Gift of vacation cabin aids flood recovery in Greenbrier Valley

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Tom and Janet Johnson and son, Landry, are spending weekends in the “East Coast Alaska,” as Pocahontas County had been called by a friend.

Steve and Annette Marchetti’s donation of a highland cabin in the Greenbrier Valley has boosted flood recovery in the region and attracted a new steward of its scenic beauty.

The Marchetti’s gift of more than $100,000 in proceeds from the sale helped fund the creation of two new homes for families dispossessed by 2016 floods in which 15 people on the Greenbrier River lost their lives.

It also attracted a new family, the Johnsons, who fell in love with the Alleghenies near Snowshoe Mountain ski resort, a region they’d heard referred to as the “East Coast’s Alaska.”

“I’d been looking for a cabin in the mountains and had heard a friend talk about this region as the East Coast’s Alaska,” said Virginia Beach native Tom Johnson.

“I traveled hundreds of miles looking before I heard about this opportunity, and when we found the spring bubbling in the woods behind the house we knew we’d found what we were searching for.”

Like new neighbor Sandi Ridley, who built the cabin as a part of a vacation community in the ’90s, the Johnsons heard the call of the Alleghenies, which promised escape from the bustle of coastal cities.

Ridley had also been mesmerized by the highlands, which witness some of the most severe winter weather in the mid-Atlantic states.

“We left Wilmington, N.C., for a ski vacation after I found out about Snowshoe, and I fell in love,” Ridley said, reflecting on her mission to establish Erehwon (“nowhere” spelled backward), the community that also attracted the Marchettis.

Steve Marchetti, who originally purchased the Ridley developed property to provide his family access to skiing, said the decision to sell came quickly after news of the flood reached his ears.

“We’ve been so blessed, and we felt this was a good way to share those blessings,” said Marchetti, an engineer who grew-up poor in Red Onion, a coal-mining community near Greensburg, Pa.

Marchetti reached out to pastor J. Dexter Taylor, a member of the board of the United Way, and the two were led to Richard Grist of Foxfire Realty for assistance marketing the cabin.

Taylor and Grist shared their enthusiasm for the proposal, through which many more blessings have come, they say.

“As terrible as the loss from the flood has been, some of the victims, though they may have lost everything, have been provided well-built houses as a result of contributions,” Taylor reflected.

Grist, who managed the marketing and sale, said he is humbled to live among the many good people who worked together in the process.

“It’s truly inspiring to be able to participate in a mission such as this and in a community such as this—members of which came together so swiftly to help neighbors,” he said.

According to Erin Hurst, executive director of the United Way of Greenbrier Valley, her agency is using the money to build two new homes.

“The United Way’s goal is to turn this one home into two by splitting the proceeds between the Appalachia Service Project, to build a home for a flood-affected family in Rainelle, and Homes for White Sulphur Springs, to build a home for a flood-affect family in White Sulphur. We are so grateful to the Marchettis and the Johnsons for making this possible,” she said.