The Highland Educational Project

The Highland Educational Project (HEP), located in McDowell County, is an ecumenical outreach ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia.  Started as an educational ministry in January 1940, conditions in the area have since forced it to evolve into an outreach agency.

HEP's outreach programs include distributing donated clothing year-round, children's stockings at Christmas, and home repair and maintenance.  Help with medical costs and heating bills and other emergency assistance are provided to needy individuals in the area whenever possible.

HEP's base of operation was originally located in Keystone, WV.   After the building suffered severe damage from flooding and was closed, the West Virginia Housing and Development Fund donated a building and eight acres of land in Welch.  The facility is now known as the Premier Learning Center, which also serves as a designated Red Cross Disaster Shelter.  The Center served as a primary resource during major floods in 2001 and 2002, and many people from the surrounding communities still regularly benefit from its presence.  As one of the most visible and viable institutions in the county, HEP was recognized as the most reputable outreach center in McDowell County by the State of WV Housing Authority, former Governor Bob Wise and Senator Jay Rockefeller.

Premier Learning Center is used by Southern Highlands, a group that teaches life and learning skills to mentally challenged adults, and by the WVU Extension for coal mining classes. Premier Learning Center currently has a computer lab with 15 computers connected to DSL. Wireless internet is also available. Management’s goal is to add more classes of various kinds in the future.

HEP currently has summer work groups as part of a 'Work-Learn-Share Program.'  The groups come every summer to do home repairs for area residents who cannot afford to hire contractors.  Some groups have been coming here for over 35 years, and new groups are always welcome.  Please contact our director, Lori Osborne, for more information on our outreach opportunities.