Alderson’s new Center For Hope stands as ‘commitment to those in need’

By Jeffrey Kanode, RealWV

“May this be a safe space for all your children, always, O Lord.”

So repeated the people who gathered recently for the dedication service and open house for the Center For Hope in Alderson. Those words of litany, that sentiment of prayer, seemed to echo throughout the day as pastors shared and townspeople conversed. 

“This new Center for Hope stands as a symbol to the Alderson Ministerial Association’s commitment to those in need,” said Rev. Kathy Keadle, retired United Methodist clergy and AMA board member. “You volunteers, all of you, are the ones who made this project possible. May the Center for Hope serve as a beacon of hope for many years to come.”

The building that now houses the Center For Hope stood vacant for twenty plus years. In places, the roof had caved in, with moss growing on the floor. The space, caddy-cornered from City National Bank, adjacent to Family Dollar and a veterinarian’s office on Route 12, had previously been home to an auto parts store, a mechanic’s garage, and a grocery store. 

“The day we started working on the building—the very first day!—the building inspector stopped in and asked to see my contractor’s license. I told him, ‘I ain’t no contractor, I’m a preacher!” Anthony Carter said in remarks at the dedication. Carter pastors the River of Life Church of God in Alderson, a charter member of the AMA.  Carter said the inspector gave the group of volunteers a reprieve for a couple of days.

 The journey from that first day of work to the dedication was a journey of years, but the destination has been reached. “Folks, don’t tell me God isn’t God. This proves it,” Carter continued, waving his hand across both the refurbished, and newly constructed space of the Center for Hope.  To the crowd, comprised mostly of volunteers and donors, Carter concluded, “Alderson, you are supreme.” 

In addition to the River of Life, other congregations who originally comprised the AMA were Alderson Presbyterian, Johnson Memorial United Methodist, Old Greenbrier Baptist, Christ Our Shepherd Lutheran, St Mary’s of the Greenbrier Catholic (a mission of Saint Patrick’s, Hinton), and the Alderson Nazarene Church.  The ministerial association formally organized in 2004. 

The Alderson Thrift Store funds the mission work of the Alderson Ministerial Association. That work encompasses the food pantry, which distributes groceries monthly, and it includes financial help the AMA offers to help pay rent and utility bills, as well as aid to help provide assistance for emergency housing. The store takes in around $75,000 in sales annually. AMA members estimate that $50,000 goes back out into the community in aid to families and individuals.  The balance goes to the costs of keeping up the facility.  

The old Ford garage near the crossroads of routes 3 and 63 served as the original location for the thrift store. However, the building had issues: it had flooded, and it wasn’t energy efficient.  The need for lower overhead, to free up more money for missions, spurred the genesis of the original dream for the Center for Hope. 

According to Rev. Sam Groves, Pastor Emeritus of the Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church, the AMA first considered purchasing the property now called the Center for Hope at a regular monthly meeting in December 2014. The AMA acquired a loan from the City National Bank, and work began the next summer. 

“In April 2016, the complex was named the Center for Hope. We completed the first story January 6, 2020. We moved the thrift store early that spring. We completed construction on the second story August 6, later that summer.  We finished the furnishings and the mural in June 2022,” Groves said. 

The AMA named the second story of the Center for Hope “Tammy’s Second Story,” in honor of Tammy Gaye Smith Skaggs who died of cancer in 2015, at the age of fifty-five.  Skaggs lived in Greenbrier County her entire life. She graduated top of her class—valedictorian of Greenbrier East  High School, class of 1978. After graduating from Concord College (now Concord University) Skaggs became a public account, “a highly regarded one,” Groves noted. She served the Alderson Presbyterian Church as its musician, playing piano and organ during worship services  for years. David and Margaret Hambrick, members of the Alderson Presbyterian Church, wrote a tribute to Tammy Gaye Smith Skaggs that resides on the wall of the CFH second story, part of a mural Matt Keadle created. Keadle’s mural also features Tammy’s portrait, a photo by Jill Highlander of the Alderson Memorial Bridge crossing the Greenbrier, with the wooded hills cradling the river aflame in autumnal color, and a picture of the Alderson Presbyterian Church. 

Tammy’s husband Lee came to the Center for Hope dedication. He spoke quietly, softly, thoughtfully thinking about words to say about his wife. “The AMA always needed a place to house people, especially in the event of an emergency. Tammy and I talked about this need, long before this place was a dream,” he said.  “She lives on through this building, through her thoughts, through things she’d told people.  This building should carry on her mission.”

Both the beauty and the brevity of Tammy Smith Skaggs’s life led to the idea of calling the second floor of the Center for Hope “Tammy’s Second Story,” according to Sam Groves.  “Tammy died too young. Her first story was too short. This is her second story,” he reflected.

The Alderson Food Pantry opens at nine o’clock, typically on the third Friday of every month. The pantry is in the basement of the Alderson Presbyterian Church on the Monroe County side of Alderson, just off of Route 3 heading toward Union. The Alderson Thrift Store maintains business hours Tuesdsays-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  The store accepts donations of gently used clothing for all ages, any household items like utensils, knick-knacks, appliances, books for all ages, and toys for children.  There are receptacles and designated stalls for donations toward the side and the rear of the Center for Hope.

Just as “Tammy’s Second Story” gives Tammy Smith Skaggs another story by extending her generosity and keeping alive her loving spirit, the Center for Hope gives new depths and dimensions to the stories of all those who come there—those who come in need, and those who come to serve. 

Details of Tammy Smith Skaggs life acquired from the tribute written by David and Margaret Hambrick; the litany quoted at the beginning of the story quoted from the worship service for the Center For Hope dedication, written by Jeffrey Kanode.

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