There are at least 1,000 West Virginia University alumni in the Triangle and many others with family ties to the state, according to the WVU alumni group that spent Saturday collecting donations for people back home.

Schmitt grew up in Monroe County in southern West Virginia – where much of the worst flooding has been.

“It’s a place that doesn’t have a lot of economic underpinnings,” Schmitt said.

“They’re the last ones to get thought of in times like these,” she said.

Flooding has devastated West Virginia, killing at least two dozen people and creating shocking images like houses on fire, floating down rivers where streets had been.

Lori Bidgood is another West Virginia alumna. She and her husband, Mark, live in Cary, and with the help of friends, they packed their SUV with supplies.

Jeff Schmitt

At the end of the day, the group wrote a $9,000 check to the Red Cross for relief efforts.

Her aunt got out at the last minute, Schieve said, and is now homeless along with several other relatives whose houses weren’t knocked down but might as well have been.

“If you’re from there, if you have roots tied there, it’s a good thing to help out,” he said. “Especially on our country’s anniversary weekend.”

Bidgood said she wanted to buy things like dog food that she figured other people might not think to donate, since pets are now homeless, too.

Lee and Laura McCrory help run the RTP chapter of the alumni association. Lee McCrory spoke passionately about the celebrities from West Virginia who have been helping out – Jennifer Garner and Brad Paisley, for example – as well as his hope that people here in Raleigh would pitch in, too.

Those who missed the fundraiser Saturday can still give online, either to the Red Cross or to

The alumni matched the first $2,500 in donations and got a tenth of the way there with the first donor of the day, Jeff Schmitt.

He and his wife, Linda, retired to Apex, where they volunteer with hospitals and libraries. But Saturday, their thoughts turned back to Appalachia.

Other people came by throughout the day dropping off truckloads of bleach, mops, shovels, trash bags, laundry detergent, clothing and – from one little girl – a pack of Play-Doh for other kids who lost all their toys.

Suzan Schieve was one of the volunteers at Sammy’s Tap and Grill in Raleigh, where they spend more typical Saturdays cheering on the Mountaineers football team.

How to help

Sporting a sparkly cowboy hat and inviting people to future tailgates, Schieve was staying positive. But the destruction of the flooding hit close to home for her, too.

People with West Virginia connections – or who just happened to be driving by – donated thousands of dollars worth of cash and supplies Saturday at a Raleigh fundraiser for West Virginia disaster relief.

“They weren’t swept off the foundations, but the water was up to the roofs,” she said. “Everything’s destroyed.”

If you’re from there, if you have roots tied there, it’s a good thing to help out. Especially on our country’s anniversary weekend.

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