The town of Rainelle is in a state of flux; caught somewhere between the community they once were, and the community they are striving to become. The town has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic, an economic downturn, concerns regarding public health and safety, and controversies within its leadership. However, Rainelle has not lost sight of what the community believes they can be, and many residents and groups continue to work for the betterment of the area. One such group is the LZ Rainelle Veteran’s Country Kickers.
“They would dance on Mondays, that’s how they kept in shape,” Emma Michelinie said. “I joined because I needed to do a little of that, myself.”
As the group met on a weekly basis, the idea of it began to grow into something more.
“We’re very supportive of our vets. Eventually, somebody said that we should look at nursing homes. So we did, and started dancing at them. After a while, the committee sponsored us,” Michelinie said.
The “committee” Michelinie spoke of is the LZ West Virginia Veteran’s Reunion Committee. LZ stands for landing zone; a term used during the Vietnam War, referring to a safe place for military personnel. When the coronavirus-pandemic began this past March, the group was forced to temporarily discontinue their performances. However, in July the LZ Rainelle Country Kickers decided to find an outdoor space to practice and perform. They selected an area of the Meadow River Valley Park.
“We lined up and did our thing,” Michelinie said.
By the time August rolled around the group was ready to resume dancing for nursing home residents.
“We called the (Meadow Garden) Rainelle Nursing home,” Michelinie said. “We lined up on the concrete and danced outside the windows.”
This was an act that brought happiness to residents of the facility.
Iona Stover, activities director at Meadow Garden said that the dance group has “been here multiple times. But with COVID, we have a lot of restrictions on visitation. When they danced outside, the residents were just so excited and happy. They were all watching and smiling and waving.”
Stover also explained that several of the residents have personal relationships with members of the LZ Country Kickers, making these performances that much more special.
“We like to take them a little bit of cheer,” Michelinie said. “Music makes you happy.”
On Friday, November 13, the LZ West Virginia Veteran’s Reunion will be hosting the “West Virginia Gold Star Mother’s Christmas Tree Decorating to Honor and Remember.”
While the LZ Rainelle Country Kickers are not scheduled to perform, their members are heavily involved with the event.
As stated in an advertisement for the event, “Holidays are one of many difficult times for families whose hero did not return home. We would like you to join us to help assure them, we will not forget their hero who gave all for freedom.”
The event will begin at 11 a.m. with an introduction ceremony. This will take place outside at the City National Bank branch, located at 732 Main St. in Rainelle. Hot chocolate, hot apple cider, cookies and popcorn will be available. Attendees are asked to bring Christmas cards that have been signed and sealed, and which contain postage and a return address. There are a total of 59 families to whom these cards will be sent. A Gold Star family’s address will be added to the cards, then transported to the post office for mailing. There will also be a drop-box available in the back lot of the bank which will be open to receive cards until 3 p.m. Drop-boxes are also available at both City National Bank Lewisburg locations, as well as their Beckley location.
Cards can also be mailed to: LZ West Virginia Veteran’s Reunion, P.O. Box 653, Rainelle, WV 25962.
Cards must be received by December 15.
Once the introduction ceremony has concluded, Gold Star Mothers will decorate the tree inside the City National Bank branch.
According to the advertisement, “A Gold Star with their soldier’s picture, Gold Star Honor and Remember Flags and glass balls made especially for them will be hung on the tree. To date, there are a total of 59 for each son or daughter. The tree will be lit and on display in the large glass window for all to view through New Year’s Day.”
For those interested in having some fun and bringing some happiness to the community, Michelinie said that the LZ Rainelle Country Kickers are, “always looking for new members.”
If you’d like more information about joining the group, contact Emma Michelinie or Mary Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit LZRainelle on Facebook.