(Editor's note: Learn more about the University’s flood relief efforts at WVUToday, including an online media kit containing downloadable photos, videos and other resources is available in the Media Center.)
The generosity of hundreds of West Virginia University alumni and friends has made the recovery process a bit easier over this past year for many victims of last summer’s devastating flooding in central and southern West Virginia.
On June 23, 2016, torrential rains over parts of West Virginia caused devastating flooding in many counties, resulting in loss of life and severe damage to entire communities. Many WVU students and their families were affected by the storms and high water, leaving some homeless and others with extensive personal property loss.
In response, donations to the WVU Foundation from more than 1,600 Mountaineers across the country and a matched gift of $500,000 from Princeton native and WVU alumnus Ken Kendrick has brought in $1.049 million.
The donations assisted flood victims in rebuilding homes, schools and community centers, and enabled students to return to WVU.
The Kenneth D. and Carolyn T. Gray Emergency Fund was established in 2013 to assist students who experience a sudden financial hardship. Donors contributed $237,000 to that fund to support students affected by the flooding. More than 30 WVU students received $70,616 from the funds for the 2016-17 school year, and funds are still available for the coming year.
Contributions to the WVU Extension Fund have totaled $812,000 for flood relief. To date, awards totaling almost $450,000 have been made to help individuals and $230,000 to assist community building projects.
Travis Butts was able to return to WVU last fall after the flood destroyed their family home.
Butts, a senior criminology major from White Sulphur Springs, said his decision to return to WVU to finish his degree was made after he received support through the Gray Emergency Fund.
“The financial assistance is actually the entire reason I came back to school. I had thoughts about not coming back, but then a friend e-mailed me and told me that they were offering applications for scholarships for people affected by the flood,” Butts said. “That was my motivation to come back.”
The Extension Fund helped numerous people including Robin Brown of Richwood who lost her home.
Brown received limited relief assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Managing the clean-up and beginning of the restoration process has been upsetting and challenging for Brown; however, she was overwhelmed by the amount of support she and her family received from WVU and others.
“I was completely overwhelmed when I spoke to the Foundation on the phone. I mean, I cried,” Brown said. “People we have never met, who do not know our names, who have never been to Richwood, have given so, so much.”
In Nicholas County, the Richwood Public Library experienced damage to its floors when floodwaters flowed into the back area of the building. Fortunately, the library’s books, furniture and resources remain in good condition.
The library was able to acquire flooring and community members helped to transport the order; however, library director Robin Bartlett said the cost of labor to install the new floors was much higher than expected. They could only store the flooring for a certain amount of time and were struggling to pay for its installation.
“When the WVU Foundation called me, I cried,” Bartlett said. “It was the answer to my prayer.”
In Clay County, the Extension Fund was able to provide enough money to rebuild the playground for H.E. White Elementary School.
“We were amazed at the generosity of Mountaineer nation when we began collecting donations right after the disaster. Now to see this generosity being put to good use to help flood victims is truly heartwarming,” said Greg McCracken, who headed up the flood relief efforts for the WVU Foundation along with Senior Associate Vice President for Finance Jeff Dunn and Director of Finance and Accounting Adam Heller. “We are just happy to be a part of helping others as this long rebuilding process continues for many in southern West Virginia.”
Donations for flood relief are still being accepted by the WVU Foundation. They can be made online at https://secure.give.wvu.edu/2W1080 or by mail to: WVU Foundation, PO Box 1650, Morgantown, WV, 26507-1650. Make the check out to the WVU Foundation and write “WV Flood Relief” in the memo line.
CONTACT: Bill Nevin, WVU Foundation
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