For The Times Leader
Not long ago I was asked to write up the monthly selections we call, "Hey, That's My Neighbor". This month's selected "Neighbors" are Don and Angela Feenerty.
DON?AND?Angela Feenerty are shown above as they participate in a local Civil War reenactment. The couple lives just outside of Martins Ferry and often can be found caring for their numerous animals and, always working for the “”greater good”?of the community and the world by living a life where they have “never met a stranger.”
The couple have long been residents of the Martins Ferry area and are the kind of people who again and again are found to be among the ranks of those who quietly get positive things done in the community around them.
In the case of Don and Angela Feenerty, it seems their "neighborhood" covers quite a bit of territory, and includes connections found through the vast expanses of cyberspace.
The longer one is around this couple the clearer their dedication to each other and to improving the general quality of life around them for as many people as possible becomes clear.
Having lived initially inside the City of Martins Ferry, and more recently residing on a small farm on Jones Road just outside official map boundaries of the city, the make-up of their surrounding neighborhood literally changed overnight.
"We lived in a neighborhood in Martins Ferry. We had neighbors. However, when we moved to the country we found we had no immediate neighbors in the traditional sense, and so decided it was a great opportunity to get create a whole new circle of neighbors and friends," reflected Feenerty.
"Unlike a lot of people, I do not go to work in an office everyday from 9 to 5. My office is here at home - at our farm," he said, referring to the initial freedom that comes with his career as a commercial photographer and the scheduling flexibility it often affords.
Much of the work Angela does is also home based, but through her web-based projects the couple's neighborhood quite literally now reaches all the way from Belmont County to a rural section of China.
Much of their collected knowledge about organic farming and textile crafts has come via research on the Internet, through social networking and other technology based opportunities.
Angela grew up in Kentucky.
Don grew up in Wheeling.
As a resident of the City of Martins Ferry, Don found himself stepping up in a very public way when a situation in his immediate home neighborhood was brought to local political leaders to resolve.
This was their introduction to the world of community service and to opportunities which ultimately have a positive impact on life in their community through seemingly small personal actions initially undertaken by just one or two people.
"We chose to get involved," he offered, when asked to reflect on what it takes to be a good neighbor.
"When we moved to the farm Ange, actually said as much, that we would have to choose things to do to get involved with or we would spend all our time sitting up on our hill," he said.
Since making their definitive move to the farm several years ago they have come to find themselves at the center of a unique neighborhood: one which is almost always in a state of expansion - with arms at times reaching around the globe even as far as rural communities in China.
The pair is well known for seeing the positive things which come from everyday efforts by individuals working for what is still today called "the greater good." Not surprising for a couple who candidly offer a glimpse into their outlook on the world through this simple statement: "We never met a stranger."
Don became a familiar face to many in the region's photography clubs and organizations during the 1980s and 1990, largely as a result of his willingness to work with all levels of those interested in photography through his job at Kirk's Photography in downtown Wheeling, work with several photography clubs and competitions, and what proved to be the foundation of his current professional career.
A passion for all things connected to the world of photography - individually and commercially - led him to earning a standing as a successful commercial photographer with a broad customer base, but one which includes a great deal of work shared with "neighbors" in support of community betterment efforts.
He has also enjoyed opportunities to teach and to lecture at several local colleges.
Their home on Jones Road is not a place overly populated with neighbors in the traditional sense, but it is often seen as the center of a very busy community reaching from just down the road, to across the river, to the other side of the country and around the world.
Don's service to the community at large has often come through his accepting invitations to serve the community through such structures as the Martins Ferry Health Department, the Pease Township Park District Board of Trustees, as an instructor at Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy, West Liberty State College, West Virginia Northern Community College and service on its Foundation Board and more.
The couple have been responsible for successful grant writing projects that have helped fund various dance projects across the region that have been designed to keep traditional forms of dancing being enjoyed in the community, and have allowed for a connection to the region and the nation's historic periods and the role social dances and community interaction played in their growth.
They founded the local entity known as The Heritage Dance Association, and have been active in integrating dance demonstrations into an increasing number of regional heritage festivals, including the well known Fort Henry Days grand encampment and battle reenactment held annually over Labor Day at Oglebay Park. They actively participate in the local dance club called the Ohio Valley Promenaders, advocating both the social and physical health benefits that come with stepping out on a dance floor regularly with friends simply for the fun of it. They are also regular supporters of Swing dancing classes at the community level, having helped find funding sources.
Angela's personal passion for vintage and period clothing, for creating new items from old, and for adding her personal touch to any number of types of textile treasures she makes available on the internet among loyal customers both local and from across the globe.
Many of her "neighborhood friendships" that reach out well beyond the boundaries are built initially on mutual efforts to unearth genealogical information, and other times it has everything to do with the nurturing endeavors pursued on the farm that yield organically grown food goods.
"When we produce more than we are going to consume she will share that information over Local Harvest," he said, referring to a nationwide internet resource for excess food goods.
Angela's personal service through membership on the board of the Wheeling Area YWCA has also allowed her to find opportunity to serve the needs of others directly and indirectly affording opportunities to reach out to others with a in their neighborhood with a hand extended in genuine friendship and in service to their community at large - something which means a great deal to both Angela and Don Feenerty.
-- "I've never met a stranger."
Loccisano may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org