A visit to the auditorium of the Marlinton Municipal Building just one week after the devastating fire on Main Street offers an eye-opening testament to the kindness and generosity of friends and strangers.
News of the personal loss associated with the fire went out by way of newspapers, radio, email, Facebook and word of mouth, and the response began immediately.
Donations of clothing and household goods were organized in the auditorium to resemble a large department store.
Volunteers have worked non-stop to sort the overwhelming collection which arrived from all over the county and state.
For years folks have often complained that Marlinton is on the end of every shipping line and goods are hard to transport to the area. That was certainly not a problem in this instance.
GoMarlinton members Trish McNaull and Mark Strauss and other volunteers have worked tirelessly to meet the needs of those displaced by the fire. While the fire was still burning, the volunteers were finding homes, clothing and essentials to help get people back on their feet. Much progress was made in the first 24 hours.
Strauss reports that he has had 112 phone calls from people wanting items picked up or needing information on where to deliver items and donations.
The Greenbrier Roller Vixens, a roller derby team from Rupert, rolled into town with three truckloads and a trailer load of goods and furniture.
“They were so cool,” McNaull said. “ It makes me wish I could skate.”
The past week has generated enough stories to fill a book.
“From the beginning we have had people calling offering to help,” Strauss said. “People who own condos at Snowshoe or have vacation homes in the county called to offer their properties as temporary housing for the victims. The NRAO offered its housing. But we were lucky to find permanent homes before we needed temporary ones.”
Geshundheit! Institute offered housing as well as construction and cleaning services. Strauss said that the group took them up on the offer of construction and cleaning, which helped in the relocation process.
While McNaull has manned the municipal building collection site, Strauss has focused on transporting large items to storage – and to the permanent homes.
“We are so thankful,” Strauss said. “Everyone has been so generous.”
And, indeed, it seems everyone has played a role in the recovery effort.
Strauss was touched by his visit with an elderly couple who wanted to help, but could did not drive to Marlinton.
Strauss went to their home to pick up their donation of clothing. As he prepared to leave, the lady asked if there was anything else that was needed. Strauss told her “kitchen things.”
The lady returned with two coffee mugs.
“It’s just my husband and me,” she said. “We only need two mugs, we don’t need the full set.”
Donations continued to pour in during the week, in the form of monetary support and everything needed to set up a new home.
“The families walked in here [the auditorium] and generally said, ‘Wow,”’ McNaull said. “We told them, ‘basically, this all belongs to you.”’
Though there has been great material loss, the person-to-person link has been revitalized and is stronger than ever here and beyond the community, McNaull said. The “neighbors” who lived in the Old Bank Building have formed a strong bond, as well.
Now that those who lost everything have been refurnished and re-supplied, the cycle of giving is focused on helping others.
Thanks to the forward thinking of Ed Cogswell, of Marlinton, “starter bins” of household goods and linens as well as bins of specific sized clothing have been packed and labeled and will be ready in case other families face disaster in the future. Gunter’s General Store is supplying storage for these items.
Extra coats have gone to the First Baptist Church – Huntersville’s Kidz Closet, some of the children’s clothing has been given to the Family Resource Network to be distributed.
“Appalachian Outreach called to ask how they could help,” McNaull said. “I told them that we had it under control.”
In the conversation, McNaull learned that there are families in Southern West Virginia who have been waiting for mattresses and box springs for more than a year and a-half. McNaull said J&P Furniture has offered an assortment of those items and hopefully they can be sent to southern West Virginia in December to bring comfort to those needy families .
A truckload of non-perishable foods to replenish the displaced families’ pantries is expected Thursday. In addition to that delivery will come information on sources where the FRN can get more food for its food pantry in the future.
“Lauren [Bennett] brought in the Youth Group on Saturday,” McNaull said. “People are talking. They are away from their computers and discovering vital face-to-face communication.”
That youth group led the worship service at Marlinton Presbyterian Church on Sunday with a message that focused on the “thanks” and “giving” that has been so much a part of the community this past week.
Monetary donations have poured in from former county residents, vacationers, churches, businesses and individuals.
As a way to say “thank you,” the displaced families have asked that the remaining donated household items and clothing be sold at a yard/auditorium sale Friday and Saturday, November 22 and 23, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with all proceeds going to the Marlinton Fire Department to help defray the costs expended in fighting the fire – to be used and shared at its discretion.
Jaynell Graham may be contacted at jsgraham@poc ahontastimes.com