The Rite Aid in Rainelle is open again. To some that may not sound like a big deal, but to folks in that flood-ravaged Greenbrier County community it’s a sign of progress.
“The store looks beautiful,” Mayor Andy Pendleton told me on MetroNews Talkline Wednesday after the ribbon cutting. “It’s a new beginning for Rainelle. (It is) showing that Rainelle is coming back.”
That’s the hope, not only in Rainelle, but in all the small communities ravaged by the flood. It’s an enormous challenge. FEMA centers are now closing as the responsibilities for recovery shift even more to the residents, charitable agencies, local and state government and volunteers.
Appalachian Service Project is among those organizations that have pledged to stay and help rebuild. The Christian-based group is building ten homes in Rainelle for flood victims. The first one is scheduled to be finished October 14th.
The Rainelle Community Development Corporation has raised money to try to help businesses that have reopened. The $500 checks are modest amounts, but Pendleton says the mom and pop stores appreciate it.
Meanwhile, Governor Tomblin’s “RISE West Virginia” initiative is getting money in the hands of businesses throughout the flood region. RISE has handed out checks totaling $750,900 to 86 small business owners that employ 429 people.
Greenbrier County has received the most grants so far with 128, followed by Kanawha County with 59 and Nicholas County with 45. Another 198 grant applications are pending.
The RISE program is a public-private partnership that is co-sponsored by West Virginia native Brad Smith. The Chairman and CEO of the software giant Intuit and his wife, Alys, contributed $500,000 of their own money to kick-start the program, and Tomblin committed state money in hopes of reaching a goal of $2 million.
The grants of up to $10,000 are awarded to eligible small businesses based on need and recommendations from a review committee. Flood-damaged business owners can still apply at wvflood.com. Also, the state Chamber of Commerce Foundation is still taking applications at wvchamber.com for its mini-grant program.
There’s still much work to be done. Just two weeks ago during an appearance on Talkline, Angie Rosser with the Greater Clay Long-Term Recovery Committee, said it feels as though some communities are being left behind.
“Two months later, people are thinking, ‘Well, things must be back to normal,’ and they simply aren’t. We still have people without power, without communication, without water. We have people just returning to their homes and starting the process,” she said.
Recovering from the Great Flood will be a Herculean task. Along the way it’s important to celebrate the milestones, while also refocusing attention on what still must be done.