When I think of all we went through during the historic West Virginia Flood of 2016, the first thing that comes to mind is NOT the many details and duties we had to attend to in order to face the initial impact and then move on to the clean up.
What I think of is the ‘Ghany spirit, and my heart soars when I ponder the amazing stories of generosity from so many people connected to camp.
My soul has been full to the point of bursting with the urge to share these stories with you but of course, the daily life of camp rises to Reveille and sets to Taps and in between is a lot of hustle and bustle.
I’m thrilled that I finally secured a few minutes to share just a fraction of these wonderful stories with you.
One of the first that comes to mind is that of Counselor Natalie Wade, who just happens to be a Lewisburg, West Virginia native. Imagine being Natalie and waking up to see the flood and then wondering immediately about the safety of her family and community just down the road. Imagine that when campers and counselors were sent back home for the week that back home for Natalie was still in flood-ravaged Lewisburg.
Meanwhile, while Natalie was helping out around her community, a group of campers who were back at their homes in the greater Bethesda, Maryland area began a mission to raise funds for local flood relief back in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. These young Junior Campers banded together to tell the story of how they were home for a week after their beloved camp was doused by the flood, but that more than that, they were concerned that the flood had an even worse impact on that surrounding Greenbrier County area.
Locals in their area chipped in, helping this group of seven camper-ambassadors raise $450, which they generously donated to the United Way of Greenbrier County expressly for flood relief. One of the moms who helped our little philanthropists, Anne Brooks Rudzki, sent a letter to the United Way offering warm thanks for the girls’ efforts. And we thank them, too, for their own version of a ‘Ghany We Will Give! Oh, and did I mention how proud we are of them! Blows me away! You can see the note to the United Way here and a picture of the girls and some friends below.
There were sources of other donations, too. When the Counselors went home during that one-week clean-up time, many posted on their Facebook pages about the flood and said they would be collecting donations while at home, and would drive them back to Lewisburg when they came back at the end of the week.
For example, here’s one posting that a Camp Alleghany counselor Mary Lang Regen posted,
Hey guys! So if you haven’t heard yet, the entire Greenbrier County in West Virginia has suffered devastating flood damage the past week. This hits home for me because this is where I was hoping to spend my whole summer. My summer camp is in the middle of Greenbrier County. I ended up having to leave camp early due to flood damage. I’m home for at least the next four days while workers make it safe for us to return. My camp was lucky and our damages were far less devastating than those of other Greenbrier County towns. In order to help support this area that means so much to me, the other Counselors and I are bringing supplies back from home to donate to families. If anyone could help donate new diapers, trash bags, socks and underwear, blankets, laundry detergent, and/or bottled water that would mean so much to the people who lost everything. All donations can be delivered anytime this week either to my house or the main office at North Mecklenburg High School. I’ll load my car up and take all of the donations with me when I’m able to return to camp. Let’s see how full we can get my car!
Another counselor, Kelly McAllister, leveraged not only the power of her own Facebook page, but a local community page, too.
The town I live in Clarksville, Maryland has a Facebook page called Clarksville happenings. Usually people post about job openings or yard sales but I decided to reach out and explain the situation in Greenbrier County, West Virginia.
The post was shared and there was dozens of people reaching out, hoping to help the cause. Over the next weeks tons of people dropped of huge amounts of donations! I collected more than I ever thought I would.
Many other counselors told me about similar outreach, or themselves donated to local churches or organizations that were collecting items for flood relief.
And it really did make a difference, with a huge amount of usable products coming in from many different counselors’ efforts.
Several counselors came back to camp after imploring their local communities for help with cars packed to the gills with everything from diapers to toilet paper, from food and water to plastic trash bags and paper plates. All of which were, as Natalie’s experience tells us below, items that really, truly helped!
So we have counselors and campers and communities to thank for their generous donations to the surrounding Greenbrier County area at this rough time. Donations poured in from Mecklenburg and Davidson, North Carolina, to Clarksville, Phoenix, and Bethesda, Maryland, from Onancock to Norfolk, Virginia and beyond. One counselor is from England, yet when she went to the home of one of the other counselors during that mandatory post-flood week away, she still helped collect items!
Natalie told me that when she was back in her hometown of Lewisburg standing in the local Walmart discussing with a friend her job as a Counselor at Camp Alleghany, a lady with her two children overheard the conversation and couldn’t contain her thanks.
As Natalie tells it,
“She came up to me with tears in her eyes and hugged me. When I asked her why she said, ‘Everything Alleghany donated to flood victims has really helped my family out. Because of you guys my two boys have three meals a day and clothes on their backs.'”
Natalie went on to say,
“It just goes to show you that what camp has donated has really helped out this community that I live in. I appreciate everything everyone has done for us. WV STRONG!!”
Our own Thank You!
We have our own thankfulness to extend to so many who stepped in to aid Camp Alleghany in the midst of the flood, after the flood, and continuing to this day.
Our big-hearted and very engaged Camp Alleghany Alumni Association, currently under the gifted and capable leadership of Board President Stephanie McPherson Astley, stepped right in from the beginning with a letter of outreach and a web site posting encouraging alums to join in Flood Relief aimed at helping repair the many damages to camp and replace lost items and equipment for both camp and counselors.
The outpouring of support and donations has been humbling, inspiring, amazing, mind-blowing, touching, and helpful beyond words.
Seriously, speaking of words…words will never be enough to express the thanks that my parents and I, our families, all the administration team, and all those working closely with camp feel at this tremendous example of generosity and connection in and from the extended Camp Alleghany Alum family!
I want to particularly point you to a list of those donors as a small but hugely heartfelt recognition for the giant gesture and show of faith that each and every one of these alum and friends have shown us. Thank you all a million times over and with the biggest ‘Ghany hug in the world! Any new donations to that fund will include the donor’s name being added to this public list (unless anonymity is requested).
Clean up and repairs go on in camp and the generous monetary donations that the Alumni Association has helped encourage have been critical to our ability to address the damages. Recently we learned that insurance will not really cover many (or any!) of our losses since we didn’t lose any actual buildings. This has been a huge blow since our facilities are about far more than just the buildings that house different camp functions.
But the CAAA is still acting in a capacity to encourage donations to Camp Alleghany via Square and in checks, so you can still visit the Flood Relief Fund page on our website and make a donation.
Thank you all!
In ‘Ghany love,
— Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls