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Getting to know the Friends

If there is something happening in Ironton, chances are Friends of Ironton is involved somewhere.

From the Gus Macker 3-on-3 Basketball tournaments to the construction of a new spray park to Rally on the River, Friends of Ironton is staying busy and keeping things hopping. But what is Friends of Ironton, exactly?

Madolin Blackwell has been with Friends of Ironton since the first Rally on the River in 2004. She said the group is comprised of somewhere between 200 and 250 volunteers who help when something needs to be done. Rick Jansen and Rick McKnight started the group a couple of years before she came aboard.

“You have to be wiling to help your hometown,” Blackwell said. “Your elected officials can’t do everything in a small town. You don’t have a tax base that’s big enough to take care of everything.”

Blackwell said anything they become aware of that needs to be done, Friends of Ironton fixes it or raises the funds to take care of it. She said when some people were looking for a house and couldn’t find it because of a missing street sign, Friends of Ironton put up new signs, which would have been costly for the city to do on its own.

She said another time, some people had gone to Lake Vesuvius and went to use the restrooms, but they were closed due to a roof needing repaired, so Friends of Ironton fixed the roof.

Another thing the group focuses on is bringing people into Ironton through events.

“We have had some Oktoberfests to town to bring some interest to the downtown area,” she said. “We also found out what you needed to bring a Gus Macker to the area. We raised the money, and hoped for the best. Anything that will bring people to the town.”

Getting people to Ironton not only shines some light on the city, but it also brings

financial profit as well.

“They all have to eat, sleep and buy gasoline and spend their money here,” she said. “That helps the town, even through sales tax.”

Blackwell said money to fund the group’s projects comes in several different ways.

“When we have Gus Macker, it costs ‘x’ amount, but each team that wants to play pays a certain fee, and anything left over is profit,” she said.

Blackwell said they also purchase merchandise to sell at events like Rally on the River and the profit from the items sold goes right into the account to fund more projects.

Still another way the group works to support the projects is by having volunteers do beer concessions at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington, W.Va., which allows them to get a percentage of beer sales and money made in tips. Blackwell said there are usually 25 or 30 volunteers needed to work at a large event.

“Everything we take in goes out to the community in some way,” Blackwell said.

Blackwell said volunteers are always needed and people can let Friends of Ironton know the areas of volunteering that interest them.

“Whatever they are willing to do, that’s what we ask, but we never ask them to do anything they don’t want to,” Blackwell said.

“If you don’t do it, who’s going to?” she said. She said she tells her family, “I can’t gripe if I’m not willing to do something to make it better.”

Anyone interested in learning more about volunteering with the Friends of Ironton can call Madolin Blackwell at (740) 532-9755.