They’re our neighbors, our sisters, our brothers and our friends.

However, for centuries, people who lived with physical or intellectual disabilities were cloaked away in silence, the hidden people.

Whether it be a physical birth defect, Down syndrome or even today’s pervasive autism spectrum disorder, people with disabilities were hardly ever spoken of much less allowed out of their parents homes for decades. There are too many stories of the shame parents felt by having given birth to a child with a disability.

We’ve grown from being a nation that warehoused people with disabilities to one who hopefully now understands that every person is sacred and has a place in this world.

That’s why it’s our job as a city and a caring community to rally any and all forms of support for the Disability Action Center in what has been described as its most trying time of need ever.

The recent floods caused damages to its building estimated as high as $500,000 due to what may be simple neglect and years of crumbling city infrastructure.

Water damage in the building forced the DAC to cease all of its programming for a number of days while its staff scrambled to get the building somewhat presentable again.

But now, thanks a meeting spearheaded by two of Fairmont’s fiercest leaders — Tina Shaw and Nick Fantasia — a glint of hope is rising.

It began Thursday with a meeting in which West Virginia Senators Mike Caputo, D-Rivesville, and Bob Beach, D-Morgantown, each pledged $44,000 in discretionary funds they are allocated to help get the ball rolling.

However, this is going to be a tough mountain to climb.

The DAC’s facility at 102 Benoni Ave. is home to some of Marion County’s move loveable residents who deserve a seat at the table. They love us unconditionally and now it’s our turn to share our love with them.

Whether it’s giving money to a fundraising campaign for a new building, or running a 5K for the project or rolling up your sleeves and doing work such as painting a new building or whatever comes out of this recent disaster, the community has to do everything possible for the DAC’s clients.

The city must also use this opportunity to take a serious look at its drainage systems and how to repair or replace what’s there. We’ll need a visionary who can plan for future unforeseen weather events.

And then comes the funding. Could it be that the recently-passed American Rescue Plan dollars could be used to pay for whatever drainage repair program on which the city embarks? It’s definitely worth checking into.

And then, there are the other members of the Marion County legislative delegation. Can they get the ear of Gov. Jim Justice to declare the recent storm damage a disaster, therefore, paving the way for other federal aid for repairs? We’ve got to look at every avenue.

If the city ends up with a void by not having a DAC, we’re simply turning backs, but we’re also turning back the clock.

Let’s all decide today to take a stand and protect and preserve the Disability Action Center for our neighbors, our sisters, our brothers and our friends

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