With the Great Greenbrier River Race just days away, residents throughout Marlinton have been hard at work to get the town in tip-top shape for its guests. Businesses along Main Street have been busy spiffing up their storefronts – be it with a fresh coat of paint, new signs, or fresh flowers – and the employees at C. J. Richardson’s are, as usual, sweeping and clearing debris from its sidewalk and parking spots.
However, locals had some help in preparing the town for the race.
A group – consisting of four adults and six teenagers – made a 14 hour drive from Central Massachusetts to Pocahontas County to assist with Marlinton’s Clean-up Week – providing their services to the town, local churches and more.
The Massachusetts group came to Marlinton through the county’s local Young Life ministry and a branch of Young Life International known as Expeditions. Service trips are arranged through Young Life ministries nationally and internationally to engage teenagers in different communities and cultures by developing relationships through short-term services.
“It’s an attempt to expose kids from different areas to what’s happening, missionally, in another community,” Pocahontas County Young Life Staff Associate David Moore explained. “Not only is an expedition a chance to serve communities, but it’s a chance for Young Life leaders to expose their kids to something new and different, all while pouring into teenagers’ lives, deepening their relationship and furthering the opportunities they have to talk about Jesus with them.”
The group arrived late April 14, and spent the next four days working on various projects throughout the county.
At Mayor Sam Felton’s request, Massachusetts Young Life Area Director Eric Stoltzfus and his group spent the morning in Marlinton’s mini park, putting a fresh coat of paint on the gazebo. The group worked diligently, and following lunch, made their way to Marlinton United Methodist Church. While there, they were given a number of projects to tackle – both inside and outside of the church – such as cleaning pews and painting stairways.
“It might sound dumb to just put a coat of paint on something,” Moore said, “but I think that really mattered. A lot of people were watching and talked with the kids throughout the day, and I think that was really cool for them. The kids – and their leaders, too – got to really engage with some of the locals.”
On Saturday, Moore and the expedition members traveled to the northern end of the county, where they spent the morning in Bartow assisting Pocahontas County Parks and Recreation Director Lauren Bennett in getting the 4-H camp ready for the summer season.
“After spending a day in Marlinton, they thought that the mountains in the southern end of the county were huge,” Moore added. “Then we went to Bartow, and the mountains were twice as tall. They were really floored by that.”
Sunday served as both a rest day and a work day, and Moore took the group to Young Life’s newest camp property – 1,200 acres overlooking the Gauley Canyon – in Nicholas County, where they helped gather trash and prepare it for a season of summer camping.
On Monday, the group partnered with Bennett once again, and spent the morning at Stillwell Park clearing brush. To mark the end of their time in Marlinton – and to thank them for their help – Bennett loaded the group into canoes and kayaks and took them on a trip down the Greenbrier River, and as night fell, the group gathered at Bennett’s house for a bonfire.
“We hosted a bonfire,” Moore said, “and they were able to hang out with some of the local kids involved with Young Life here. We gave them a taste of a Pocahontas County-styled hang out. When their workdays were finished, they got to hang out at the Wellness Center, but I think this helped to really immerse them in Pocahontas County.”
Moore wanted to bring in a group of people from a different area to showcase that – while Young Life might be new here – it’s an established entity and is actually championed in other places.
According to Moore, the hope for the Expedition – and for Young Life in the county – is to allow adults and teenagers in the community a chance to see that Young Life is a global mission through which people across the world can love Jesus and love teens.
Moore began working on organizing an Expedition to Marlinton at the end of last year.
He wanted to give back to the county and – knowing that a “clean up” initiative was being discussed – turned to Mayor Felton in the hopes of offering his services. Together with Mayor Felton, Moore worked alongside Bennett, Jaynell Graham, and Dave and Mary Alice Merriman to organize a series of projects for the incoming group.
“Sam has been working hard to get things in top-notch order,” Moore explained, “and I wanted to serve him, as well as the local churches. So many of the churches here have been kind to us and are really open to the idea of Young Life, and Lauren has been one of our greatest allies.
“They were all vital to making this expedition a success. They all played their part and helped make this a good experience for the group that came, as well as for our mission of Young Life here in the county.”
For more information regarding Young Life in Pocahontas County, David Moore may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 304-619-6983.