At Mount Hope’s council meeting on Tuesday, residents heard the story of stone soup and took home their major lesson from the recent storm: A town must depend on itself.
“You would hear, ‘The church has hot dogs tonight, or so and so is grilling such and such, or go see this person for stone soup’,” Mayor Michael Martin said of his community’s response to hunger after the June 29 storm cut power to the town.
“What’s stone soup?” asked council person Charlie Kidd.
Martin recounted the familiar children’s tale of how a community, thinking it didn’t have any
resources, produced food for all from a mere stone. Everyone simply added what they had to the stone soup, one seemingly-insignificant ingredient at a time.
“The next thing you know, they had a big pot of soup and they were able to feed everybody in this little hamlet,” explained the Mayor.
His story received a round of applause.
The lesson learned by Mount Hope during storm recovery efforts is that you have to be able to take care of your own, says Martin.
“We need to see to it that if this happens again, we’re not dependent on the county, or the state, and that we are able to look after and take care of ourselves for a reasonable period of time.
“We need to work together as a community to see that happens,” he says.
Like other communities in Fayette County who have needed and provided assistance after the storm, the town wants to be able to offer a self-sufficient emergency shelter in the future.
Pastors in the Fayetteville area are collecting donations to set up a community-run emergency response center that would step in during such situations with some resources and organization.
Mount Hope’s major assets during the emergency turned out to be their own people and services.
“Fire, police, and water — the three services we have control over — did not fluctuate at all,” says Police Chief Tom Peal. “I’m proud of my home. I’m proud to say I work here.”
“The fire department is solid gold,” added Martin.
Among a host of actions, they delivered ice and charged breathing devices, wheel chairs and cell phones. One resident even brought his electric razor to the fire hall every day to get a fresh shave.
Mount Hope owns its own water system, which never lost pressure. Martin says he is glad he has not caved to the buy-out offers he has received from private enterprise in the past.
The water stayed on, but what the town did scramble to find was diesel, gasoline, and information. The latter was scant for days, says Martin, so his town mobilized itself.
The Fayette County Commission began sending press releases with vital information on July 3.
The West Virginia National Guard’s presence increased substantially on July 5. Until mid-week, there were only two on the ground in Fayette.
In the meantime, Mount Hope begged, borrowed, and bought diesel to run the water system’s generators from local industry and private businesses in Beckley when none came through from the Department of Highways.
The mayor also said that the service contracts the town pays for each year to guarantee that their generators and other equipment are maintained were crucial in the recovery.
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