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Couple to match cities’ donations for Wheeling Health Right

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — A pair of former Belmont County residents are offering a match if the two cities in the county agree to fund Wheeling Health Right’s activities on the western side of the Ohio River.

James and Marlene Everson, former St. Clairsville residents with ties to Martins Ferry, now live at Atwood Lake, Ohio, and Naples, Florida. They have offered a $100,000 “Challenge Grant” to Wheeling Health Right through their James W. and Marlene K. Everson Trust in hope of motivating the cities of Martins Ferry and St. Clairsville — plus others — to participate in the funding of Wheeling Health Right to continue and potentially expand its services in Belmont County.

James Everson had a 55-year banking career with the Citizens Savings Bank of Martins Ferry, retiring as its president and CEO in 2004. Marlene Everson was a registered nurse and worked at the Wheeling Clinic. They were also instrumental in providing the seed money and ongoing financial support for the Daily Bread Center in Martins Ferry, which is now actively administered by the Martins Ferry Ministerial Association, providing food for those in need.

Kathie Brown, executive director of Wheeling Health Right, said the couple reached out to her with the offer of $20,000 a year, if matched by funding of $10,000 each from the cities of St. Clairsville and Martins Ferry and the continued $25,000 match from Belmont County.

“That gives us some solid, consistent funding over the next several years,” Brown said.

She noted that Wheeling Health Right offers free primary health care, dental care and other services to about 1,400 Belmont County residents annually. Brown said this translates into $214,400 of free medical and dental care for St. Clairsville residents and $428,800 in free care for Martins Ferry residents.

“We do provide a tremendous amount of service, both medical, dental and prescription drugs, and we have Belmont County residents,” Brown said.

“Because of their understanding of and commitment to our mission, the Eversons want to do more, and want others to match their commitment,” Brown said in a release.

There was some concern that Wheeling Health Right might end its services in Belmont County due to lack of funding. In September 2022, the Belmont County Board of Commissioners decided to continue to commit $25,000 in yearly support.

Upon learning of the situation, the Eversons sent a letter to Wheeling Health Right offering a $100,000 challenge grant with a five-year annual commitment of $20,000 predicated on both the cities of Martins Ferry and St. Clairsville each committing a five-year $10,000 annual allocation.

“We understand the mission of Wheeling Health Right and through our Challenge Grant it is our hope and goal that they will continue to grow in serving those in need in Belmont County with medical and dental care,” Jim Everson said in a release.

If the cities agree, Brown is requesting they make their decision by Feb. 1, with the first installment received by March. She said the Eversons are ready to make their first grant payment.

“I’ll bring it up in a council meeting Feb. 1,” Martins Ferry Mayor John Davies. “I’ll brief the situation to the City Council and see what they think. It’s all up to them.”

Frank Papini of St. Clairsville also delivered the proposal to the St. Clairsville City Council on Jan. 16. Members will review the proposal and address it in an upcoming meeting.

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