The Greenbrier County Commission was given an update at the Tuesday, May 23, meeting with a report on the progress of recovery goals for the county’s western end following the 2016 floods.
Matt Ford and David Lunsford with the Greater Greenbrier Long-Term Recovery Committee, made a presentation for the Meadow River Valley (MRV) Community Initiative and the need for community collaboration.
In Rupert and Rainelle, hope is lacking, Ford said. While White Sulphur Springs has been the recipient of many offers of help, in the western end of the county, where flooding affected several towns, there is less coordination for assistance. The MRV hopes to counter that view by using a state-wide discussion incorporated in What’s Next West Virginia’s problem-solving approach by creating a new name for the area called What’s Next Meadow River Valley.
What’s Next West Virginia is a state-wide conversation about the economic future of communities in West Virginia, organized by the WVCenter for Civic Life, a nonpartisan West Virginia nonprofit.
In the past month or so, those working on the MRV Community Initiative have received a good dose of encouragement and criticism. Ford described both as welcome, “because they help us understand the values and positions that people hold, and at the end of the day, the MRV Community Initiative is about helping all people and our communities.”
A May 5 workshop in Rupert was well received, Ford said, with many people discussing potential action items to create a better Meadow River Valley and beyond. Those ideas included an early childhood development center, redeveloping Main Street by assisting existing businesses, the promotion of local foods, small business development and promotion, and various other projects spurring community and economic development, like organizing paddling on the Meadow River.
Currently in step one of this process, Ford said, the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation is a major partner of the MRV initiative in implementing resources and grants.
The next step for the MRV is to get more people together to prioritize and implement the action items. A second meeting on May 25 at the Rainelle Medical Center continued the discussion and expanded efforts for people to join and be a part of the local initiative teams.
In order to retain young talent, the group also recognized the value of starting with the younger generation.
Katie Ickes, president of VisAbility LLC, working with Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation, serves as a nonprofit volunteer with a goal to make things better for the Meadow River Valley students by visiting local schools.
“There’s something very special about the kids I work with and they truly want better things for themselves and they’re willing to put work into it,” Ickes said in a press interview.
Key to her efforts is bringing people together and gathering ideas for improving the Meadow River Valley brand.
“We want to tap into the young minds that we have in our education system and get those kids connected, so they’re invested,” said Ford. Once those kids finish their education, “they can come back here and just have a value of where they live now instead of this being a point of destination, but actually be a place where they can come back and contribute and make the Meadow River Valley great,” said Ford.
“We have quite a few people from the Meadow River Valley who have already started looking at themselves differently, and you can see that through the branding,” said Ickes.
As the branding takes shape, the confidence grows. “We can see that expand to the overall culture of the Meadow River Valley and see other people invest in it. We’re going to see great things happen,” Ickes said.
Called a modern day barn raising, the Meadow River Valley Initiative means community collaboration. Partnering with the MRV Community Initiative are the Greater Greenbrier Long-Term Recovery Committee, Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corp., What’s Next West Virginia and WVHub.