Brave volunteers need a new home

Published 6:12 pm Friday, October 11, 2019

I don’t live in Woodland, but I have to admit it’s one of my favorite towns in Northampton County. Apologies to the rest of the county—I assure you, I enjoy all of what this area has to offer too—but I just have a lot of fond memories associated with Woodland specifically.

One of my good high school friends used to live there, and I remember several fun trips to visit her. That friend also introduced me to Woodland Baptist Church, where I then attended several youth group activities during my teenage years. We took many trips to Camp Caswell together, and worked several fundraisers to raise money for attending the church camp. I even remember a few times our youth group spent the night in the church for a “lock in.” We opted to spend those nights playing games of hide-and-seek instead of sleeping, of course.

Later, when I returned home from college and was still searching for a job, I took a part-time position as Woodland Baptist’s church secretary. It lasted less than a year before I found a full-time job elsewhere, but I enjoyed those months while I was back in Woodland. I remember walking down the sidewalk to the post office each day, and also making a weekly stop at Southern Bank (back when it was still open).

I must also admit another reason I like this small little town is because of its thematically-named streets. It’s cute that a town called Woodland would name all of its roads after different kinds of trees!

So with all that being said, you can probably tell that I enjoy when my job as a reporter for the News Herald takes me out to Woodland. Last week, I trekked out there for a meeting between town officials and a representative from Congressman GK Butterfield’s office. While the meeting was multipurpose, the main goal was to discuss options for funding improvements to the town’s volunteer fire department building.

Attendees of the meeting took a tour of the town, and one of the first stops was the fire department located at the corner of Oak Street in a nondescript white building constructed in 1951. I had heard talk of the building’s poor conditions before, but seeing it for myself was something completely different. There had been mention of gravel being used to fill in places where the concrete floor inside was sinking and breaking down. I imagined just a spot or two on the floor. What I saw, however, was almost the entire bay covered in gravel simply so the firetrucks wouldn’t be parking in mud… inside their own building! Weather wise, it’s been pretty dry lately, so I can only imagine how much worse it looks after a heavy rain.

And these were just the structural problems I could see for myself. I would guess there are others not so visible.

I don’t claim to be any sort of expert on architecture or the work of firefighters, to be honest, but it seems like a deteriorating building would eventually have some negative impact of the ability of the fire department to do its job.

I sincerely hope the leaders in Woodland, Northampton County, and Washington DC are able to find some way to fund a new fire department building. Until then, however, I urge people locally to continue to support their local first responders—including Woodland Volunteer Fire Department—any way they can. They’re an essential part of safety in our community, and we all want them to continue to be able to do a good job.

While the state of the fire department building was disheartening, that tour also included some very positive parts of Woodland such as the new Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center office which will be opening next month. It’ll be located in none other than the former Southern Bank building, the place I used to stop in occasionally when I worked at the church down the road. Instead of letting the empty bank stay vacant, the building has been repurposed for something new and better.

If you look across Northampton, and even the rest of the Roanoke-Chowan area, you’ll see many old, abandoned buildings, but also plenty more which have been fixed up to serve a new purpose. So I have hope that things in disrepair will eventually turn around for the better if we don’t give up on them. That’s the cycle of life around here. I just hope it happens sooner rather than later.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7206.