Neighbors Loving Neighbors Helps
Open New Gym in Richwood

 


RICHWOOD, W.Va. – (October 27, 2016): Former West Virginia University and Marshall University football coaches Don Nehlen and Bob Pruett, Richwood Mayor Bob Baber and Superintendent of Nicholas County Schools Donna Burge-Tetrick were among the more than 200 people who turned out on Tuesday, October 25, to celebrate the reopening of the historic Red Gym in the rural community of Richwood in Nicholas County, West Virginia.


The Red Gym is filled with history. It’s where Mike Barrett, who won a gold medal for the United States Olympic Team in 1968, played, and visitors to the gymnasium over the years have included the likes of Jerry West.

Over the last three decades, though, the gymnasium has been used only sparingly, as Richwood High School’s games moved inside a new facility at the school.

 

That all changed on June 23, 2016, when flood waters ravaged through much of West Virginia, including Richwood. The school, which took on several feet of water, became unsafe, and students had to be moved to other schools throughout the county for their education when school began again in August.


When Jim Justice, the Owner and CEO of The Greenbrier in nearby White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., and the head basketball coach at Greenbrier East High School, first heard the news, one of the first questions he asked was, “where are those kids going to play basketball?”


Justice immediately tasked Neighbors Loving Neighbors, The Greenbrier’s non-profit organization, which was assisting in rebuilding homes for many who had lost everything in the floods, with finding a place for Richwood High School to play its games.
 

“What I was asking for was just a temporary floor so the kids could practice and not have to travel to Summersville to practice,” said Greg Reed, West Virginia Secondary Schools Athletics Commission Assistant Executive Director, who first contacted Justice about the possibility of some help. “He said, ‘Greg, find a place, and we’ll give you not a temporary floor, but we’ll buy them a floor, lights, scoreboards, bleachers, whatever they need so they have a place to play basketball.’”


The Red Gym quickly moved to the forefront as the best option.

 

To make that happen, though, there was a lot of work to do. Neighbors Loving Neighbors president Habibi Mamone, West Virginia Division of Homeland Security director Jimmy Gianato and Major General James Hoyer of the West Virginia National Guard worked together with FEMA to get permission to begin a major restoration project on the building, which had also taken on heavy flood water.

Tony Mamone, the President of The Pinnalce Group, a general contracting firm in White Sulphur Springs that had been working closely with Neighbors Loving Neighbors, began the process of stripping and cleaning the building, and then started to rebuild. A new floor, new lights, new scoreboards and new locker rooms were all installed in a short period of time, as Justice insisted the new facility be ready to go in time for the start of girls basketball practice on Nov. 7.


“This is what West Virginia is all about,” said Mamone. “We were thrilled to be able to come here and help out.”


On Tuesday, the new facility opened to much fanfare as the band played, the cheerleaders cheered and the community gathered to say “thank you.”

“It makes my heart happy to see this community get something this nice after everything they’ve been through,” said Reed. “When I walked in a month ago, we loved the feel of the gym, but we were looking at concrete and dirty walls. This is incredible what has been done. Everything is brand new. It’s like a brand new facility.”

Justice’s only request in return was to have his own squad help open up the new gymnasium, and that’s exactly what will happen when Greenbrier East visits Richwood on Dec. 9 for the first game at the new Red Gym.


“I’m just happy to be a small grain of sand in this story,” said Justice. “This is what we should do as humans. We should help out any way we can.”

 

Richwood High School basketball games will be only one part of the action inside the building. Youth and middle school basketball games will also be played at the facility, and it will be used as a community center, as well, bringing all of Richwood together.

“This is just a great day for Richwood,” said Mayor Baber.

For more information on Neighbors Loving Neighbors, visit www.greenbrier.com/neighbors.