Depot Welcome Center honors volunteers

The Elkins Depot Welcome Center’s Board of Directors honored its Corps of Volunteers on July 12 at its annual volunteer appreciation dinner.

The dinner and recognition ceremonies were held at the stately home of Ms. Joan Williams, a member of the board of directors. Board of Directors Chairwoman Sue Sheets began the celebration by welcoming the volunteers and their guests.

Sheets said, “Our volunteers are the backbone of the organization; without you we would have no welcome center. We appreciate your service; you go to extra lengths, on your own time, to familiarize yourselves with the information necessary to answer the myriad of questions thrown at you by visitors from all over the United States and many foreign countries.

“Simply put, the welcome center could not operate without you. You have been invited here this evening as our guests so we may show our appreciation for your service to the welcome center, the City of Elkins and surrounding community.”

Sheets then announced that the board had created special citations recognizing the two most visible volunteers in and around the city of Elkins: Ed and Elaine Griesel.

After reading the citation, Sheets presented Elaine Griesel with a plaque praising her for the countless hours of time she has spent participating in fundraising events and beautification projects in and around the city of Elkins.

“Elaine is the person most responsible for the acquisition of the Christmas lights displayed at the Town Square that brings the color and spirit of Christmas to the city each year,” Sheets said. “She is seen tending the flower gardens that beautify the city throughout the summer. She is a vital member of the Welcome Center’s Corps of Volunteers always participating in innumerable capacities helping to raise money for the operating expenses of the Welcome Center.

“Elaine has, since the Welcome Center began sponsoring the Ramps and Rail Festival, been a crucial member of the team planning the festival and serving in any capacity asked. She was instrumental in the production of the festival’s beauty pageant in April. To put it simply,” Sheets said, “all you have to do is let her know what you need and she is always there to help.”

Elaine Griesel is the owner of Ceramics with Class, located on Davis Avenue in Elkins.

Sheets then turned the award presentation ceremonies over to Secretary Anne Beardslee, who disclosed the Welcome Center’s BOD had created a special recognition citation in the name of Edward “Ed” Griesel to be presented annually to the outstanding “Volunteer of the Year.”

This year’s award went to the person for whom the award is named, “Ed” Griesel himself. The citation read: “Edward Griesel Annual Community Service Award for Exceptional Volunteer Service to the Citizens and Businesses of the Elkins Area.”

Beardslee said, “The Edward Griesel Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award will be presented in the coming years to the person who best represents the outstanding volunteer services that Mr. Griesel has demonstrated over the past several decades.

“The list of Mr. Griesel’s contributions is practically endless,” Beardslee said, “but let me mention just a few: he was responsible for the creation and long-term existence of the ‘Downtown Merchants Association’ that provided merchants in Elkins and the surrounding area the opportunity to gather twice each month to discuss cultural, aesthetics and business proposals for the area.

“These meetings also were the breeding ground for many social events such as the Ramps and Rail Festival and numerous beautification projects in and around the city of Elkins. He has taken it upon himself to maintain and install the Christmas lights that bring so much color and spirit to the Town Square each Christmas season. He can be seen at Christmastime in the coldest of temperatures and foulest of weather preparing the lights for the Yule Time season. You will see him working with his wife, Elaine, in the flower gardens around town helping her beautify the area for the aesthetic pleasure of our citizens and visitors.

“There is no way to determine the number of hours Ed has spent helping to make his adopted town a better place to live,” Beardslee said.

Elkins Mayor Van Broughton presented Ed Griesel with the Key to the City of Elkins and a certificate naming him an “Honorary Citizen of Elkins.”

Broughton said, “There is no adequate way to describe what Mr. Griesel has done for our city and surrounding community. I have listed some but probably not all of the organizations that I personally know that have benefited from his voluntary contributions to and for our citizens on his citation. They include: the Elkins Historic Landmarks Commission, the Elkins Depot Welcome Center (as a volunteer), the Elkins Depot Welcome Center (as a member of its board of directors), the Elkins Downtown Merchants Association, Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce, West Virginia Railroad Museum and the Downtown Elkins Walking Tour. You see, folks, his contributions, and energies, seem to be limitless.

“Let me join those that have honored Mr. Griesel this evening and pass along the sincere appreciation and best wishes of the Elkins City Council. He and his efforts to make our community a better place for all of us is finally receiving the attention they so rightly deserve.”

Delegate Denise Campbell, D-Randolph, joined those congratulating Griesel, saying, “Ed and Elaine have always been very special friends to me and to our community; they are one of a kind. We are blessed to have them in our community. I met Ed and Elaine over 10 years ago and they were volunteering then and they are volunteering now. They have been extremely committed to our city. Without them and their commitment the Elkins Depot Welcome Center would not be what it is today.

“Imagine what our community could be if we had more people with the energies and dedication that Ed and Elaine have. They are hard workers and only have the best interest of the community at heart. No matter when or where an event is held, no matter the weather, they are there giving their all. The words ‘thank you’ do not seem to be enough. On behalf of the citizens of Elkins and the surrounding community, I thank you for your selfless service.”

Ed Griesel thanked those who had honored him and Elaine. To everyone, he said, “It has been a long and arduous ‘climb’ to get where we are. We started out with no money and no support. Over time, though, we have gained the confidence and support of the city and county. I thank them for that support.

“I thank all those who have believed in our organization and have given so much of their time and energies to make the Welcome Center what it is today. I believe the center provides an indispensable service to our visitors and hope to see it continue. Tourism is growing each year and consequently I believe the center becomes more important as the tourism industry grows.”

Jessica Kittle, the Elkins Depot Welcome Center executive director, said the volunteers who serve at the welcome center, in 2013, registered 42,289 visitors. They gave out 67,859 travel brochures and approximately 200 travel packets to fourth grade students doing their West Virginia History scrapbook projects.