RAINELLE, W.Va. — It seemed appropriate that the sun broke through the clouds in Rainelle Friday morning when the ribbon was cut on the first post-flood house built by the Appalachia Service Project.
On the evening of June 23, Greenbrier West High School Assistant Football Coach Russ Gilkeson and his wife Becky knew they had a problem when flood waters entered their house on Ohio Avenue. They hurried to the attic where they stayed for a week, Rainelle Mayor Andy Pendleton said.
“He didn’t want to leave his home. So he lived up there and the church kept bringing him food. So he became the first owner of the (new) house and it’s a great inspiration to us all,” the mayor told MetroNews Friday.
There was enough land to build the house on the front of the property. The destroyed home remains on the back part of the lot, a memory that Rainelle continues to try and reverse, the mayor said.
“We have a feeling of hope. Every day is a day of hope of a better today,” she said.
ASP hopes to build 50 houses in Rainelle in the coming months. Two others are up off their foundations with about another dozen with foundation work only, the mayor said. Volunteers use the weekends to build them.
“They are very well made with loving hands and caring people,” the mayor said.
Rainelle is still looking for land to build more houses. Retired dentist Jerry Pennington recently donated 2.5 acres where eight houses will be constructed, the mayor said.
“The people are coming together and the people that come in and volunteer from far and near have expressed to me, ‘These are the nicest people,’ they appreciate what we’re doing,” Pendleton said.
Some FEMA money helped Coach Gilkeson finance the new home. There are other financing options available for those who qualify.
Greenbrier West students and the school band attended Friday’s ceremony along with residents, volunteers, project officials and U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito.