CHARLESTON, W.Va. — New programs for health and nutrition are coming to the local library following a recent endowment recognizing Otis Laury for his lifetime of service to the Kanawha Valley.
The Library Foundation of Kanawha County and the Kanawha County Public Library announced the Otis Laury Nutritional Literacy Initiative that has an endowment target goal of $250,000. As part of the campaign, the library will dedicate a space for a variety of programs going towards enhancing nutritional literacy and promoting the health and well-being of all West Virginians.
Laury said the initiative is a response to a great need to improve nutritional standards in the community.
“It’s very important, because Charleston, and West Virginia as a whole has an obesity problem, the fast food chains since I have been here have just grown immensely in Charleston, people are not eating healthy, lots of diabetics,” said Laury.
He was joined by KCPL representatives and the former First Lady Rachael Worby, participating virtually Thursday to introduce the new campaign and showcase the third-floor space set aside where the programs will be conducted.
The space will include a cooking area for healthy food-making demonstrations as part of the series of programs.
Laury has owned and operated several restaurants and catering businesses throughout the Charleston community, even serving as executive chef for three West Virginia governors. He was named a Distinguished West Virginian by former governors Bob Wise and Joe Manchin.
Along with being an acclaimed chef however, Laury’s talents also lie among other creative endeavors, as he’s an artist, painter, sculptor, and an avid collector, in addition to being a musician and an award-winning gardener.
His lifetime of achievement and good work has now earned him the endowment recognizing his name, and he said it’s important to him to receive such honor from the library, recalling a time when he wasn’t allowed there due to segregation.
“It means a lot, after all I couldn’t go here until 1957, so during my elementary and junior high years I couldn’t come to the library, so it feels wonderful to have this exposure now,” Laury said.
However, Laury is most notable for his lifetime of mentoring area youth, and cooking for and feeding families and the community.
“It feels great, I don’t know how I did it sometimes,” Laury said. “In December one year I did probably 40 some Christmas parties, and they weren’t small and I don’t know how I did it.”
Former First Lady and long time friend of Laury, Worby had spearheaded the initiative and she said, “Otis is West Virginia’s Renaissance man.”
KCPL Director Erika Connelly said the library hopes to officially launch the new initiative this fall.
People can make a tax-exempt donation to the endowment by making a check out to the Library Foundation of Kanawha County or calling (304)343-4545, ext. 1283.