By Brianna Bell, EKU Class of 2018

Being told her county was going to die was enough for Clay County resident, Vanda Rice, and her three friends to stand up and make a change. The rebirth of Clay County began when community expert, Dr. Vaughn Grisham, founding director of the McLean Institute, attended a city council meeting and toured the county. Not very impressed with what he saw, he stressed to the council something needed to happen or else the county would die. Grisham suggested capitalizing on Clay County’s already-established lures for revitalization of the community.

Clay County is credited as the “Land of Swinging Bridges,” and Manchester is recognized as a state trail town. The county is rich with ATV, hiking, biking, horse and river trails, and is home to more than a dozen swinging bridges

Rice and three others began networking with the Brushy Fork Institute to develop a plan to mend Clay County. A small grant from the institute cheered the formation of the “Stay in Clay” initiative, which encourages locals—to stay local. Stay in Clay is a volunteer-based organization that has made strides to revamp the community. The faith-based group that was first funded by Unite is now a government-supported organization.

Stay in Clay will celebrate its five-year anniversary in September. Since 2013, the group has fashioned a grasp on non-traditional activities for all ages. A folk theatre group called Monkey Dumplings encourages children to express themselves through impromptu performances that are inspired by the county's history. Stay in Clay also touts River Fest, a kayak race on Goose Creek Bridge, also known as "Bridge to Our Future" by the locals, as well as the two-day Salt Works Appalachian Memorial Day Weekend Festival.

Stay in Clay visions a 40-acre campsite that will propose free archery, kayaking, camping, biking and marksmanship for anyone interested in outdoor activities.

According to the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, only one in three children are physically active every day. Stay in Clay and other like groups across the region are shaping the future to improve health, community engagement and heritage.