By Tony Russell


County merchants have sounded an alarm. "We are running out of space for placards and donor cups on our checkout counters," said Noel Harmon, spokesman for the local Retailers Association.

"In a survey taken last month, we learned that the average checkout counter now has less than ten inches of clear space for customers to lay goods they want to purchase, and that space is endangered. The rest of the counter is completely taken up by homemade signs with pictures of families facing financial ruin because of medical emergencies," said Harmon.

A visit to area businesses confirmed details of the report. At Angela's Ashtray, a popular local coffee shop, the counter held two signs and donor cups for children suffering from leukemia, one for an infant needing a kidney transplant, three for men seriously injured in ATV accidents, two for people burned in house fires, one for a stroke victim, and one for an elderly woman with Parkinson's Disease.

Waitress Beverly Leach said, "Nobody working here has health insurance. It's reassuring for us to look down the counter and see that there's still space available if something should happen to us or our families. But as the amount of clear counter space keeps shrinking, some of us are worried that it won't be there when we need it."

Public health officials agree. "These signs and cups are really the backbone of our health care system," said Dr. Donald Wiseman. "If we run out of counter space, I'm not sure there are any alternatives left for families."

Store window space is likewise facing heavy demands. Several merchants have had to remove announcements of various benefit events, such as concerts, dip-and-donates, car washes, poker runs, quilt raffles, cornbread and bean dinners, and turkey shoots in order to make room for their "Going Out of Business" signs.

"I feel so guilty taking them down," said one proprietor, who asked to remain anonymous. "I know people are dependent on these events to save their homes, feed their families, and get the medical treatment they need."

A spokesperson for Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) said, "Representative Capito is well aware of the counter space crisis, and is preparing to introduce legislation requiring that all checkout counters be a minimum of ten feet long." ... Read more at readtonyrussell.blogspot.com

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