Day 4: Mission Trip 2017


We are in Rainelle, WV. This is a tiny town of fewer than 2,000 people. A lumber mill and nearby coal mines support the families in town. In 2016 a massive 1,000-year flood shuttered  businesses, caused many homes to be condemned, took around 6 lives, and likely reduced the population below what the official figures state as people left without rebuilding.  The people of Rainelle are resilient and kind.  People wave from their front porches and thank us for being here, and the people we meet in the grocery store and cafe are always very pleasant. We have been working on 4 homes this week, and they are all almost done and ready for  the professional contractors to come through and do the final electrical, sheet rock, and plumbing work.  The houses are SO close to being ready for their new occupants. One house belongs to Travis Nutter and his family. He has a daughter who is 12 and two sons, ages 9 and 7.  Travis is a coal miner and while he was out helping others to safety in the flood last year, he didn’t realize that his own home was underwater and was later condemned. His family is very excited to move into their new home. Judith Blake and her daughter will move into a house we were working on today down the street. We put some finishing touches on the Keaton house (behind Travis Nutter’s), and a few streets away, we worked on a house for the Gibsons. These are all small houses, but we are building them with love and attention. It has been a long week. We have worked hard in heat. We have made mistakes, gotten frustrated, and continued.  We have had some fun and eaten some lovingly prepared food made in our own kitchen. We also had the opportunity to go to lunch today in a small local cafe that makes their own bread and uses locally grown food when possible. It is run by a relief organization that also provides jobs and funds to people recovering from addictions. This is a community that works together to take care of one another and do some amazing things together.  Tomorrow, we will finish our week of work for the people of Rainelle, and Rainelle has touched each of us.


Day 0: 2017 Mission Trip

We arrived in Rainelle, WV after a 5 1/2 – 6 hour drive from State College, and we checked into our accommodations for the week, a large gymanasium with bunk beds and comfy Tempurpedic mattresses. As we began to get to know our new home, we made a delicious dinner of hot dogs, baked beans, and salad as we received our orientation and prepared for our week of work.

Day 1: Mission Trip 2017 – First Work Day


Today part of our group finished some landscaping at the Nutter House which was almost completed. We spend most of the day working on siding and trim work at another home. After the weak coffee prepared by Marc and a delicious breakfast of bagels, cereal, and fruit, we all packed our lunches into brown paper bags and made it to our work site a little later than we wanted to at 9:00 AM. Our supervisor, Emmalie, a college student from the Chicago area, got us oriented with our jobs for the day, and we were off to work.

Our first task of the day was to set up some scaffolding so we could work on the siding of the house. Kyra found her niche measuring and placing siding. Father Doug spent some time putting finishing touches on the deck. Eric, Joel and others put up shutters and figured out how to get door locks on and working. By mid-day, it was HOT! We took a lunch break in the shade and managed to keep plugging away until after 3:00 PM when we made our way back to our accommodations in the gym of Highland First Church of God. After some showers and quiet time, we enjoyed Anne’s sirloin tip dinner and two movies.

We have to get some sleep for another long day tomorrow!

Day 2: Mission Trip 2017

End of Day 2, we largely did the siding on this side of the house and the deck rails, among other things.


Back at the Gibson House for a whole day and it got hot. We celebrated some victories during the day. We finished the exterior siding, including the hour of heroic effort by John, Kyra, and some others in getting the last small piece of siding cut to fit just right up near the point of the roof line. Joel, Zach and Eric got some trim and roofing work completed. While Simon and Anthony made sure that the deck rails were up to code by installing extra rails so that the gap between each is only 4 inches. Father Doug negotiated with a neighbor to help move some large pieces of concrete from behind the house in order to help level the backyard. By the end of the day the heat and work were starting to affect moods and we all enjoyed getting back to our gym sanctuary behind the Heritage Church of God for some showers, relaxation, and beef stew.

Day 3: Mission Trip 2017

Swimming hole – Blue Bend , WV

Today was a half day at work, and we were glad, as by 10:00 it was shaping up to be even hotter than yesterday. We did some finishing touches at both the Nutter and Gibson houses. After returning to our gym refuge for some lunch and cleaning up, we set off on some afternoon exploration of the local area. One group went to Blue Bend National Recreation Area for some swimming and jumping into beautiful cool river water, followed by a dinner of pizza and sandwiches at April’s Pizzeria in White Sulphur Springs. Emmalie, one of our Fuller supervisors, accompanies this group. Another group went to check out the Greenbrier Resort near White Sulphur Springs. A short work day was welcome after our first two days of hard work in the heat. The relaxing afternoon allowed us to prepare for our next two full days tackling projects at new houses we haven’t seen yet.

Mission Trip to West Virginia – Day One – July 17/18, 2016

Day one (and a half), by Caitlin and Patrick Osborne

24 hours ago, the St. Andrew’s mission group had its orientation meeting at “Lovecraft,” the new volunteer center for Habitat for Humanity in Franklin, WV.

When I say “new,” I mean NEW!  We are the first group to stay here, and our lodging is still under construction.  We arrived yesterday as stoves were being hooked up, air conditioning was “almost” functioning, and the new shower rooms were still sporting wet drywall.  It’s exciting to be here, to see the organization come together, and we pitched in immediately, mopping floors and helping wherever we could.

The building was formerly a medical center, a warren of confusing hallways, and our bedrooms still bear some marks of former use, such as the individual sinks clearly intended for washing up before an exam.   We are sharing our space with a group from Philadelphia, and we are managing our challenges together (make sure not to leave the bathroom door locked when you exit, or it will stay that way, taking a valuable resource “off line” until the locksmith arrives).

We were oriented by Michelle Conner, who has been the director in this area for many years, joining the organization shortly after becoming a Habitat family.  She told us her journey (House fire!  Nine kids!  Experimental hay bale construction!) and encouraged us to look for, and tell our own HFH stories.

Today’s work was mostly at a community site.  Anyone else heard of this?  I thought that HFH only worked on housing, but this is something different:  We are helping rehab a drive-in movie theater!

Our hosts have told us its amazing story.  Built in 1952, it is (to their knowledge) the only drive-in to have its screen constructed as an exterior wall of a house.  The idea was that the manager of the theater would live on-site and be able to keep an eye on things just by looking out his window.  The owner intended his son to take the job, but for some reason the house was never finished on the inside.  However, the theater was a hit.  Families came to the theater up to an hour before the show to socialize, eat at the snack bar (best burgers in town, apparently), and let their children play on the playground at the base of the screen.  It was a community gathering place until it closed, only a few years ago.  And, the closure wasn’t due to a lack of business, but to the insurmountable cost of upgrading the projector screens to from reel-to-reel to digital.

Fortunately, community activists are working to bring the theater back to life, and we are helping.  Today our crew worked on painting the projection booth exterior (teal and bubblegum pink – RETRO!) and interior (boring white, but out of the sun.  yay!), cleaning the countertops and foodservice area of the snack bar (Anne Thomas is Our Sainted Lady of De-Greaser), and cutting brush (led by – you guessed it – Frank Barksdale).  Our contribution of labor helps by allowing them to save their money for technological upgrades.

Franklin is a tiny town.  Of its 800 residents, 287 signed a book dedicated to gathering interest in reopening the theater.  Not only is that statistically significant, but also of amazing human interest to think that this poll was gathered not on Survey Monkey, but by leaving a notebook in a corner store.

I feel incredibly lucky to be on a unique project, with both historic and community roots.  I hope to be there again tomorrow, to paint the trim on a building that I love after only knowing it for one day.  However, the group is rotating through a number of projects here in eastern West Virginia, so who knows what tomorrow will bring.

  • Caitlin

After cleaning up for the day at the drive-in, we returned to Lovecraft to shower and relax.  Us kids decided to go for a quick dip in the river, which runs just a few blocks down from the center.  After wading for a while, some of us stuck around to build cairns in the rivers while others returned to home base.  After a good half and hour of building, Zach went back to grab a fishing rod and tube.  In the mean time I had an unexpected visitor.  A small dog had appeared out of nowhere.  With a collar with no tag, this dog followed us around.  After Zach’s return, we waited 20 to 30 minutes before the rain began to fall, and we returned to the center with a new friend.  There was much excitement all around before there was an executive decision to let the little guy go back by the river and let him find his own way home.

  • Patrick


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Anne and Patrick hard at work, preparing woodwork on the snack bar for new paint.

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Fr. Doug and Caitlin – part of the painting crew

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Harrison and Steven attacking the junipers!

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Frank and Zach – Directors of Juniper Removal!

Day 6: J2A Pilgrimage to Oregon

Just photographs and captions for the blog for Friday.  Everyone (except the leaders) have written a blog, so we’ll just go with photos this time…

We visited The Grotto in Portland.  A beautiful experience, with a visit to the Stations of the Cross surrounded by northwest forest.  Each person took a turn reading scripture at a station, and the reader then shared some personal thoughts about the station/scripture…


Then, “The Peculiarium” in Portland…

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Lunch at Pioneer Square…


Then a variety of things…

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After a celebration dinner, we shared memories and kind words about each other in a celebration with candles around our campfire.  A beautiful ending to an amazing time in Oregon!