GILBERT — As a young man, Larry Joe Harless vowed that when he grew up and made some money he would come back to his hometown and build something for the youth in Gilbert.

Larry Joe passed away in 1995. In his honor, his father and mother, James H. “Buck” and June Harless, contributed the construction cost of the 55,000-square-foot building, which became the Larry Joe Harless Community Center (LJHCC).

This allowed the LJHCC Foundation to use the money raised through donations and contributions from the community for the operating cost of the center.

Sadly, June Harless passed away in April 1999 just prior to the opening of the LJHCC.

The LJHCC has since become an integral part of the community at large. It features an indoor pool that can be accessed year round, indoor and outdoor basketball courts, outdoor tennis courts, an indoor fitness center and much more.

Membership rates are $15 a month for students and $29 a month for adults while daily fees are $7 for children and $9 for adults. The LJHCC also offers discounted monthly and daily rates for senior citizens and families and a discounted one-time yearly fee.

The LJHCC is also the central location for the popular National Trailfest event that is held each October in the town of Gilbert. The LJHCC’s Fall Festival is also held in conjunction with Trailfest.

Cheryl Mitchem, director of the Harless Center, said that the LJHCC is happy to be a big part in showcasing not only Gilbert, but Mingo County.

“The LJHCC is just that, we’re all about the community,” Mitchem said. “This is a very large event and a very difficult event to host, but it is for our community, because we know when we are able to bring tourists in, they come back.”

The LJHCC also has also offered primitive camping spots in the bottom near the facility, and Mitchem says that all of the guests that camped with them last Trailfest made the return trip this year.

“Last year 100 percent of those that camped in our campgrounds were return visitors. So that shows when you come, you love us, and you want to come back. And that’s just good for all of the small businesses in this area and it is good for Southern West Virginia.

You can also obtain a Hatfield-McCoy Trail season permit at the Larry Joe Harless Community Center. Prices are $26.50 for residents and $50 for nonresidents. The LJHCC will be selling event permits for a discounted price of $35, but the permit will just be good for the weekend of Trailfest.

To obtain your permit, visit the LJHCC and request one at the front desk. For more information on the LJHCC call, 304-664-2500, ext. 0.