By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV
Abby & Josiah Spangler began their professional careers as Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurses in Charleston…just as the pandemic hit. Despite the challenges that presented, they loved their jobs.
They got married, bought a house, and began to build a beautiful life together. They had the world at their fingertips, earning good salaries and playing music together after hours in their band. But something wasn’t quite right.
“This may sound silly,” Josiah shares, “but I started having this recurring dream.”
“I was in an empty room with an old rotary-style telephone in the center. It kept ringing and ringing. I knew I could either pick it up and be blessed beyond measure…or keep living the life I had in front of me. Either way, it would be OK. But something kept telling me to pick up the phone.”
Abby says they went on a vacation in late 2021. It was their first vacation together as a married couple. “We felt God calling us to think about poverty, what that really means, and how we could help.”
Her mom told her a few months later about Wellspring searching for new leadership in Rupert, as longtime directors Fred & Scarlett Kellerman were retiring. They had been searching for new directors for almost five years, without any luck.
“I had volunteered at Wellspring before,” Abby remembers. “I actually played guitar here at a bluegrass supper once. It’s just an amazing place.” She and Josiah also volunteered there as part of their community clinic hours during nursing school.
After lots of prayer and conversations in the community, Josiah said it became crystal clear what they needed to do next. “We decided to pick up the phone.”
‘It’s Community Nursing’
Abby & Josiah started their new jobs as Co-Directors of Wellspring in November 2022. They have big shoes to fill after following in the footsteps of Fred & Scarlett Kellerman, who began and ran the place for nearly two decades. But so far, it’s going exceedingly well.
“We are happy,” Josiah says.
“And tired,” Abby adds with a smile.
They agree it’s a different kind of stress than they faced in the Intensive Care Unit as nurses. But their medical background serves them very well in this new role.
“What we do is community nursing,” Abby offers.
“It’s the same model they taught us in nursing school–assess, diagnose, plan, implement, evaluate,” says Josiah. “We just do it with the community rather than with patients.”
They are creating a long-term care plan for their community. It includes facets such as access to food, mental health care, home construction, providing a safe space, and referring clients to other local providers like The Marvel Center, Valley Works, God’s Way Home, and Seneca Health. They plan to begin offering free counseling and meetings (AA, NA, Al-Anon) in the near future.
‘A food desert’
“Our biggest expense right now is food,” Josiah says. “With emergency SNAP benefits ending from the government, we’ve seen a huge increase in demand for food. We feed 300+ people every other week. That’s more than ever. And we always run out of our free meals.”
Abby puts it plainly, “We are in a food desert.”
And they have a plan to change that. “People can get certain food items at Family Dollar and Dollar General,” she says of the only place to buy groceries in Rupert. “Our idea is to supplement that with fresh produce.”
They’ve started a greenhouse out back. Volunteers and community members will grow fresh produce which they will give to folks in need. Then they will offer cooking classes that specifically teach folks how to cook fresh, healthy meals using produce from the greenhouse and items they can get in town at the dollar stores.
Large base of donors and volunteers
As you might imagine, it takes a large donor and volunteer base to make Wellspring work. They operate completely on private grants and donations with no government funding.
“Our volunteers have kept us going,” Abby says.
“Lewisburg United Methodist Church and the recovery community are our biggest supporters,” Josiah adds. “We get lots of help from lots of people, but those two groups have been huge supporters for years.”
Barb and Craig Miller are retirees who volunteer regularly at Wellspring. Craig jokes, “It keeps us off the streets.”
Barb offers support to Abby & Josiah’s vision for Wellspring’s future, saying, “We are blessed to have them.”
How you can help
Wellspring welcomes volunteers–for the greenhouse, to answer phones, distribute food, sort clothing, serve meals, work the greenhouse, and help with home construction projects. Call them at 304-392-2095 or email them at email@example.com.
They welcome financial support from individuals, churches, and community groups. Checks can be mailed to Wellspring, PO Box 43, Rupert, WV 25984. They are in the process of adding a donation button to their website now.
They also welcome donations of non-perishable foods.
‘Young & dumb & full of hope’
The Spanglers are all-in on Wellspring. They live upstairs. They work more hours than they probably should. They try and help everyone who walks through the door.
“We’re young and dumb and full of hope,” Josiah says.
That’s the goal of everything they have planned–instilling hope in the community. By introducing art, live music, partnerships with the library, hosting events with community groups, and partnering with public health groups, they believe they can make a difference alongside their community.
“People are struggling,” Josiah offers. “But this area has so much potential. We are here for the whole county, not just one part.”
“We’re where God wants us to be,” Abby says confidently.
Stop by and visit the Spanglers at an open house on April 27 from 4-7pm.