization benefits greatly from the Foundation, and I want people to know about it,” says Hutson.

Hutson’s predecessor, Everett Leggett, first advised 4-H to learn about the Community Foundation. There, he said, they would find a long-term partner for community support. “At first, I didn’t fully understand the Foundation,” Hutson admits. “After learning more, 4-H established an endowment at the Community Foundation.” This Fund now benefits from being part of a larger investment pool with greater returns. The earnings on the endowment provide support for 4-H members to attend state and national programs, among other things.

Through the Foundation’s annual Give Local MOV campaign, Hutson saw the impact of organizations working together to seek community support. Give Local MOV is a 24-hour online giving program. Organizations that benefit from an endowment at the Foundation are eligible to participate, and the Foundation raises funds to match gifts made that day. “Having people donate $50 or $100 dollars online and seeing those gifts matched - it seemed too good to be true!” said Hutson. But to her delight, 4-H achieved great success in their first year of participation. “We were so excited,” said Hutson. “We raised $11,000 in one day!”

As an advisory board member for the DCCF, Hutson now knows in detail how the Foundation can help people create a legacy for their community. “The Doddridge County Community Foundation is a great place for you to invest,” Hutson explains. “If you want to contribute to your community this is the way.”

Hutson explains that DCCF’s partnership with the Parkersburg Area Community Foundation is a huge asset. As an affiliate, the Doddridge County Community Foundation benefits from regional administrative, investment and staff resources, enabling the local advisory board to focus on building funds for its county.
“Several years ago, a group of 4-H kids applied for a Parkersburg Area Community Foundation grant to replace mattresses at the 4-H camp. They received $10,000,” said Hutson. Over the past decade, working together, the Foundation and its Doddridge County affiliate have awarded more than $390,000 to Doddridge County programs and causes.

Recent grants include $4,000 to Doddridge County Community Educational Outreach Services (CEOS) to support the development of a Heritage Art Quilt Trail. The hand-painted quilt blocks produced through the project were placed at or near historically significant sites throughout the county. The project celebrates the community’s heritage and hopes to draw tourists to the county. Thanks to a $500 recent mini-grant from the Foundation, the CEOS are now developing a brochure to publicize the quilt trail.

“What I like so much about the Foundation’s grantmaking process: It’s well organized. They help with the entire process. There is an accountability to the whole process. You can trust them to share resources in a fair and equitable way. You know that donors’ dollars are being used in the right way,” said Hutson.

Through her work with the Doddridge County Extension office, 4-H, and the Community Foundation, Hutson binds together many people and organizations working to improve Doddridge County. This is the best way that she knows of to build a positive future for residents and to provide and to protect their quality of life.

“You know I’m very fortunate. When you work in a community of 8,000 people, it’s easy to make a difference, and I encourage others to make a positive difference too.”