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Jackpot winner Smith donates building for emergency housing

April 17, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Powerball jackpot winner W. Randy Smith has made another “mega” donation to the community.

The former Berkeley County sheriff and magistrate donated a 24-unit apartment building he owned in Berkeley County to help the community respond to a need for emergency housing for families, the United Way of the Eastern Panhandle announced Tuesday.

Smith’s donation was made in honor of his parents, the late Edwin W. and Bertha D. Smith, and his sister, Beverly Smith. His older sibling died in March 2011.

The property, known as MEGA Apartments, was where Smith’s parents first resided, according to the United Way’s news release.

“Mr. Smith’s generous donation is instrumental in the development of a feasible, affordable and sustainable community solution for emergency family housing,” Jan Callen, president and chief operating officer of United Way, said in the release.

With the apartment complex, the United Way plans to partner with Community Networks Inc. on a pilot project to provide and evaluate a program that provides free, short-term housing with intensive case-management services.

“Due to a job loss, a disaster such as a fire or another crisis, many families in our community have no place to live. For years, Eastern Panhandle housing advocates have sought a sustainable solution, and the donation of this property provides the resources to develop one,” Callen said.

The donation for emergency housing came a few hours before Smith presented a large ceremonial check for $600,000 to the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks & Recreation Board for the construction of the planned South Berkeley Recreation Center.

Smith joined Eastern West Virginia Community Foundation officials for the check presentation, which was his second contribution for the project.

The funding commitment for the project on the campus of Musselman High School in Inwood, W.Va., was made possible by the W. Randy Smith fund, which he  established with the foundation after winning a $79 million lottery jackpot in 2010.

Smith, who previously committed $1.5 million last year for the project via the foundation, said Tuesday that he wanted to see the facility built as soon as possible.

Steve Catlett, executive director of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks & Recreation Board, said he hoped to hold a ground-breaking ceremony next month and said the $2.1 million project could possibly be completed by the end of the year.

The construction contract for the project, which was awarded to W. Harley Miller Contractors of Martinsburg, also was formally signed Thursday, Catlett said.

Smith said a structured environment such as public recreation helps keep kids out of the juvenile justice system.

“There’s just not enough places for after-school activities,” said Smith, who noted that the recreation center would benefit all age groups.

Catlett said he still is pursuing other funding support for the project, including state sources.

Without the $600,000 donation, Smith said he doubted the project would have been started in his lifetime.

And Smith said he doesn’t want dirt to be shoveled on his grave before ground was broken for the recreation center.

Smith said that he hopes that the building’s construction will ultimately trigger other financial contributions to fully furnish the facility.

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