Across the state of West Virginia, communities are rallying in support of the southern counties devastated by last Thursday’s flood waters. Several Pocahontas County groups and individuals loaded flat beds, trailers and more to the brim with clothing, food, water and other much needed donations to take to areas – Rainelle, Richwood, Rupert and White Sulphur Springs – affected by the flood.
Marlinton residents are no strangers to the devastation flooding can bring. Nearly 31 years have passed since the Flood of 1985 wreaked havoc on the small Pocahontas County towns, but it is a catastrophe that not many will forget. Houses were ripped from their foundations; bridges crumbled beneath the raging tide of the Greenbrier River’s waters; and sadly, four lives were lost.
In 1996, a flood reminiscent of the one 10 years earlier struck in the middle of January. As with the flood of 1985, houses were uprooted; roads were torn asunder; and all but the roof of a shelter at Stillwell Park was underwater. Thankfully, no lives were lost, and injuries were minimal. Twenty years later, Pocahontas County remembers the figurative light given to them at the end of the long, dark tunnel, and now, they are eager to return the sentiment.
Among those preparing donations to send south were Chuck and Katie Workman, a father-daughter duo from Hillsboro and Marlinton, respectively.
“We realized just how lucky we were to have missed it,” Katie explained. “Marlinton has been through some devastating floods in the past, and the surrounding counties have always been willing to help us get back on our feet. People recognize that, and they want to give back.”
On Saturday, June 25, the Workmans turned to Facebook to inform family, friends and other members of the community that they would be collecting flood relief donations. Within in the first hour of the announcement, members of the community had flocked to the gravel parking lot across from Appalachian Sport with bags, boxes and bundles of cleaning supplies, clothing, food, paper goods, water and more.
Nearly 30 people stopped by the drop-off on Saturday, and the first trailer load of goods was taken to Rainelle. Two more trailer loads were donated on Sunday and taken to Richwood.
“We wanted to pay it forward from all the times their communities have helped us in the past,” Chuck added, “and it’s our community who has really helped to bring this together. They’re the ones who have done this. We just brought the trailers.”
In addition to the Workmans, the Marlinton Volunteer Fire Department opened its doors to collections throughout the day on Monday.
At 1 p.m., items such as air conditioners, box fans, canned food, cleaning supplies, diapers, dog food, laundry detergent, lights and more filled a U-Haul-sized trailer to the brim, and five hours remained in the collection.
“We wanted to start gathering supplies and giving what we could to those communities,” Marlinton VFD Assistant Chief J.P. Duncan said. “If we have trouble here, the other communities are quick to come together to help us, and we wanted to do what we could for them.”
Fellow firefighter and Town Council member Adam Irvine recently returned from the affected Greenbrier County areas, and the outpouring of love and support for those affected by the flood was overwhelming.
“If you don’t have any reason to be down there, officials are asking that you don’t go down,” Irvine said. “They’re overwhelmed, and the support they’re getting is overwhelming. On Sunday, White Sulphur Springs had twenty-five fire departments show up to help. A lot of the communities around them are banding together, and they know they’re in between a rock and a hard place.”
According to Irvine, the Rainelle Fire Department was hit hard and suffered devastating losses – including the department’s trucks and safety gear. Local departments from across the state have been working to shuttle trucks to the area to assist until the department is able to get back on its feet.
Marlinton’s youth rallied behind the relief efforts, as well.
Richwood’s swimming pool was damaged during the flood, and in an effort to help Richwood’s youth enjoy the remainder of their summer, a Youth to Youth Disaster Response bake sale was organized.
The bake sale was held at the Marlinton Community Wellness Center. A delicious array of baked goods, lemonade and snow-cones were available, and all proceeds will be donated to assist in the re-opening of the Richwood pool.
“I’m happy to see our community banding together to send everything else to the ones who need help,” Irvine said. “It’s not something you see happen in some places, and it speaks a lot to West Virginia.”
Cailey Moore may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org