Arbovale Men’s Brotherhood ~ a tradition of service

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer
“From small acorns mighty oaks grow. From the germ of an idea come all changes, all progress. All reforms were at one time one man’s idea.” ~ Delbert Gillispie
So begins the history of the Pine Grove-Arbovale Men’s Organization, now referred to as the Arbovale Men’s Brotherhood.
The collective began in 1945 when the men of the Pine Grove Church of the Brethren and the Arbovale United Methodist Church joined efforts to serve the community.

“Reverend J. Will Pugh, who served as pastor for the Brethren churches in the area, was one of the charter members and probably can be credited with the beginning of the Men’s Brotherhood Work Group,” Gillispie wrote in the organization’s history. “James Judy, Leonard Wenger, George Cromer and Talvin Varner were a few of the ones who became early members of the original organization.”

The group met once a month and raised funds to purchase sprays of flowers at the death of a member or member’s family, as well as help with improvements on either the Brethren or Methodist parsonages.

The men also had a project known as the Lord’s Acre, where they would plant, till and harvest a small plot of land and sell the fruits of their labor. The proceeds were put back into the community and helped with many projects.

The foundation set by the original group of men helped build an organization that continues to this day, with the main project being the Arbovale Community Center – built in 1955.

“The floor was made of about thirty-by-thirty-inch squares of concrete which were then placed on the ground,” member Bob Vance said. “They were not even. They didn’t fill in between the cracks, so it was a dirt catcher.”

The building has been through many upgrades – including carpeting, new wood floor, storm doors, paint, two additions and much more.

“[Emma] Beard was the biggest contributor,” Vance said. “I still remember my wife and I sitting there with her at a covered dish dinner. We sat down, and she looked over and said, ‘You think anybody would care if I put storm doors on this build-ing?’ I said, ‘Emma, if you want to get some storm doors, somebody will put them on.’”

Continuing generous donations from individuals like Moro and Emma Beard have kept the community center going. The center is a hub of activity of the organization, which hosts annual fundraisers including the Mulligan Stew and pork butt dinners. 

The center is also used by the community – for birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, Durbin Lions Club meetings – the building remains active, thanks to the Brotherhood.

“It is a great asset to the community,” Vance said. “One of the biggest uses we have is for serving dinner for families after a funeral. They use the church sometimes, but usually, they will use the community building. We do not charge anybody to use the community building for a funeral dinner.”

Because it has been around for so long, the building continues to be upgraded – the most recent of which was the installation of a new ceiling, funded through an endowment left to the Brotherhood by Emma Beard.

“It’s just been an ongoing process,” Vance said. “Mr. Gillispie was very active in getting it all going.” 

The organization is getting ready for the holiday season and will host a Christmas tree lighting on Saturday, November 30, at 4 p.m. Each November, a real tree – adorned with lights – is placed at the entrance of the building, and remains there as a beacon of holiday spirit until after Christmas. 

“I’ve got pine trees in the back here, and they got too big on me,” Vance said, of the trees at his house. “I planted those Christmas trees years ago. Leroy [Webb] told me the other day they wanted a fourteen foot tree for the Community Center, so we found one back there. They’re Frasier firs and they hold their needles forever.”

The Arbovale Brotherhood currently has 22 members, and they are always on the lookout for individuals who want to join. Anyone interested in being a part of this historic and active group may contact its president, Charles Sheets, at 304-456-4762 or by email at

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