People describe the Greenbrier Valley as nice. They complement the beauty of the mountains, the genuinely friendly people, and the quaintness of its towns. Walk down any street, and it’s likely that someone will smile and say hello.
With a population less than 40,000, the Greenbrier Valley has a strong sense of community. Most of the families that live here descend from a long line of Appalachian resiliency and compassion. When residents are faced with hardship, community rallies. The Greenbrier Valley thrives on neighbors helping neighbors. Through floods, fires, and the current opioid crisis, residents are there to step forward and ask, “How can I help you?” Together they have rebuilt neighborhoods, organized benefits, and created programs to help friends in need. Every community experiences hardships, but it’s how a community works together that reveals its true character and genuine hospitality.
Stories About Greenbrier Valley
A Fresh Start and New Beginning
In 2016, a 1,000 year flood swept through the Greenbrier Valley, devastating the towns of Rainelle and White Sulphur Springs. In the wake of tragedy, 4,600 volunteers stepped in, totaling 62,000 hours to help rebuild the areas impacted. We’ve yet to reach full recovery, but communities finally feel a sense of hope for their future. As the water receded from Greenbrier County, it revealed the harsh realities of the disaster underneath. While most were still reeling from its aftermath, Tom Crabtree and Rob Vass were formulating a recovery plan to rebuild the community of White Sulphur Springs.
Tom is the owner of 50 East, a restaurant and gathering spot in town. Although his home was not directly impacted, the destruction was personal, as employees’ homes and his Main Street business incurred significant damage. Rob is an architect and contractor in the area and lives in White Sulphur Springs with his wife and young son. The two men wanted to give hope to this close-knit community that is now displaced. It was realized in the form of Hope Village. With land gifted by the city of White Sulphur Springs and an operational childhood-home-turned-office-space hub donated by Frank Alderman, founder of MedExpress Urgent Care, the project took less than two years from concept to completion. Today Hope Village is filled with energy and activity, giving 42 families a new start as they discover the meaning of home once again. Although the impetus for the project falls squarely on Tom and Rob, the vision would not have been realized without the support and contributions made by countless community members and other organizations. Special thanks go to Frank Alderman, Maggie Hutchison, Storm Aid, Mennonite Disaster Service, Brad Paisley, pharmaceuticals company Mylan, United Way of Greenbrier Valley, and Appalachia Service Project.
A Fire Sparks a Festival
Musicians are bound by the beat; it’s what drives a song forward. Just as they are bound to the beat, they become bound to each other, creating a community. So when one of their own needs help, they unite around them.
When an electrical fire engulfed Tim and Tammy Pynes’ home in December 2012, the family was left with few possessions. Days before Christmas, the Pynes were homeless. Close friends took action, helping them find housing, clothing, and other day-to-day household items that were lost to the flames.
Tim is a drummer for the West Virginia Jazz Orchestra and has been a part of Greenbrier Valley’s music scene since he graduated high school. Fellow musicians suggested a benefit concert to fundraise for the family. As multiple local bands offered to perform, the concert-turned-festival was taking shape. John Foster and Jim Snyder spearheaded the benefit, orchestrating 25 bands and five venues for the first TNT Winter Music Festival, a nod to Tim and Tammy. On a cold snowy evening in February, Lewisburg was beating to the spirit of its community.
John and Jim have kept the festival going, changing to West Virginia Winter Music Festival. The event has expanded to two nights, seven venues, and more than 50 performing acts. Despite all the changes, the event stays grounded in its mission of providing financial help to musicians in crisis.
Fruits of Labor, Fruits of Hope
While the Greenbrier Valley is full of nice residents, it has not gone untouched by the opioid crisis. The effects have brought a darkness to the community. While some neighbors are struggling, one woman is trying to help people get back on their feet.
It all began in 2009 with a visit to the women’s prison not far from Tammy Jordan’s home in Greenbrier County. As she sat in the waiting room, she watched the women pass by and noticed their despondence. She could see it on their faces and in their quiet posture. With each return visit, the feeling got stronger: what could she do to help these women re-enter society with a renewed sense of hope?
Tammy runs her own local restaurant. It’s not just a dining experience, but encompasses all phases from soil to service. It took three and a half years from her observations at the prison to transform her cafe and farm into an educational training center with a certified culinary curriculum.
From the outside, Fruits of Labor Cafe & Bakery is a quaint downtown diner in the heart of Rainelle. Behind the scenes, Tammy gives women going through the county’s drug court system new purpose and a career path, which become vital components of long-term recovery.
For Tammy and her staff at Fruits of Labor, it’s about supporting and nurturing their students as they learn life skills to recover from addiction. She offers the program free of charge, with 80% of the cost absorbed by her cafe. It’s now in its sixth year and has realized a 75% graduation rate, with 90% of the women completing their drug court requirements.
With Tammy’s faith firmly rooted at the center of her life and business, she has expanded the training center to include an at-risk youth and young adult prevention program. She and her team have found one way to abate addiction while opening new doors for the next generation.
A Whacky Start to the New Year
Throughout the year, many parades come marching down the center of the Greenbrier Valley towns, though none more unique than the first of the year.
Downtown Lewisburg’s year starts with the Shanghai Parade. With no rules or guidelines for participation, the only requirement is to show up! The lack of limitations and day-of signup process make the parade a unique curiosity, like llamas in pajamas, a pack of dog lovers and their canine friends, and a life-sized Rock’em Sock’em Robots float have been known to march in the bitter cold on the first day of January. While the participants can be whacky wild cards, a few traditions hold constant.
Everyone who marches receives a crisp $2 bill. The judges award prizes to specific categories, but the judging can be skewed with participant bribes. Leading the parade is Baby New Year in an oversized diaper. For years this role went to the local fire chief with the police chief playing the nursemaid. After their retirement, the oversized diaper has been passed on to other pillars in the community. In recent years, Lewisburg’s very own mayor donned the diaper. Closing the parade are the Super Duper Pooper Scoopers who, as indicated by their title, serve as cleanup crew. The origins of the parade are a mystery, as are most of its traditions, but the unknown is half the fun.
From the Outside Looking In
It’s easy to brag about your hometown, but someone else’s perspective can truly make you proud of where you live.
In 2014, the Greenbrier Resort opened its doors to new guests: NFL teams. The Sports Performance Center originally brought the New Orleans Saints to train in White Sulphur Springs. When the Saints training returned to Louisiana, the Houston Texans were quick to step in. Looking for relief from the heat, a sports facility in the cool, mountain air of West Virginia was sure to be the right fit.
Sports writers journeyed 1,200 miles from Texas to cover the day-to-day training, but they were covering more than just football. Their stories were being peppered with the hospitality of the Greenbrier Valley. They found themselves captivated by the natural beauty of the region and how genuinely friendly the residents were. Chris Baldwin for Paper City noted, “Visitors are treated like royalty.”
John McClain for the Houston Chronicle quickly fell in love with the area. In his first article recapping the Texans training camp, he ended with an unexpected call to action — visit the Greenbrier Valley. McClain wrote, “If you’re thinking about coming to the Texans’ training camp or just looking for a cool place visit, I’d highly recommend this charming part of West Virginia. It’s beautiful, the food is great, and the people are friendly.”