Adding work gloves to King’s dream

Published 1:33 pm Thursday, January 14, 2016

I have a dream today … that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low. The rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places made straight. — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1963)

Hampden-Sydney College student Henry O’Neal is adding work gloves and a dumpster to Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream of service. The focus of the H-SC sophomore’s National Day of Service project is an unsightly tire dump beside the High Bridge Trail in Prospect.

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“A hike on the High Bridge Trail conjures up peaceful scenes of nature,” he said. “Then you see this very ugly tire dump right beside the trail.”

A portion of the trail backs up to a former auto mechanic shop in Prospect.

“Dave Rosser owned the garage and also ran a mill,” Prospect resident Julian Covington said. “It was there from when I was a child. He also ran a diesel-powered mill for flour mill, cornmeal and hog feed.”

The mill, Covington reported, is still standing.

“David C. Rosser owned and operated a two-story flour mill and also had a garage for machinery and automobile repair,” local historian Edwina Covington added.

“For years Mr. Rosser tossed old

tires into the woods,” O’Neal said.

Those years of accumulated tires now number close to 1,000. With help from Alecia Daves-Johnson and the Obsidian Solutions Group, O’Neal’s project will soon make the unsightly scene a thing of the past.

O’Neal became a part of Obsidian’s community outreach on the first week of school.

“They had a career day the first week,” he said. “Alecia Daves-Johnson was looking for interns, so I applied.”

“Henry is filling an internship through Obsidian Solutions Group where I work as community outreach coordinator,” Daves-Johnson said.

Located in Fredericksburg, Obsidian Solutions Group is a service-disabled veteran owned firm established with a dedicated community support component as a part of its mission. Familiar with Farmville through years of the Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team training along the Appomattox River, Obsidian chose to focus a number of its community outreach projects in this area.

“Henry has done a wonderful job organizing the event,” Daves-Johnson said.        

O’Neal started making contacts for his service project last fall.

“Henry came to me with the idea in November,” H-SC Student Affairs Operations and Civic Engagement director Sandy Cooke said. “We’ve contacted fraternities and other organizations on campus for volunteers.”

In the meantime, O’Neal contacted the owner of the property for permission to hold a cleanup day. Next, O’Neal contacted Prince Edward County Planning & Zoning coordinator Rob Fowler for guidance on proper disposal of the tires.

“The county is donating dumpsters for the cleanup day,” O’Neal said.

“The dumpsters will be taken to Emanual Tire of Virginia in Appomattox for recycling,” Fowler said.

High Bridge Trail will provide work gloves for workers on cleanup day; Daves-Johnson is bringing water.

“The community is invited to come to the site at 647 Prospect Road on Saturday from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Prospect United Methodist Church next door to the site has offered parking space,” Daves-Johnson said. “Volunteers will collect tires from piles throughout the property, in the woods and lowlands, and place them in dumpsters on the site.  Workers should dress accordingly — it will be dirty work.” 

The “dirty work” will lead to a much cleaner environment for all.

“There are also health concerns with these tires providing a mosquito and rodent habitat, not to mention creating an eyesore for the High Bridge trail users,” Daves-Johnson said.     

“This cleanup will help the park service by providing a more esthetic view — no one wants to look at hundreds of tires during a hike,” High Bridge Trail State Park Chief Ranger Craig Guthrie said.

O’Neal, like Dr. King, has a vision. After graduation he hopes to find employment in the field of public service.

“Hopefully I can find employment where I can make an impact on the world,” he said.

Those involved in O’Neal’s service project might argue that he is already doing so.