Volunteers celebrate successes at annual dinner

Juanita Fireball and the Continental Drifters entertained the crowd at the annual Community Christmas Dinner last Thursday evening at the Pocahontas County Opera House. Mike Burns, aka “Juanita,” recognized the volunteers in attendance and said the band was proud to volunteer their time to perform for volunteers who serve the county all year long. S. Stewart photo

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

Despite having a small population of just over 8,000 people, Pocahontas County has a rather large number of individuals and organizations who volunteer their time and energy to make the county a better place.

Each year, the Marlinton Woman’s Club honors the volunteer organizations and civic groups at a Christmas dinner at the Pocahontas County Opera House. The dinner, which took place last Thursday, is an opportunity for county volunteers to spend time together to share ideas and experiences.

After a hearty meal, volunteer Reta Griffith welcomed everyone and recognized each organization in attendance, as well as several individuals who went above and beyond in serving the county this year.

Griffith said it was fitting that the dinner always falls during Christmastime because Christmas is a time to reflect on the year, as well as a time to give and receive gifts.

“You give of your time,” she said. “You give of your talent. You give of your money and you’re constantly looking out for your neighbors and your friends,  the general public and all the visitors that come to us, as well. Honestly, you give in so many ways, and we need time to reflect on that so we can think about the thousands and thousands of hours between all of you that you’ve given to the community with all the different projects.”

In preparation for the evening, each organization provided information on the work they do in the county and some recognized individuals who had a stellar year of service in 2018.

The Pocahontas County Family Resource Network was organized in 1998. The non-profit organization’s board officers are: president, Susan McMillion; vice president, Roger Trusler; secretary, Virginia Ramos; and treasurer, Kendall Beverage.

The FRN operates the Harvest House Food Pantry which serves approximately 150 families each month with 400 individuals benefiting from the food. For Thanksgiving, the pantry mobilized to provide full Thanksgiving meals to the families it serves.

The organization also provides weekend backpacks full of food for 110 students with food insecurity in their households and sponsors Project Christmas which serves approximately 300 low income families for Christmas.
The crowd gave a standing ovation as Griffith read the notes for the FRN’s special recognition of member Jean Srodes.
“Jean Srodes recently won the Volunteer of the Year from ‘Our Children, Our Future’ for the work she does with middle and high school students in her after-school program,” Griffith said. “Jean is responsible for equine therapy, golf, radio club, sewing club, kayak club, bike club, hot cocoa and homework and several other after-school programs. She works to keep our students in school and doing well.”
Huntersville Historic Traditions was formed in 2006. Officers are: president, Tim Wade; vice president, Susie Landis; secretary, Laura Dean Bennett; and treasurer, Linda Adams.
HHT focuses on restoring and sharing the history of Huntersville, the first county seat. This year, the organization restored the jail windows and expanded its educational reach with an educational day in May for Marlinton Elementary School fifth grade students, as well as an educational day during Huntersville Traditions Day for eighth, fourth and fifth grade students and a group from Pocahontas County High School.
The organization recognized several individuals who are not members of HHT, but were on hand to help with events throughout the year.
“We want to recognize Tena Bennett for all of the work she does to help make Huntersville Traditions a success,” Griffith read. “She is a wonderful wife and mother, daughter, grandmother, boss and friend to all. We are blessed to know her. [We] would also like to recognize Randy and Hope Andrick. They are so good to help the Huntersville team do set up, break down, serve food and do anything that needs done.”
Marlinton Fire-Rescue is one of the oldest organizations, founded in 1906. Officers are: chief, Herby Barlow; deputy chief, Jamie Kellison; assistant chief, JP Duncan; captain, Travis Cook; first lieutenant, Curtis Helton; second lieutenant, Jason Sharp; sergeant, Brad Cassell; safety officer, Donald Sharp; EMS captain, Jennifer Barlow; EMS first lieutenant, Adam Irvine; EMS second lieutenant, Randy Sharp; president, Doug Lantz; and treasurer, Teresa Sharp.
The organization currently has several members taking the firefighter course and also one member in EMT classes. At the Pioneer Days fireman’s parade, the State Fire Marshal presented members with years of service coins.
The department’s future plans include remodeling a building with the intention of having a 24/7 crew that will be housed there.
The Pocahontas County Chamber of Commerce was organized in 2002 and officers are: president, Bill Jordan; vice president, Ben Wilfong; secretary, PMH staff; and treasurer, Selina King.

The chamber hosts the annual Fish Bowl event in which up to six entrepreneurs present a business plan or discuss their business and how they would spend the prize money if they were selected as winners. The crowd in attendance at the event votes on their favorite presentation and the Chamber presents the winner with $800 to pursue their business endeavor.

The chamber also hosts the Autumn Harvest Festival and RoadKill Cook-off, career day at Pocahontas County High School and an annual dinner in which a Business of the Year and Individual of the Year are honored.

The Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau was organized in 1987. The board of director’s officers are: president, George Murphy; vice president, Mary Snyder; secretary, Connie Carr; and treasurer, Erica Engquist.

Along with continuing to provide information and services to locals and visitors to the county, the CVB is proud of its most recent accomplishment of adopting a new brand mark (logo) for Nature’s Mountain Playground.

Pocahontas County Veterans Honor Corps was founded in 1996. Officers are: Commander, Rick Wooddell; Senior Vice Commander, Sam Arbogast; Junior Vice Commander, Sollie Workman; Secretary, Tom VanReenan; Treasurer, Norris Long; Rifle Commander, Steve Fierbaugh; Quartermaster, Homer Hunter; and Chaplain, Harold Crist.

The Honor Corps provides final military rites for fallen veterans, visits schools the week of Veterans Day and leads several parades during county festivals. The Honor Corps’ volunteer of the year is Steve Fierbaugh who handles maintenance and upkeep of all rifles and military service flags used by the Honor Corps, as well as maintains a proper storage facility for the equipment.

The Pocahontas County Arts Council was founded in 1978 and its current president is Cynthia Gurreri.

The council is involved in both the Empty Bowls events, school visits with clay activities and is in the process of opening a new public art space in Marlinton along with its gallery space in Durbin.

In her notes, Gurreri wrote, “My interest in trying to build an art space for our community comes from my own experiences of taking classes in an art center in Virginia. Art has many specialized fields that require dedicated spaces and dedicated equipment. In the fourteen years I have been a part of the council, I have seen the organization make great strides in making art classes available to the public and in aiding the art programs at local schools.”

The Durbin Lions Club was chartered in 1946. Officers are: president, Suzanne Stewart; first vice president, Kay Wiley; secretary, Jacob Meck; and treasurer, Rick Wooddell.

The club’s projects include providing vision screenings at Green Bank Elementary -Middle School, making pork rinds for Durbin Days Heritage Festival and Treasure on the Mountain; pancake dinner; community turkey dinner; Halloween party at Durbin Fire Hall; and Santa Run. The club also raises funds for the Virgil and Macel Harris Memorial Scholarship and sponsors the Christine Glaab Memorial Scholarship.

The club will finish 2018 with its annual Santa Run in which the club’s “good friend” Santa Claus visits the communities of Northern Pocahontas County, spreading good cheer and collecting last minute wish lists.

The Marlinton Lions Club was founded in 1965. Officers are: president, Joe Laskey; vice president, Larry Lucas; secretary, Becky Taylor; and treasurer, Phyliss Lucas.

The club’s projects for the year include: providing a large donation for the Discovery Junction project, eye screenings at Marlinton Elementary School, Hillsboro Elementary School and Marlinton Middle School and donations to two county food banks. The club focuses on providing financial assistance for local people to buy glasses and for eye surgeries.

As their paperwork said, “We spend hours making barbecue to raise money for projects like Discovery Junction and school projects.”

Humane Society of Pocahontas County was organized in 1998. Officers are: president, Chip Adkins; vice president, Laura Dean Bennett; treasurer, Trish McNaull; and secretary, Christine Mullins.

The Humane Society had a successful year which included winning a $10,000 matching spay/neuter grant from the West Virginia Department of Agriculture. The organization had a total of $20,000 to use for spay/neuter services, as well as rabies vaccines for county dogs and cats, including numerous feral cat populations.

The organization plans to reapply for the grant and hopes to receive more money to continue to handle the feral population, as well as help maintain a healthy population of pets.

The Humane Society recognized Trish McNaull for her dedication to the organization and the animals of Pocahontas County.

“Trish has been the driving force within the Humane Society,” Griffith said. “She has been responsible for seeking out and landing numerous grants, bringing thousands of dollars to our treasury, writing spay/neuter vouchers for many hundreds of Pocahontas County dogs and cats, and arranging veterinary services and transportation for some.”

Marlinton Rotary was founded in 1939 and officers are; president, Kenny Woods; vice president, Roger Trusler; secretary, Laura Finch; and treasurer, Kendall Beverage.

The Rotary has assisted in funding the Discovery Junction project, spearheaded the mobile food pantry fundraiser and donated to Rotary Polio Plus. The Marlinton club will celebrate its 80th  anniversary in 2019 and plans to continue projects like the Dictionary Project which provides a dictionary to each third grade student in the county; assisting with various wellness projects and youth projects, as well as funding scholarships for Pocahontas County residents in cooperation with New River Community and Technical College Foundation.

The Minnehaha CEOS officers are: president, Sue Herold; vice president, Mary Saffel; secretary, Kathy Henry; treasurer, Phyliss Lucas; and health officer, Kim Hafler.

The goal of the CEOS is “to inspire families to make learning an adventure as they advance through life in home and community.”

Projects for this year include Valentine baskets for shut-ins, purposeful reading program, giving books to the library and Family Resource Network baby showers, as well as making and selling live wreaths at the annual Christmas Bazaar.

The Minnehaha CEOS recognized Rene White for her service and dedication to the club and to the communities of Pocahontas County. The club stated, “She is our rock and when we need info, we go to Rene. She helps us to stay straight with business.”

The final club recognized was the evening’s host club, Marlinton Woman’s Club, which was organized in 1917. Officers are: president, Cindy Sabota; vice president, Becky Taylor; secretary, Wally Clark; and treasurer, Dotty Mitchell.

The organization just finished its $5,000 commitment to the Capital Campaign at Pocahontas Memorial Hospital among other projects, the most recognizable being making and selling kettlecorn.

“We live the volunteer spirit by serving our community,” Griffith said. “When you see us out selling kettle corn, you can know that all the proceeds of those sales go back into Pocahontas County. We fund scholarships and many worthy causes in the county. We host the Evening with the Arts every spring to showcase the artists and musical talent of our students, and we host this community Christmas dinner to promote friendship between the civic organizations in the county.”

The evening included entertainment by Juanita Fireball and the Continental Drifters. The  meal was catered by the Greenbrier Grille.

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