Working as an office bureaucrat can certainly have its days, but as the leader of an amazingly talented, motivated, and productive team of 28 OSM/VISTA volunteers working in poverty stricken and environmentally devastated Appalachian coal country, I am continually awed by the attitudes and achievements of those I am fortunate to work with.

The following letter is an example of one volunteer’s satirical perspective of her work in the anthracite region of north eastern Pennsylvania. It was recently submitted to my office as the cover letter for her quarterly progress report and is reproduced here, with permission, for your entertainment and enlightenment. Enjoy!

Dear Jenny:

Our water is orange, or forebodingly clear; our valley is succumbing to sprawl-induced hypertension; new storm water systems are allowed to infiltrate mine pools. Before long, the Anthracite region will be a scene from my favorite childhood Halloween story where the neighborhood children sneak over the witch’s home on snow days, because her snow is always black.

There is hope! In my exploration of the Wyoming Valley, I discovered watershed heroes battling each foot of concrete channelized streams. Grizzly Adams’ fourth cousins are in the tributaries willing the return of trout and American shad. Clusters of justice-seeking youth are cleaning and banning illegal dump sites in their neighborhoods. Murmurs are growing louder; defense of the environment for its sake and for the sake of human health is strengthing.

Enclosed you will find several war-zone documents – victories of one battalion on one battle front.

May we send only water we would drink downstream!

In solidarity,

Valerie L. Taylor
OSM/VISTA Watershed Development Coordinator
Eastern PA Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation