BUCKHANNON – Once when John F. Kennedy was visiting West Virginia he said, “The sun does not always shine in West Virginia, but the people always do.”
His words proved to be true over the last two weeks, as Upshur County businesses, organizations and residents rallied to help fellow West Virginians affected by flooding in nearby Harman.
According to the Randolph County Office of Emergency Management and a press release by the Randolph County Commission, parts of Randolph County received 4.5 inches of rain in just a few hours Saturday evening, June 29, and Sunday, June 30.
Gov. Jim Justice issued a State of Emergency for Grant, Pendleton, Preston, Tucker and Randolph counties on Monday, July 1. Mudslides along with high water caused several roads including U.S. Route 33 to be closed. The Randolph County Commission’s statement said flooding knocked several homes off their foundations in Harman, Job and Whitmer.
It didn’t take long for Upshur County to jump in and start offering help to those affected by the flooding in Harman. Members of the Ellamore Volunteer Fire Department wanted to lend a helping hand to the flood victims in Harman. Ellamore VFD Chief Jamie Pugh said the department gathered together to raise money.
“We hosted a boot drive on Monday at the intersection of Route 20 and Tallmansville Road,” Pugh said. “We have been hit all around with floods, and it could be us just as easy as anyone else. Our guys wanted to help out, so we collected money from people passing by in boots and collected $1,621. This amount was collected in just two hours.”
Pugh said traditionally, the Ellamore VFD tries to assist when others are in need.
“I talked to folks over in Randolph County Monday morning, and spoke with the Harman VFD Chief and we decided to do the boot drive,” Pugh said. “We also traveled over to Harman on Thursday and Friday to help cover the Harman Fire Department since they worked so hard.”
He said the goal of the Ellamore VFD is service to others.
“Every time I come up with an idea or there is something that goes on, the guys message me asking what they can do to help,” Pugh said. “It makes you proud to be the chief of a fire department where everybody is so big on helping, not just our community, but everywhere.”
Elkins resident Tracy Nelan Harper coordinated with some Buckhannon businesses to transport donated supplies to help those affected by the weekend weather disaster.
“I knew all of the fire departments in Randolph County were gathering cleaning supplies and water for those in Harman,” Harper said. “A friend of mine who lives in Harman told me there was a big need for thing like shovels, water hoses, big trash bags and much more than just cleaning supplies.”
Harper said she began making phone calls, Lowe’s in Buckhannon, said they would donate some items – and asked her to come on over.
“When I got there, Alexis Cooper, who works at Lowe’s in Buckhannon and grew up in Buckhannon, talked with me,” Harper said. “She said she spoke with the manager and after speaking with their corporate headquarters, Buckhannon Lowe’s would be giving $1,000 worth of supplies to Harman – and even agreed to deliver those supplies to Harman. It was so wonderful.”
Harper said Lowe’s of Buckhannon loaded up the items and then delivered them. In addition, she noted Buckhannon Walmart donated two $100 gift cards, which were used to purchase wheelbarrows, hoses, nozzles, extension cords and lots of gloves.
“Buckhannon Walmart also put out bins to collect non-perishable food items,” Harper said. “I am going back later in the week to pick up those items and deliver them to Harman.”
She said her reasoning to help gather these supplies was not to get any recognition.
“We live in West Virginia and this is just something we do – help others in need in our communities when they need it,” Harper said.
Kathy Leombruno, senior vice president and marketing officer for Citizens Bank of West Virginia said the bank and its employees are working to help those affected by the weekend flooding.
“Our bank and employees are responding to the recent flash flooding by uniting and partnering with the American Red Cross. Over the last few days, the Red Cross has been working with emergency management to identify the needs of flood victims, first responders and volunteers of affected communities,” she said. “Red Cross Officials say it will cost them thousands to assist the flood victims. We have made a corporate donation of $500 and set up a bank account to collect funds for the Red Cross. Additionally, our employees have made contributions totaling $585.”
Leombruno said monies donated to the fund will be distributed to the Red Cross in Randolph County to help flood victims purchase necessary items to recover from the disaster. Contributions can made at the Buckhannon branch or any branch office or by mailing to Flood Relief Fund, c/o Citizens Bank of WV, P.O. Box 1519, Elkins, WV 26241.
Stockert Youth & Community Center is collecting items to take to the flood victims in Harman.
“I thought it would be good for the kids here to participate,” Lora Osburn, SYCC youth camp director, said. “We will use the Stockert Bus to take the supplies over to Elkins, where they will be taken to Harman. Anyone can contribute and add to our collections.”
Osburn said most of the items they collected include cleaning supplies, mops and buckets.
“I do know they are asking for supplies for babies as well such as diapers and wipes,” she said.
She said she felt collecting supplies and sending them to others in need is important, especially for the kids, because they need to live with a giving heart.
“Just because we are from Buckhannon doesn’t mean we can’t help,” Osburn said.
Wendling’s in Buckhannon also donated to help those affected by the flash flooding.
“We are partnering with one of our customers at the Stockyards,” human resources manager Michelle Beckner said. “We are going to pool all of our donations with them, and they have a truck and will deliver the supplies to Harman. We are doing a combination of donations from the company as well as products purchased by employees and money collected by our employees.”
Beckner said anytime there is something like this in their community, Wendling’s feels the need to help in any way they can.
Buckhannon resident Buck Edwards said he works with the West Virginia Methodist Conference on flood relief projects.
“We were down in the southern part of the state helping out,” Edwards said. “I spoke to the VOAD (the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) and they were looking for people to go to Harman following the assessment to possibly help out. I put out a call on Facebook looking for people who would be interested in going and doing that.”
Edwards said he organized a group of folks from Buckhannon who went down south during the 2016 flood to help.
“I figured, ‘Let’s do the same for the Harman folks,’ so that is what we are going to do,” Edwards said. “We are holding in place to find out what the situation is over there.”
Folks who would like to volunteer can contact Edwards on Facebook or call him at 304-588-5200.
“We really just wanted to give folks the opportunity to do something – to make an impact,” Edwards said.