Civic groups in Pocahontas County struggle to help those in need during COVID economic hard times

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Laura Dean Bennett
Staff Writer

It’s hard to calculate exactly what economic impact the global pandemic will have on our community in the long run.

Thankfully, we’ve been spared the misery the virus has been inflicting in so many parts of the country.

But, we can definitely say that its already taking a toll on our economy – small businesses and tourism are especially hard hit.

And so are our civic organizations who work so hard to address a variety of community needs.

These are organizations on which we depend and their fundraising opportunities have been cancelled along with our festivals.

Here are five of our largest civic groups that will be struggling to contribute to help meet the needs of individuals and programs in the coming months:

Marlinton Rotary members, from left: Roy Gibson, Roger Trusler, Kenny Woods and Joe Smith, at the 2019 District Convention which was held at Pipestem State Park. Photo courtesy of Kenny Woods

Marlinton Rotary

For many years, Marlinton Rotary has supported a wide range of worthy causes in Pocahontas County.

To do so, they depend on the sale of their freshly made pork rinds sold during Pioneer Days, Autumn Harvest Festival and RoadKill Cook-off.

Becky Campbell is one of the many active Rotary members.

“I’ve been a Rotary Club member for almost eight years,” Campbell said. “As soon as I accepted the program director position at the Pocahontas County Family Resource Network, I knew I wanted to get involved in a civic organization.

“The Marlinton Rotary club held their weekly meetings in our Family Center, and I knew about all the good work they do, so it just seemed like a good fit for me. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. It’s a great organization.

“It’s especially fun making the pork rinds.”

Besides the sale of pork rinds, the club holds drawings to raise the extra funds needed to meet their charitable requests.
“The Rotary Club donates to many worthy community organizations and to individuals who have a special need,” Rotary president Kenny Woods said.

“We like to help our schools’ athletic teams.

“For instance, the Pocahontas County High School girls basketball team received transportation funding this spring when they qualified for the State Championship in Charleston.

“And we’re proud to be able to help school programs like the PCHS STEM Club [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math].

“We also regularly support the work of the Family Resource Network and the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

“And we give an annual scholarship to a student or an adult who wants to take advantage of the continuing education offered through the New River Community and Technical College.

“We recognize that there’s a food insecurity problem among our students, so we donate to a local backpack program, the Need to Feed.

“The FRN supplies weekend backpacks full of food and snacks for the neediest students in our county,” he explained.

“And every year we put a dictionary in the hands of every third grade student in the county.”

The Rotary Club was the first civic organization to make a sizable donation toward Discovery Junction.

Their donation purchased benches and a light post for the new park next to the Opera House.

Every Christmas, the Rotary sponsors Dinner with Santa at Marlinton Elementary School prior to the Christmas Parade. They provide and serve the meal, escort Santa and donate the proceeds to the Pocahontas Cooperative Parish Food Pantry.

“I don’t think COVID-19 will affect our membership, but it might hurt us getting new members.

“We have 16 members, and they are all great people.

“Right now, the real question is how to make money without the festivals.

“It’s going to be tough for a while, but I know that Rotary is going to pull through and find a way to keep doing good work in our community,” he added.

Marlinton Rotary is always looking for new members. Reach out to Kenny Woods, wvwoods@gmail.com

If you’d like to make a donation to Marlinton Rotary, you may send it to: Marlinton Rotary c/o Kendall Beverage, PO Box 87, Marlinton, WV 24954.

Members of the Durbin Lions Club gathered last year to make apple cider. Kneeling: Bill Blackshire. First row: Sue Striesel, Kay Blackshire, Linda Stewart and Donnie Waybright. Second row: John Wayne, Kevin Fraser, Bill Hevener, Thomas Brown and Homer Hunter. Third row: John Jenkins, Murrel Mullenax, Lucas Prisco and Ciro Giammona. Photo courtesy of Kay Blackshire

Durbin Lions Club

Founded in 1946, the Durbin Lions Club is a mighty force in the northern end of the county.

To fund their impressive list of good deeds, they make and sell their well-known pork rinds at Durbin Daze and Snowshoe Foundation’s Treasure on the Mountain.

They also sell Treasure on the Mountain tickets as well as tickets for a sportsman package at various venues.

“Of course, we’re disappointed about Durbin Daze being cancelled and Treasure on the Mountain being a virtual event this year,” president Kay Blackshire said. “We won’t be selling our pork rinds, and that’s going to make for a shortfall in fundraising,”

The fact that so much of their fundraising has been curtailed is very much on their minds.

“We have a lot of responsibilities, and we’ve always been proud of how much we can help our community,” she said.

Like their counterpart, Marlinton Lions, eye health and vision are top priorities of the group.

“We offer educational public programs about how to prevent and manage diabetes and help local residents by defraying the cost of eye doctor visits and eyeglasses,” she explained.

They support the two famous Lions Club organizations, Sight Foundation and Leader Dogs for the Blind.

The Durbin Lions are not only concerned about healthy sight, but keeping Pocahontas County a beautiful sight to see.

Pandemic or no pandemic, so far this year, their members have spent 20 hours picking up trash in the county.

Anyone who has ever attended one of their March buckwheat pancake dinners at the Arbovale Community Center can tell you, these Lions know a thing or two about good pancakes and sausage.

It’s a local rite of spring, and a delicious way to donate to a worthy cause.

Last year the club gave money to the State Police during their “Stop the Bleed” kit campaign.

“If someone comes to us with a request, we do our best to help them,” Blackshire said.

In addition to vision issues, this group is especially focused on local school students and their school needs.

In recent years they’ve donated tables to Green Bank Elementary-Middle School and money for gymnastic equipment for the after-school program at that school. They also conduct annual vision screenings at Green Bank.

Every year they offer two scholarships to graduating seniors at Pocahontas County High School, and they invite elderly or shut-in residents in the area to join them for a festive and free Christmas dinner during the holidays.

“We have 46 members, most of whom are very active,” Blackshire said. “Our members are very faithful.

“Two of our members – Harold Crist and Kenny Vance – have been in the club since the 1960s.

The club usually meets twice a month at Arbovale Community Center.

“Unfortunately, we have not had a meeting since March, but we’re keeping up with club business. We do a lot of communication by phone and email and we also have a Google Group,” Blackshire added.

The Durbin Lions are still doing what fundraising they can.

They are offering Treasure on the Mountain tickets and tickets for their Sportsman’s Package drawing are for sale on their Facebook page.

The Sportsman’s Package includes a rifle, a fishing pole and a knife.

For more information about the Durbin Lions Club, or if you would like to donate to the club, please visit their Facebook page or contact President Kay Blackshire by email at kwiley30@hotmail.com

Pocahontas Community Club

All the money they raise goes back into the local community.

“We’re a local organization – run for the benefit of local people,” president Lake Vaughan said.

“We’re very proud of the fact that we can help local working families, the elderly and children – anyone who’s in need.

“We often pay for travel to and from medical treatments or surgeries, for people who are hurt and behind on their bills.

“It’s often a private situation – something that’s handled anonymously,” he stressed.

“All the people we get to help have one thing in common – they’re going through hard times.

“It’s a great feeling to be able to help people.

“We also put a lot of money into the school system. We’ve helped with a lot of school trips.

“Yes, the Coronavirus has really hurt us.

“We’re definitely worried about how we’re going to raise enough money this year,” Vaughan said.

“These are uncertain times.

“And there may be more need for our help now than ever,” he added.

The Pocahontas Community Club has a well-organized fundraising system.

They are a popular food vendor at all of our festivals – Pioneer Days, Durbin Days Heritage Festival, the Autumn Harvest Festival and Cranberry Shindig. It’s hard work and they work them all.

“We’ve got a large food concession truck, and we sell  corn dogs, hot dogs and pizza,” Vaughan said.

“Anyone who comes to the festivals in Marlinton knows us. We’re always set up in front of City National Bank.”

For the Cranberry Shindig they also make cornbread, brown beans and chili.

“It’s a good fundraiser for us, and we make enough to take care of a lot of needs in Pocahontas County,” he said with a smile.

Right now, the club is raising money by selling tickets on a drawing for a .30-.30 Henry rifle.

The tickets cost $20 each, and only 150 tickets will be sold.

They are being sold at Buckeye Country Mart and Appalachian Sports.

“With all the festivals cancelled, we’re worried about fundraising,” Vaughan said.  “At least we can still do the drawings.”

Each year the club provides money to the County Extension Service to underwrite the 4-H premiums.

This is the prize money which 4-Hers are awarded for their 4-H projects.

“We give regular donations to the Pocahontas Center Auxiliary,” Vaughan said.

“It’s a good cause. These hard-working volunteers make life better for our seniors all year long and, at Christmas, they purchase Christmas gifts for them,” he explained.

Their membership tends to be from around the Hillsboro area, with a lot of members being married couples.

Meetings are usually the first Wednesday of every month, and right now they’re scheduled to have a meeting in August.

“We’ve got to make plans for the future and how we’re going to manage during the pandemic.” Vaughan said.

The meetings are informal, there are no membership dues and everyone is invited to join.

“We don’t usually go around asking anybody for a donation,” he explained. “We’ve always been able to raise the money we need with our hard work, but this year things are a little different.”

“If anyone in the community would like to help us, we’d sure appreciate it.”

Call Pocahontas Community Club president Lake Vaughan at 304-653-4297.

Marlinton Woman’s Club members at their kettle corn booth during Pioneer Days festival. From left, Shirley Tibbs, Cathy Mosesso, Wally Clark, Debbie Gale and Cindy Sabota. L.D. Benneett photo

Marlinton Woman’s Club

The Marlinton Woman’s Club is famous for its homemade, fresh-popped kettle corn.

It’s hot work, but these hard-working community servants are glad to do it, because the proceeds are all re-invested right back into their community.

“Community service is a badge we wear most proudly,” Woman’s Club president Debbie Gale said.

“People know to look for our kettle corn during Pioneer Days, Treasure on the Mountain, Autumn Harvest Festival,  Cranberry Shindig and Huntersville Traditions Day.

“But, not this year.

“We hate not being able to be out in the community.

“Of course, we have grave concerns about not being able to raise funds this year because of the coronavirus.”

And kettle corn isn’t the club’s only fundraiser.

“The first Woman’s Club fundraiser to be cancelled in 2020 was our Easter candy sale,” Gale said.

“We always get together and make homemade candy for people’s Easter baskets.

“It’s fun to make, and I guess everyone likes it, because we’re always sold out in a few hours.”

For a hundred years, the Marlinton Woman’s Club has been raising money and donating to back to the community.

They support Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, the Family Resource Network, Pocahontas Parish Cooperative Food Pantry, Allegheny Mountain Radio and the Pocahontas County Library and Visitor Centers.

Last year their donation to Pocahontas County Senior Citizens provided the last of the funds needed to fully fund a new truck for their Meals-on-Wheels program, and a donation to Humane Society of Pocahontas County provided two oxygen mask kits for pets to county fire departments.

In recent years, they undertook a large pledge to the Pocahontas Memorial Hospital, helped to rebuild the Depot and the historic McGlaughlin Cabin.

These busy ladies have also donated to the fire department and Discovery Junction, and they maintain the flower pots downtown and donated to the GFWC West Virginia President’s project – “Opioid Crisis/ Drug Abuse and Recovery.”

Their support of the students of Pocahontas County has never wavered.

They donate to local backpack programs, the art program at Pocahontas County High School and annually award the Hugh O’Brien Youth  Scholarship.

Additionally, in conjunction with Seneca Woodlands Women’s Club, they award a four-year scholarship to a graduating senior girl.

“Last year we donated a grill and picnic table to the West Virginia Healing Home in Ronceverte” Gale said.  “It is a most-needed resource for Greenbrier County and Pocahontas County women.

“Of course, every year, we sponsor the Evening with the Arts in the spring, which is a chance to showcase talented students.  And we host the Community Christmas Dinner, which is an opportunity for county civic organizations to get together.”

The club also helps out by decorating and serving every year at the Veteran’s Dinner in the Opera House.

The group donates to two international programs  – Operation Smile and the Heifer Project.

Come fall and winter, it remains to be seen how the Marlinton Woman’s Club will be able to continue such rigorous support of all of these projects.

Anyone wishing to become a member would be most welcome.

Inquiries and donations would be most appreciated and may be sent to: Marlinton Woman’s Club 1100 10th Avenue, Marlinton, WV 24954

Marlinton Lions Club

This August, just as they have done for years, the Marlinton Lions Club would have been providing the annual BBQ dinner for the 4-H kids, their parents and the public at the Pocahontas Producers Stockyards.

It’s just one of the many times and places that the community will be missing out on the club’s famous BBQ pork sandwiches this year.

They serve the sandwiches during Pioneer Days and Autumn Harvest Festival and set up occasionally in front of the Pocahontas IGA.

Their famous homemade BBQ sandwiches have become an institution.

It’s a labor of love for the Lions, which takes days of hard work by many members.

Their sale supports the ability for the Marlinton Lions to serve their community.

Like every Lion’s Club around the country and the world, the Marlinton Lions Club focuses on issues of sight and the prevention of blindness.

President Randy Irvine said club members work hard to raise the funds necessary to keep up their commitment to paying for eyeglasses, eye surgeries and providing local eye screenings.

“Besides the work we do to help locally, we also support the Lions International’s Sight Foundation and Leader Dogs for the Blind.

“You may have noticed Roger Trusler and his leader dog, Koda, making their rounds in Marlinton this past year,” Irvine said.

“It’s just great that the Lions support the Leader Dog program.

“These dogs can make all the difference in people’s lives, and the puppy program and training program are not inexpensive.”

The vision of the Lions Club extends beyond problems related to sight.

They support  local scouting programs – both Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.

Each year, they pay for the Boy Scout charter.

Last year they subsidized the Girl Scouts’ work at the Campbelltown Cemetery.

“Besides helping the Scouts, we support the 4-H program, and we also help make Pocahontas County school trips possible,” Irvine said.

“Anything for the kids – we try to help out.”

Like all of our civic organizations, the Marlinton Lions will be facing a fundraising shortfall this year.

“We don’t know how we’re going to be able to make our usual donations,” Irvine said.

“But we need to try somehow to at least do a portion of what we usually do. We’d certainly appreciate the community’s support this year.

“It’s a worthwhile organization.

“We are always looking for new members.

“We meet twice a month and if you’ll come to a meeting, have a free dinner with us, I think you’ll see – we have a good time.

“We do good, and we enjoy each other’s company.” he said.

“I came to a meeting 32 years ago, and once I joined, I never looked back!”

Anyone interested in helping the Marlinton Lion’s Club may send their donation to Phyliss Lucas, 2637 Sunset Road, Marlinton WV 24954.