Communities connected by disaster... and hope
Sister cities are just that—soul mates. White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia, has proclaimed La Grange as its sister city. What the two cities have in common is that each city has suffered a devastating flood of recent unprecedented magnitude and each has been blessed by an outpouring of support and volunteers.
To honor their like experiences, Hope Village of White Sulfur Springs has sent the ground-breaking shovel from its 2016 opening of a new community on a West Virginia hill to the ribbon cutting of Hope Hill in Texas, in La Grange on North Horton. The shovel has been signed by each of its West Virginia residents and mayor.
“White Sulphur Springs is a special place and we were honored to visit Hope Village. The strength and faith of that community recharged our batteries,” Couch said.
Tom Crabtree, architect for Hope Village, hosted three members of the Fayette County Disaster Recovery Team, Executive Director Kenny Couch, President Joy Cameron, and Vice President Joey Melton, in White Sulfur Springs last March.
“Tom Crabtree, Hope Village and the people I had an opportunity to meet in White Sulphur Springs made a huge impact on me,” Cameron said.
Crabtree is part of a video that describes the day of flooding in White Sulfur Springs. There were warnings of heavy rain and flooding, but people were used to the language because nine times out of ten, it wasn’t critical. In the case of West Virginia it was critical. Seventeen people died.
West Virginia is a beautiful state with mountains and valleys of green trees, but the video shows how it became “so nasty.” Flooding was everywhere; electricity went out; and people panicked. The beautiful city had become a battleground.
“It is emotional to see that kind of devastation,” Crabtree said. The need to create a new neighborhood struck him because the flood caused so many to lose connection with their neighborhoods and with relationships.
People needed land on a hill where they would be out of a flood zone, where they could have hope, “a village for hope.”
According to the video, city officials realized that the people could not wait for the typically slow response of the government. What was needed was a volunteer base to rebuild the community where people could feel safe in their homes.
People from faith-based groups and others responded. They gave 100,000 hours to help White Sulfur Springs take one step, one hurdle, at a time. It was their “time, talent and treasure that brought energy, comfort and hope to the community.”
“The visit with Tom and the folks in White Sulphur Springs reignited an excitement within me about the future of Hope Hill and Hope Village gave me a first hand view of the potential of the community in La Grange,” said Joey Melton, FCDRT Vice President.
White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia, and La Grange, Texas—they are sister cities in experience from the time of flooding when people “never dreamed it could be so bad” to the acquisition of hills safe from flooding.
In West Virginia, Hope Village is now a recovered community, and in Texas Hope Hill is in the making.