In the past week since extreme flooding from heavy rains devastated towns across West Virginia, Jim Monroe, owner of Greenbrier Nurseries, a grower-retailer in Virginia and West Virginia, has led a relief effort that has collected donations from places as far as Texas and Canada.
RICHARD BOYD, BOYD PEARMAN PHOTOGRAPHY

It all started June 23, when he posted a call out on Facebook to fans of Farm to Table Roanoke, a weekly, year-round farmers market that was the focus of Garden Center magazine’s March cover story. He asked customers to help with flood relief efforts by bringing in donations.

In less than a week, Monroe, his team and volunteers sent 24 box trucks filled with bottled water, trash bags, mops, bleach, buckets, diapers, paper goods and other donated supplies to the most hard-hit places, including White Sulfur Springs. In just three days, 47 people raised $6,370 as of press time on a GoFundMe account Monroe set up. Companies offered up their trucks, including Black Dog Salvage, and the Roanoke Target and FedEx.

“It’s the power of social media,” says Monroe, who also posted updates on his Greenbrier Nurseries Facebook page. “It’s just so amazing that you can impact people so fast.”

When Monroe reached out to Garden Center magazine to tell us about the incredible support he has received from the community, we asked if he was impacted. “We had some water in our office, but nothing compared to what other people are dealing with," he says. "We had a few employees who were displaced, but everybody is OK.”

Rushing waters carried cars and even homes away, and Monroe says the devastation is hard to describe. One meteorologist called it “A 1-in-1,000-year storm,” as at least 9 inches of rain fell in 36 hours in parts of Greenbrier County, according to an article in The Herald Dispatch. At least 25 people were killed in the storm, and others remain missing.

“It’s Hurricane Katrina. There are [thousands of] people who have lost their houses, and deaths and people missing,” he says. “[There are] dead pets and dead livestock. It’s just unbelievable.”

What else was unbelievable to Monroe is the support that poured in not only locally from customers and businesses, but across the country. He says at least a dozen independent garden centers raised or contributed money, and quickly.

“I have this double-dog secret Facebook page where there is no media or suppliers, just garden center owners. I was telling people about the outpouring of support we’ve had from our customers. Yesterday [June 28,] we had people bring in checks and stick them in a mason jar on the counter that says ‘flood donation.’ We added it up last night, and there must be $8,000 worth of checks,” Monroe says. “So I was just telling people that [on Facebook], and talking about how great it was. The first person to do something was Tina Bemis [of Bemis Farms Nursery in Spencer, Mass.] She had a sale one day … she had customers make donations and sent me [nearly $1,000].”

Distinctive Gardens, based in Dixon, Ill., also pitched in, created a video and shared information about what Monroe and his team were doing.

“Since last week, [Monroe] has been receiving and trucking supplies to the worst of the towns hit nearby,” Distinctive Gardens wrote on Facebook. “He’s not able to focus on his business at the moment. It’s all about helping his community.”

Monroe estimates that they have raised more than $100,000 in supplies, checks and cash from garden centers and the community.

“It’s just unreal. We’ve literally, just from little independent garden centers, probably collected $10,000 [in cash] from independents across the country who don’t have any reason to do this other than the fact they are good people,” he says. “It tells you a lot about the industry we’re in.”