PGA wives chip in for W.Va. relief
LEWISBURG, W.Va. - As the golfers focused on the greens, their wives looked beyond the posh Greenbrier resort and responded to a distress call.
The PGA Tour Wives organization partnered with The Greenbrier and local emergency officials to aid local relief efforts for Greenbrier County communities still reeling from last Friday's devastating storm.
About a dozen wives of professional golfers visited downtown Lewisburg to deliver much-needed supplies and help distribute water and ice to local residents.
"It's the right thing to do," said DeAnna Pettersson, wife of golfer Carl Pettersson.
"Arriving on Monday, while just driving back from the airport, we saw so many lines for water and ice and immediately realized what a need there was here and how far-reaching the devastation was," she said.
"As soon as we saw there was a need here, we immediately wanted to be involved."
Pettersson and members of the PGA Tour Wives nonprofit charity organization helped load and deliver a Greenbrier Farms delivery truck with water, food and other supplies to the Lewisburg Volunteer Fire Department's Station No. 2.
The station has been converted by the West Virginia Army National Guard into a distribution hub used to receive large quantities of water and ready-to-eat meals. Guard members then distribute the supplies to various cooling stations and shelters set up around the county.
Captain Bob Luther said guard members are using all the supplies they can lay their hands on.
"Yesterday, we sent out 2,600 cases of water and about 700 meals," Luther said. "Today, we will probably triple that."
Luther is overseeing a group of about 40 Guard members to administer aid in the Greenbrier Valley. After getting out an initial rush of supplies to the hard-hit area, he said he is starting to see an improvement in some of the rural areas of the county.
"It's a lot of effort going in and a lot of hard work, but it's making a difference," he said.
After unloading three pallets of bottled water originally intended for use at The Greenbrier Classic, the PGA Tour Wives joined Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., representatives from Mon Power and volunteers from the American Red Cross and Americorps at the Lewisburg Lowe's to distribute free ice and water.
The Lowe's location is one of 20 sites in West Virginia and Maryland that Mon Power and its parent company, FirstEnergy, have used to help distribute free ice and water.
Mon Power manager John Norman said volunteers have helped distribute more than 7,000 bags of ice and 28 pallets of water so far this week at the Lewisburg site.
Norman, a West Virginia resident, said he was happy to see the PGA wives step up and volunteer at the site Thursday afternoon because many of his other volunteers have yet to stop and take a break.
"The touching part, and it plays to the spirit of West Virginians, is that these folks themselves, a lot of them do not have power at home," Norman said. "We're just so blessed here to have these kinds of people helping us out."
Lewisburg Mayor John Manchester said Friday's storm was a disaster on so many levels that he was amazed his city was able to bounce back the way it has.
"We redefined 'perfect storm,' " he said. "You had 200,000 people coming for the golf tournament, right on 95-degree weather and 95 percent power outage for the area; that's a lot of pieces in a puzzle."
Norman, who lived in Florida before moving to West Virginia, said Friday's storm was different from other widespread disasters like hurricanes because the storm came out of nowhere.
"Hurricanes you can plan for - they sit out off the coast, and you get ready and mobilize crews in," he said. "I told my wife the other night that in 35 years of utility work that's what I saw as the big difference with this storm: we had zero - I mean zero - planning and zero notification."
Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., said the outpouring of support has made him more proud to say he represents the state.
"The thing I've noticed, as I've said throughout this, is West Virginians are doing what West Virginians do best - that's help each other," he said. "They're not waiting on the government, but rather they're helping each other, whether it's friends helping friends, family helping family or strangers helping strangers."
Kathy Kmiec, wife of Greenbrier President Jeff Kmiec, said she is amazed by how Greenbrier employees have pulled together to put on the tournament, even as they still go without some basic necessities at home.
"I would say there are still at least more than half - if not more - without power or water themselves," she said. "Their families are without stuff, and they're coming to work still and with a smile on their face - it's great."
The Tour wives said that hospitality drove them to give back.
"Everybody's so friendly, even though they're going through a crisis," said Kelly Bettencourt, wife of golfer Matt Bettencourt. "They're just so happy we're here, they're smiling and they're bending over backwards to help us out.
"It's a very humbling experience to be where we are and be so blessed with air conditioning, food and hospitality, and know that people who are actually working to make this happen aren't going home to those same luxuries," Pettersson said. "So we're just grateful and happy to help out."
Contact writer Jared Hunt at email@example.com or 304-348-5148.