A newcomer’s perspective: Emerging Citizen Sector in Wheeling

By Vishakha Maskey

Weelunk Contributor

I am writing this article to express my observation on how things are changing in Wheeling, and it is a positive social change. “Let’s do something” never sounded more appropriate than when I attended Wheeling Green Table meetings. As many have already addressed, I see a tremendous progress in the citizen sector here in Wheeling.

I usually attend the Wheeling Green Table monthly meetings, where citizens that are forward thinkers, designers, educators, and doers meet to discuss ideas that make a positive environmental and social impact that normally government, non-profit, or private entities fail to address. This blended idea of a “fourth sector” is emerging in Wheeling. As I sit through these meetings and listen to individuals eager about implementing solar projects in our community, preserving historic sense of place, creating positive learning experiences, and opening new doors of opportunities to our future generation, I am very excited to be part of this conversation. I see individuals who are not concerned with their self-interest. There were discussions about switching Wheeling to renewable resources by creating Solar Co-ops or even encouraging business entities by supporting their recycling business with recycling co-ops. I have witnessed a plurality among these community members, where regardless of your background and experiences, we all have same vision: to transform Wheeling into a sustainable city. And together we are formulating strategies and brainstorming ideas and goals to fulfill that vision. The idea is that green Wheeling can actually create jobs and new opportunities and that green spaces and renewable energy will enhance quality of life.


Dr. Vishakha Maskey, Photo by Wallis.


I moved to Wheeling without any expectation back in 2008 and began teaching at West Liberty University. I found it very different from most of the places that I have lived. There were times where I felt as if —  despite great opportunities for my children in terms of education and extracurricular activities — I were apprehensive about whether this is the place I’d want to call a home and raise my children.

I am originally from Nepal. I have lived in Maine, Washington, D.C., and Morgantown. While living in Maine, I received my Master’s degree in Resource Economics and Policy. As a student, taking recyclables to the center provided grocery money. When I was working on my Ph.D. in Natural Resource Economics at West Virginia University, I didn’t have a car. I took PRT and bus lines. The idea of sustainable resource management and intergenerational equity was part of daily classroom discussions. It was evident: Everyone understood that it is crucial to preserve what we inherited for future generations, whether it is natural resources or history. The consequences of losing them would be irreversible and costly.

I realize now that most of the time I was focused on how these places I have lived were different. In most places, recycling, “up cycling,” and resource frugality were second nature. For instance, in Nepal individuals would come to your doorstep to pick up and buy off your discarded plastics, paper, and metals. My mother would actually barter new pots and pans for used clothes. You can still see people picking plastic bags from trash and from the streets that they can sell elsewhere in the Himalayan Country. Perhaps no room for landfill was a blessing in disguise, as it was making individual creative problem solvers and providing entrepreneurial abilities. More interestingly, most of Nepal is powered by hydro-power, and most households have solar panels. Again, not having pockets of non-renewable natural resources helped develop cleaner energy.

I consider myself a global citizen, as I have traveled all my life, from my small hometown to the city of Kathmandu, from Kathmandu to many places in the U.S.,  and I hope that I am always exploring. I have never felt the need to settle somewhere and was never attached to a place. I have travelled across seven oceans from my native land and hold two different passports. I believe that much of our impact may seem local; it ultimately leads to a global impact. So when I moved to Wheeling, I thought it would be another five years of my life that I would spend here. I found too many differences versus similarities to call it home. But the change happening around here now is making me think differently.

I see positive change by just witnessing several new ideas evolved through Reinvent Wheeling. And I am thrilled to be part of this change and make an impact in a positive way. I can’t help but quote Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” (United States Anthropologist, 1901-1978).

Therefore, all these positive changes confirm that Wheeling is the place I want to raise my children and call it a home. I have gained so much in these past seven years: wealth of friendship, community, family that are not related to me, hope, positive energy, and most of all, sense of belonging. For that I am grateful! I would like to thank you all for adopting me to this friendly city.

To read more from Vishakha’s husband, Jesse Gandee,  and their love for their home neighborhood of Dimmeydale, click here:


3 Responses

  1. Mary Ellen Cassidy

    Vishakha – Thank you for this beautiful article.

    I share your same fears and hopes for our City. I know there have always been great people here working to preserve what we cherish while building towards a future of wealth with health. It just seems that in the last few years, or so, there has been an exponential growth in these committed individuals. I am particularly heartened to see the number of younger people stepping up to, as Weelunk would say, “Do Something.”

    Reading this article reminded me of the growing wave of committed individuals, such as yourself, who are willing to look at Wheeling in a new way. Be they native or new, they have renewed my hope for my City, your City, our City.

    If you haven’t already, consider attending a meeting of ReInvent Wheeling, Wheeling Green Table, and/or the many other wonderful long-established, as well as start-up groups working to move us forward.

  2. Hope Coffield

    Thank you Vishakha for helping spread the word about the Wheeling Green Table! Anyone interested is invited. This roundtable, hosted by ReInvent Wheeling and the WALS Foundation, is an informal opportunity to network, collaborate, and problem-solve with others interested in creating and promoting local, sustainable solutions. We meet the first Tuesday of every month at 6:30 p.m. at the First State Capitol Building, 1413 Eoff Street, Wheeling, WV. Just show up! There is only one rule: keep your comments positive, informative, and brief (so everyone has an opportunity to talk). We are also planning a separate public information session on solar cooperatives to take place later this winter/early spring.

  3. Debby Koegler

    Margaret Mead also said …“Never depend upon institutions or government to solve any problem. All social movements are founded by, guided by, motivated and seen through by the passion of individuals. ”
    Thank you, Vishakha Maskey, for sharing your passion for our Wheeling community!

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