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Despite adversity, spirit of Deltaville burns bright

The April tornado fanned the flame of community spirit that rallied to save the DCA building in Deltaville. (Photo by Tom Chillemi)

by Tom Chillemi

“It’s happened in the past and will happen in the future. The spirit is ingrained in the people.” — Fred Crittenden

April 16, 2011, like any other day, was just 24 hours long. But, it’s a day that will not be forgotten.

It’s the day a tornado twisted through the heart of Deltaville.

In minutes the storm destroyed the Zoar Baptist Church building and several homes, and seriously damaged the Deltaville Community Association building.

The tornado that came from the south shoved in the front wall of the wooden DCA building about 2 inches, and drove a one-inch-round piece of wood through the front door about a foot. The east wall of the kitchen was pulled out 2 inches.

The 70-plus-year-old building was bent but still standing.

Within 48 hours, the DCA board held a meeting on the front steps.

Eight months later, the DCA building is close to being made whole again—not the same as it was before the tornado— but stronger where it was broken.

Through it all, the “spirit” of Deltaville has shone through.

Hundreds of people came together to save the community center, which was once a schoolhouse. In a time of grants and government handouts, the people of this waterfront town pulled together on their own. Some held fundraisers, others got out their checkbooks, many donated labor and their time, and businesses discounted or donated building materials. “We’ve had a lot of help,” said Billy Norton, a DCA board member. “The story is about the community working together.”

Echoing Norton’s sentiments is Fred Crittenden of Hardyville, a longtime member of the Middlesex County Board of Supervisors. Residents “love” their Deltaville and there always have been citizens who are willing to make commitments or assume leadership positions, Crittenden said. “If there are problems they solve them.”

It’s happened repeatedly in Deltaville. In 1947 the fire department was formed. The rescue squad was the first rural rescue squad in Virginia. The Deltaville Ballpark remains the last remaining vestige of an era when local communities had a baseball team. Residents searched for a Deltaville doctor and found the late Dr. Harold Felton. In recent memory, the community backed a library in Deltaville and the Deltaville Maritime Museum and Holly Point Nature Park. The list goes on.

“They have taken on things without thought of compensation,” Crittenden said.

The result has been a strong community, where people will drop what they are doing to help each other, Crittenden added. “It’s happened in the past and will happen in the future. The spirit is ingrained in the people.”

The actual construction at the DCA was awarded to the lowest bidder, Northwind Inc. of Topping.

Norton and John Koedel were appointed by the DCA board to oversee the rebuilding of the Ricky Taylor Memorial Pool, the tennis courts and gazebo, and now the DCA building.

The DCA restoration was a chance to improve the 70-plus-year-old building, explained Koedel. An addition measuring 11 by 40 feet holds handicapped-compliant restrooms, and a storage closet for the chairs and tables.

Inside the DCA building

The building’s main floor joists were water damaged in places. Twenty-two timbers under the auditorium had to be replaced, and the kitchen floor was fixed to repair water damage, said Norton.

The kitchen is being upgraded, paid for with donations, not insurance, noted Koedel.

The front porch was enlarged to make room for a handicap ramp. The side steps also were bricked. Architectural windows give the main entrance a fresh look.

The siding was replaced with insulated siding, insulation was blown into the walls, and electricity was upgraded.

An aggregate walkway will be framed with bricks from the original walkway.

Construction should be complete by early February, said Koedel, who added plans are being made to recognize the contributions of all involved in saving the community center.

“I have seen a lot of people in the community step up to the plate in one way or another,” said Norton. “It’s always been that way when things like this happen. We are going to put this back together better than the way it was.”

posted 12.21.2011

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