P.U.R.R. – Grafton, West Virginia; A Rescue Rebuild Favorite
By Chris Coulter, Rescue Rebuild Program Manager
Build after build, city after city, there’s a good chance Rescue Rebuild has driven past or even stopped in your city. Small towns and big cities alike we are constantly seeing all parts of the country from behind the windshield. One town, in particular, has become my favorite. It’s a smaller town consisting of about 5,000 people located in the hills of West Virginia. Grafton, WV is an old coal mining and railroad town which was founded as early as the 1700s. The town is rich in history which is very noticeable from the beautiful, old buildings that adorn downtown. The only two national cemeteries in West Virginia call Grafton home, as well as the longest ongoing Memorial Day parade in the country.
My trip to Grafton started with a 17-hour drive starting right after work on a Friday and getting us in town around 10 or 11 the following morning. My mom was gracious enough to come along for the ride. She’s a great help not only on the job site but on the road keeping me awake as well. So, after checking into the hotel and taking a slight nap, I headed to the shelter. People United for Rescue and Rehabilitation, or P.U.R.R., as it’s commonly referred to is unique in the fact that it is an old, converted schoolhouse dating back from the late 1800s. This huge building, ornately decorated like most buildings from the turn of the century consisting of four stories. The fourth story being a completely open room with a stage that acted as an assembly room for all the school children.
Like any 200+-year-old building, it was in need of a lot of repairs. It had a collapsing front porch/steps, windows that needed to installing, a water heater that needed moving and new water lines installed, a bathroom that needed every bit of plumbing replaced and lastly it had four stories of stuff that needed to be hauled away to the local county dump. I say stuff because it was 200 years of belongings from all of the previous school owners who had left their belongings when they sold the property. By the time we had cleared out all four floors, we’d removed 79,000 pounds. With that much weight inside the building, it was causing stress on the foundation of the building and taking up valuable room which was perfect for the cat sanctuary.
After we scrubbed, by hand, all the floors on all four stories, we could finally get to work on the other necessary improvements. We installed windows, moved the hot water heater into the basement, installed all new plumbing, completely rebuilt the front porch after it had collapsed into the basement. We also built a new vet intake room; completely refitted a back area so that they could more easily bring in pallets of cat food and not have to bring them in by hand. The transition was an amazing feat and being able to witness and be a part of it was an inspiration. When I arrived three weeks earlier, I saw a pretty building on the outside but a storage area on the inside. After it was all completed, it finally looked like a cat sanctuary. So many more cats are now able to be taken care of than previously. Plus, an old building that was on the verge of crumbling under the weight of itself has been saved for future generations to enjoy.
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