The generosity of hundreds of West Virginia University alumni and friends is having a major impact on flood-ravaged parts of southern West Virginia.
On June 23, torrential rains devastated many communities, claiming 23 lives and causing extensive damage to homes and property. In response, donations to the WVU Foundation from more than 1,600 Mountaineers across the country and a matched gift of $500,000 from Princeton native and WVU alumnus Ken Kendrick brought in more than $1 million.
Robin Brown of Richwood lost her entire home. The only items that were salvageable included a bed, stereo and a chair that remained on the top floor of her family’s one-and-a-half story house.
Brown received limited relief assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Managing the clean-up and beginning of the restoration process has been upsetting and challenging for Brown. However, she was overwhelmed by the amount of support she and her family received from WVU and others.
“I was completely overwhelmed when I spoke to the Foundation on the phone. I mean, I cried,” Brown said. “People we have never met, who do not know our names, who have never been to Richwood, have given so, so much.”
Donor contributions through the Foundation will provide Brown with a new roof, appliances and furniture for her home. She barely had the words to describe how grateful she is for the support from the flood relief fund.
“It is just almost indescribable, it’s almost like falling in love,” Brown said of her thankfulness for those who have given for flood victims. “I really can’t tell you what it has meant to us. From the first pepperoni roll we were given to buying a couch. It has been amazing to know that people who did not know that Richwood existed, came or gave from all over the world.”
Brown said without the support of so many, remaining in Richwood would have been nearly impossible.
“In the first few weeks, if the volunteers had not come, we would have just left it. It was so overwhelming. There was so much devastation,” Brown said. “Everywhere you looked, things were a mess. Everything was destroyed. There wasn’t much hope and there wasn’t much left. If volunteers hadn’t come, I don’t think we would have been able to do it.”
One Alderson resident, who asked not to be identified, was denied when he applied for FEMA assistance and a Small Business Administration loan. WVU Extension contacted him regarding the availability of a WVU Foundation flood assistance grant and he was surprised by the opportunity to apply.
The Greenbrier County resident lost his heating system in the flooding and saw this as his number one priority for repairs.
“I wasn’t expecting anything like what the WVU Foundation gave me,” he said. “They approved the grant last week and they are working with Lowe’s so I can purchase items there. I am really grateful for the group I have been working with at the Foundation.”
As a hardworking, humble and proud West Virginian and blue collar worker, the Alderson resident rarely asks for assistance; however, some things can’t be done alone.
“I’m just a human being trying to make a living. It’s a paycheck-to-paycheck thing for me, and if I can do the work, I do the work,” he said. “This grant will help me out a lot, but it could have been anything. If they had just given me a dollar, I still would have been grateful.”
The flood relief funding wouldn’t be possible without the support of so many. The Alderson man said it was refreshing to see that people remembered West Virginia and were active and eager to contribute.
“There are so many people out there you never meet that are so giving. Thank you to those who have given back to West Virginia and the Foundation,” he said. “I’m so grateful that West Virginia isn’t forgotten. The equity here is not the amount of money you make, it’s the people you know, and they just love West Virginia. It’s human equity instead of monetary equity.”
In Nicholas County, the Richwood Public Library experienced damage to its floors when floodwaters flowed into the back area of the building. Fortunately, the library’s books, furniture and resources remain in good condition.
The library was able to acquire flooring and community members helped to transport the order; however, library director Robin Bartlett said the cost of labor to install the new floors was much higher than expected. They could only store the flooring for a certain amount of time and were struggling to pay for its installation.
“When the WVU Foundation called me, I cried,” Bartlett said. “It was the answer to my prayer.”
The Foundation grant will pay for the flooring installation and repairs are expected to be completed before Thanksgiving.
Bartlett said the assistance they’ve received from people in Richwood and the contributions that have been made from outside of the community have not gone unnoticed.
“It’s heartwarming that so many people have helped this small community and it’s amazing where all of the help comes from,” Bartlett said. “In a disaster, you realize there are so many good people in the world and it’s an incredible feeling.”
In addition to the funding being administered by WVU Extension, donations to the Gray Student Emergency Fund have helped several dozen WVU students impacted by the flood with tuition, fees and books.
“We were amazed at the generosity of Mountaineer nation when we began collecting donations right after the disaster. Now to see this generosity being put to good use to help flood victims is truly heartwarming,” said Greg McCracken, who headed up the flood relief efforts for the WVU Foundation. “We are just happy to be a part of helping others as this long rebuilding process continues for many in southern West Virginia.”
CONTACT: Bill Nevin, WVU Foundation
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