The Making of Marvel: A Rural Oasis in Childcare Desert

This is part of an ongoing series regarding issues in southern West Virginia.



The Making of Marvel a Greenbrier West Cavtalk interview Lee Cline 2020

In June of 2016, catastrophic flooding devastated southern West Virginia and the Greenbrier West High School community. Out of the 55 counties, 44 were put under a state of emergency during the “thousand-year flood”.  More than ten inches of rain fell in the span of 15 hours, 23 people died, and over 200 were displaced.

Photo of Rainelle Flood of 2016
East Rainelle 2016 flood (Lee Cline)

Afterward, as our community began to rebuild, childcare was one of the top concerns. A series of focus groups the following year confirmed the need for childcare in the Meadow River Valley. After receiving a grant, the founding members of the Marvel Center completed a feasibility study to assess the practicality of the Marvel program as a whole. Using needs assessment data from Greenbrier County Schools, Kids Count, and an Action Network needs assessment published in 2018, a proposal was made to bring an early learning center to the western end of Greenbrier County.

Patricia Lally, Ruth Caruthers, and Sally Hurst from the Greenbrier County Health Alliance were the founding members of the Marvel Center, with the help of Dave Lumsden and Matt Ford, both from the MRVA (Meadow River Valley Association). A lot of work was done to bring the municipalities of the Meadow River Valley area together, including Rainelle, Rupert, Smoot, Quinwood, and Meadow Bridge.

Originally, the grounds for the center were supposed to be in a building on the outskirts of Rupert. However, Dave Lumsden, the chair of the Greater Greenbrier Long Term Recovery Committee, led the property transferral of the old Rupert Elementary building, with the help of the Greenbrier County Board of Education, providing a suitable and central location for the learning center.

Similar to all community programs, fundraising had to be done in order to facilitate the project. These fundraising events include two large mailing campaigns as well as promotional videos and participation in a chili cook off located as the Greenbrier County Sporting Club. The promotional video, recorded by Photojournalist Anna Saab from WVU, was made to highlight the beauty of the learning center as well as the dedicated staff members assisting the development of Marvel.

Open enrollment photo at the Marvel Center
The Marvel Center serves children from the western Greenbrier area.

The learning center has finally opened its doors to the public after four years of meetings, focus groups and thorough planning; much work is still needed to assure the continuation of the program. The highest priority is volunteering: a community program cannot run without a community. Currently, Marvel is looking for a volunteer recruiter and organizer, someone to organize and manage the community garden, and a new Americorps member to be a part of the Marvel team.

Marvel needs all the help they can get, through word-of-mouth advertising, donating, and people coming to see the Marvel building. Patricia Lally, a pediatrician at Rainelle Medical center and the chair of the Marvel team remarked, “Our children are our future and there is no greater investment in society. This is what we need to do.”

Marvel is not only a place for childcare, but a community center to promote growth and prosperity within our area. In the future, Marvel is planning to have family dinners for the community, once their cafeteria is renovated and larger gatherings are less of a threat. Marvel is part of Keys to a Healthy Start, a national organization for nutrition and exercise for children. They’re beginning the planning of many parental programs such as a breastfeeding-friendly center initiative, a parent mentoring program, and an educational professional development program.




Watch the Marvel promotional video here!

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