Home Farm Bureau honors Wise County farmer for flood relief efforts in Buchanan County

Farm Bureau honors Wise County farmer for flood relief efforts in Buchanan County

buchanan county flood
Photo courtesy Gladys Jennings.

Gwen Fleming of Pound, who serves as president of Wise-Dickenson County Farm Bureau, was honored Nov. 30 with a Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Distinguished Service Award during the VFBF Annual Convention.

Fleming and her husband, Starling, raise beef cattle, and she also works as a supervisor at Golden Homestead Assisted Living in Coeburn. She has held leadership roles within Wise-Dickenson Farm Bureau for more than 15 years.

She was recognized by VFBF leaders for her efforts to support disaster relief after July’s devastating flash flooding in Buchanan County displaced families, swept houses off their foundations, caused mudslides and blocked and damaged roads.

“We are so blessed that our mountains protect us from so many natural disasters, but when we have one, we know what people need,” Fleming said in late summer when interviewed for an article in a Farm Bureau publication.

After an initial fundraising effort among three county Farm Bureaus in her immediate area, and at the recommendation of her county Farm Bureau board, Fleming contacted presidents of county Farm Bureaus statewide to ask for help.

Checks began to trickle in, then swelled to a wave of support that by late October totaled more than $15,000. The overall Farm Bureau contribution to the effort topped $20,000, from 37 county Farm Bureaus.

As each new contribution arrived, Fleming asked a Buchanan County social services contact what was needed, and she went shopping, following up with each county Farm Bureau about exactly how their funds were used.

Purchased goods included drinking water, food that was easy to open and prepare, cleaning supplies, diapers, personal care items, towels and blankets.

The outreach also extended to farm families in Kentucky whose fences were damaged and whose hay fields and pastures were under a heavy layer of mud.

Working with Virginia Cooperative Extension staff in Wise, and area farmers, local Farm Bureaus made two tractor-trailer loads of round hay bales and other donated supplies available.

When asked about her role in the relief effort, Fleming was quick to emphasize the involvement of many people, both in the immediate community and across Virginia.

“We take care of not only our family, but other families as well.”

VFBF President Wayne F. Pryor said that, when a disaster strikes, “it is admirable to want to help others, and commendable when someone makes an effort to help, but it’s absolutely invaluable when someone steps up and marshals the energy and available resources of a community – or many communities – to provide relief.

“Gwen Fleming’s work enabled county Farm Bureaus in Southwest Virginia to reach out to communities that support them. And it enabled the larger Virginia Farm Bureau family to extend their help as well.”



Have a guest column, letter to the editor, story idea or a news tip? Email editor Chris Graham at [email protected]. Subscribe to AFP podcasts on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPandora and YouTube.