Reflection: Mirror, Mirror

By Cynthia D. Ellis

An anniversary year calls for taking stock of where we are—and who we are.  We could be inclined to wonder about the state of our group.  We might want to look in the mirror.

We believe that we are doing well.  And if it is not possible to hold up a mirror to see ourselves, we can examine some numbers.

Membership can be one indicator of the health of an organization.

We have members in 43 states.  We have lots of members in these states:  Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and [of course] West Virginia.  We have members in the District of Columbia, and so, for the most part, we are holding steady in enrollment of friends in our own and border states.  We have double digit members in California, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, New York, and Oregon.  We have 2 members in Hawaii—aloha! and 3 in Alaska—waqaa!  [That last greeting is just a single example of many tribal salutations; hope no one feels slighted.]  In 15 states, we have lonely members…in each, just one friend of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.    Maybe you know someone to join our solitary friends in Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. Hey!  I realized that I know someone in one of those!  I need to urge them to give a gift membership to a friend or neighbor.  There are seven states that are not presently represented.  If you are reading this in Nebraska, Vermont, North Dakota, Idaho, Alabama, Arizona, or Mississippi—well, join us!  We offer trial memberships; so, check us out.

In our home state, we have members in 51 of the 55 counties.  Our support here is strongest in Kanawha and Monongalia Counties; Randolph and Jefferson are stalwarts too.  We also do well in Cabell, Pocahontas, Tucker, Upshur, Greenbrier, and Wood Counties.  We’d like to recruit folks in Doddridge, Wyoming, McDowell, and Braxton Counties; and there are solo folks in Wetzel and Wirt who would enjoy having company.

The unique and present nature of our group makes it difficult to look beyond the numbers to tell more about who we are.  We are a far-flung gang, with all the modern complications that hinder easy gatherings.  So, we see each other only sometimes [or not at all]. The Excel spreadsheet doesn’t tell us much about details and demographics.  We tend to think we are a graying bunch, but just when we think so, we make a Highlands connection with someone not so gray and find out we have youthful partners after all.  Our newsletter, “The Highlands Voice,” might help in seeing who we are. The Voice enjoys a robust readership.  If editor John McFerrin does not get all the print and electronic feedback he might seek, others of us can chime in with some.  At quarterly board meetings, it is rare to not have some issue prompted or complemented by the observation that someone had read The Voice and gotten back to us in some way.

The Voice is quirky, inimitable, and reliably informative.  It obviously appeals to a wide audience of those of us who depend upon its presentations of outdoor, legislative, and conservation matters.  And poems.  And reader opinions.  It would be tough to picture a “typical” reader of our newsletter, but there must be some common thread that draws us all to keep on dipping into the pages.  So, in our 50thyear, we are united in our readership.

Because social media is so inescapable, we could look at demographics at that source.  We cannot sift out dues-paid members there from those who just “like” us, but we can get a glimpse of who stops by on the internet.  There, 56% of our fans are women and we are most visited by folks ages 35-44!  Not so gray!   We have friends in the U.S. and 44 other countries.  We are resolved to draw these cyber-friends into the fold.

But for now, here’s to us all.  Three Cheers.  Look in a mirror and raise a glass or a mug; a bottle or a jug…and salute all 1400 of us members of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy!  Igamsiqanaghhalek!  [Another Alaskan tribal phrase; this time it is “Thanks”!]