WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Volunteers with the Pennsylvania-based Mennonite Disaster Service will officially leave Greenbrier County Wednesday after 11 months of working to rebuild homes for flooded residents.
The group has been in the county since the June 2016 flood.
“We come as strangers, but certainly we leave as friends,” said MDS Executive Director Kevin King.
Volunteers came from all over the country to help with recovery efforts in White Sulphur Springs and Rainelle — two of the hardest hit areas in the state. Of the nearly 2,000 MDS volunteers in West Virginia, about 1,500 helped out in Greenbrier County.
MDS built nearly three dozen homes in the county.
“Rewiring, redo the plumbing, putting new heating/air conditioning system in, getting the sheet rock isolation up, trim, paint and then that magical day happens when we have a home dedication,” King said of just some of the work they did.
When volunteers first arrived in West Virginia, King said the sights, the sounds and the smells of mud and debris were “overwhelming.”
“There’s a sense of chaos,” he said. “People are looking for what the latest information is. It’s a high-anxiety state and MDS is aware of that. As volunteers, we come, we hope we bring a calming presence and simply ask, ‘How can I help you?'”
During home dedication ceremonies, King said MDS hands over the key, an Amish made quilt or a wall hanging as a symbol of their friendship and a Bible.
“This project meant a lot for us in White Sulphur Springs — getting quite a number of families up out of the flood plain, up onto higher ground into a brand new home,” King said.
MDS also helped constuct homes at Hope Village, a new housing development built in Greenbrier County after the flood. King said they were able to build homes there for less than $55,000 because of donations.
The June flood claimed nearly two dozen lives and destroyed homes, schools and businesses in central and southeastern West Virginia.