Often times, the national media creates negative stereotypes around Appalachia. Chris Dotson is doing her best to combat those stereotypes in every way possible.
As local coordinator for Williamson Forward, Dotson and local content writers use the blog to focus on the positive aspects of the area and move away from the negativity of large-scale media. “We want to take back our story and write our own narrative, instead of having someone else do it for us,” Dotson said. They spotlight local events, businesses, organizations, and people who are helping the community to move forward. Through Williamson Forward, Dotson hopes the community will see the positive aspects of their home and love it as much as she does. “I always thought people should be involved in their community and help it grow. You want it to be everything it can be,” Dotson said.
Dotson’s first step towards making Williamson everything it can be was Relay for Life in 2011. Every year her love for the event grew, and she decided to expand beyond Relay to explore her love of the community and helping others.
Alongside a full-time job, Dotson now balances being the President of GFWC WV Williamson Woman’s Club a member of the Board of Directors for Williamson Health and Wellness and Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce. She was also recently elected President of the Chamber and will take office on July 1st of this year.
Through her position as Woman’s Club President, she has ensured the organization's community presence through countless events. Dotson and the Woman’s Club host their Girls Night Out fundraiser every spring. The event includes numerous vendors, dollar auctions, and dinner with all proceeds going to the Tug Valley Recovery Shelter. They also work with Growing Warriors to provide Thanksgiving baskets for local veterans. “It’s so touching to see the results there in person,” Dotson said in regards to Thanksgiving projects.
Dotson said one of the lesser known events is the annual golf tournament hosted at Twisted Gun golf course. Dotson said although proceeds go back to the Woman’s Club, events like this give the Woman’s Club the opportunity to raise funds for their community work in the future, and the attention it brings to Twisted Gun golf course shines a light on one of the less-advertised tourism treasures of our area.
Dotson also serves on the Williamson Health and Wellness Board of Directors. Dotson and other board members help decide how the Williamson Health and Wellness Center grows as well as how they get involved in the community.
Dotson said one of the most rewarding events hosted by Williamson Health and Wellness is the Williamson Farmers Market. “Health is more than just medicine,” said Dotson, and this is exactly the frame of mind behind the Williamson Farmers Market’s vision of providing healthy, locally-sourced food options to combat the culture of unhealthy eating in the area. If you’re interested in learning more about the Farmers Market, check out their Facebook page or give them a visit on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 99 Third Avenue in Downtown Williamson!
Aside from helping to build a healthier diet and lifestyle, Dotson and Williamson Health and Wellness work to build a happier start to school for both parents and children by offering free activities and school supplies for students area-wide through there annual Back to School Block Party. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for the date and time of this year’s Back to School Block Party!
Dotson’s involvement doesn’t stop there; she also serves on the Board of Directors for the Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce and will soon take on the title of President for the organization . Dotson works with businesses and partners across the Tug Valley to promote the growth of commerce in the area. They also host local events such as the popular Coal Dust Run. Within the last two years, the Chamber has worked to include members beyond brick and mortar stores. Dotson said this decision has helped bring a true sense of creativity and partnership to the Chamber where members can explore the ways they can work together to better both themselves and the Tug Valley.
One notable example of this cooperation of members came from the recent Photography workshop; the program was instructed by Randall Sanger. Williamson health and wellness center provided workshop space, Mountaineer Hotel provided indoor space, and Williamson Woman’s Club provided refreshments. Dotson said workshops and events like this help draw attention to the creative and artistic side of Williamson, something Dotson believes is very important for appealing to a different side of tourism.
Dotson hopes growing the tourism industry in all aspects will help to break the stigma about living in the area. Having been born and raised within 10 minutes of Williamson, Dotson wants to create an atmosphere where kids like her own teenage son will want to settle down here instead of feeling like they have to leave to live a happy life. “I want people to see kids can grow up, go to college, move back, and still have a good life because it is a good place to live,” Dotson said.
“We have a tendency to reflect on what we did have and stop there. However, we need to look at what we have in Williamson and how we can grow it and move forward,” Dotson said.
All of the organizations Dotson is a part of work to advance our area based on this frame of mind. “My hope for the future of Williamson is that hope doesn’t just stay in small groups, but that everyone can see what we have here,” Dotson said.
Dotson is helping to bring that sense of hope to the entire community through everything she does, whether it be through a blog post on Williamson Forward, a fundraiser with the Woman’s Club, a community event with Williamson Health and Wellness, or a workshop with the Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce.