In the early 1990s, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Wheeling, West Virginia, resolved “to pilot a three-year program in rural West Virginia which provides people in need, particularly women and children, the skills and support to become contributing members of their community and to develop stronger families.” The result was ABLE Families, Inc.
The agency was incorporated in 1994, and Sr. Janet Peterworth, OSU, was named Director. It was a one-woman operation, and Sr. Janet started with little more than a mission statement in hand. She began with a basic adult education program on the second floor of a run-down building in East Kermit, WV. The program was barely off the ground when the Army Corps of Engineers announced that the building would be razed for flood control.
The Board decided to build its own facility in Kermit. A donation of property by the Mingo County Commission made progress easier, and groundbreaking was held in October 1998. The new building was dedicated on April 23, 1999.
With an excellent facility and more space, new projects and programs to benefit low income families blossomed. The first computer training program was inaugurated with four computers. ABLE Families partnered with Appalread, a family literacy program that utilized Americorps members as reading coaches and VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) as advocates. Two local women served as reading coaches through Americorps and one VISTA worked with the program. In 1998, ABLE became part of the Maternal Infant Health Outreach Worker (MIHOW) program with four additional Americorps, two full time, two part time.
A grant from Verizon in 2001 made a major computer lab upgrade possible, and training programs were expanded along with it. That same year, the West Virginia Governor’s Council on Literacy named ABLE Families an Outstanding Literacy Program. By that time, the agency had 15 full- or part-time employees serving northern Mingo County. Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College honored ABLE Families as an Outstanding Education Partner in 2000 and 2003. In 2003 Save the Children honored ABLE’s nutrition education program “Supper in a Sack” as a Promising Practice.
By 2005, with even more new programs in place, funding expanded, and new partnerships established, ABLE Families constructed a new Afterschool building. Sister Janet Peterworth received the Hova H. Underwood Award for Service to Children and the Humanitarian of the Year Award at the King Coal Festival in Williamson, WV. An article written by a reporter from the Washington Post generated a great deal of interest in ABLE Families nationally and caught the attention of donors.
In 2007 acquired its first mini-school bus from a generous donor in Pittsburgh, PA. Now the agency would offer free transportation home from Afterschool, allowing more children to attend. Sr. Janet received the Champion for Children Award from the West Virginia Coalition for Children in 2008. In 2009, she received the Jefferson Award for Public Service.
Sr. Janet retired in 2009, and Barry Hudock was hired as the new Executive Director. At the same time, the position of Program Director was created, and the board hired Sr. Patricia Ann Murray, OSF, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, to fill the role. In this new structure, Barry oversees fundraising, grant writing, program development, and administrative duties, while Sr. Patricia Ann supervises all of the day-to-day activities of the various ABLE Families programs.
ABLE Families celebrated its fifteenth anniversary in 2010. On that occasion, the board announced the creation of the Sr. Janet Peterworth Scholarship Fund, which will provide money to help local resident afford a college education. The agency steps into the future with plans to strengthen its existing programs and continue to expand the services it offers to the people of northern Mingo County.
In June 2011 Sr. Patricia Ann Murray, OSF was named Executive Director.
The 2011 Sr. Janet Peterworth Scholarship was awarded to Natalie Workman, a single mother who received her GED with help from our adult education tutor. Natalie will be attending Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College in Williamson, WV. Her goal is to become a Certified Medical Assistant.
The 2012 Sr, Janet Peterworth Scholarship was awarded to Collan McCoy, a 2012 high school graduated, who volunteered many hours for ABLE Families during his senior year. Collan will be attending the University of Pikeville, KY with a goal of becoming a high school teacher.