"We are going to be open until they don't need any more food," that was volunteer Evelyn Smith's take on the shelter at the New Martinsville United Methodist Church on Monday evening.
It looks like, thankfully, the end may be in sight though as more people are getting their electricity restored after the powerful storm that blew through on June 29 and left thousands without power.
The NMUMC opened their doors as a cooling station, shelter, and meal provider on Thursday at the request of the Wetzel County Emergency Management Agency. Pastor Melissa Shortridge said the EMA called desperate for help as the shelter at the Lewis Wetzel Family Center had other events booked for that space. The church gladly complied with the request. "My regret is that we didn't think of offering this service sooner," said Shortridge.
Several women fill takeout containers with meals at the New Martinsville United Methodist Church. Pastor Melissa Shortridge is on the right. The church served as a cooling center and shelter, as well as served three meals a day, since Thursday. (Photo by Amy?Witschey)
Individuals, churches, and the New Martinsville Ministerial Association donated food and funds for the endeavor.
"We've had a lot of take outs," said Smith, noted many people from more remote areas are taking meals to their neighbors in need.
The church is well equipped to be a shelter, especially since their restrooms include shower facilities. They also have linens available. "All they have to do is come," said Smith, happy to offer neighbors help.
The experience has been very rewarding. "I've got to meet a lot of nice people that I wouldn't have met otherwise," noted Smith.
One such couple are Charles and Mary Young of American Ridge. Monday evening they were partaking of the church's hospitality and cool setting for the fifth day in a row. They didn't know when their home would receive power as Mon Power was only saying the situation in their area was "hazardous and dangerous"-not even hazarding a guess at a restoration time.
In the meantime, the Youngs are helping by offering what they have. They brought the fruits of their garden-new potatoes and cabbage. The church crew gladly prepared the offerings and incorporated them into the day's meals.
"People just don't know the impact this has had," said Charles. "It's been an eye opener."
Assistant State Fire Marshall and chairman of the Wetzel County Local Emergency Planning Committee Mike Barrick said they will definitely be looking at developing a relationship with faith-based groups following this event.
"The faith-based groups have really stepped up during this ordeal," he said.
As a side note, he said the power restoration crews who are visiting the area have noted how hospitable the local residents are to them. He said one older lady offered a crew from New Jersey a cold drink. They said they were the ones there to help her, not the other way around. He reply was simple West Virginia hospitality, "There's always time to be polite."