CHRISTIAN — People from across the region are mourning the loss of charity leader Priscella Cline Smith, who died Wednesday, April 21, after she was struck by a vehicle.
Cline Smith, along with her husband, Mike Smith, was owner of the Paradise Island campground at Christian, located along W.Va. 80 between Man and Gilbert. The two purchased the property in 1992. Every month over the past seven years, they have operated the Miracle Island Unlimited Food Pantry on the property with Cline Smith serving as executive director.
It is estimated the pantry has given out more than 145,000 food boxes, with an average of about 7,000 per month. On the third Wednesday of every month during distribution, vehicles often stretch out all the way onto W.Va. 80.
On what was scheduled to be the latest food giveaway on Wednesday, April 21, Cline Smith was tending to a tractor-trailer along W.Va. 80 around 6:25 a.m. when she was struck by a vehicle.
According to a news release from the Logan County Sheriff’s Office, the vehicle’s driver told deputies they saw the tractor-trailer stopped with its emergency lights on while they were traveling north on W.Va. 80. As they continued northbound, they struck Cline Smith.
Cline Smith was later pronounced dead at the scene. She was 62 years old.
In the days following her death, people from throughout Logan, Mingo and other surrounding counties who were touched by Cline Smith’s longstanding community service efforts showed and voiced their appreciation for her life.
Two days after her death, the local Hungry Lambs Food Initiative held a food giveaway event in her honor at the Logan County Resource Center at the old 84 Lumber location at Peach Creek. The Chapmanville Towne N’ Country Foodland store and United Dairy provided a refrigerated truck because the location did not have enough refrigeration space for all the food that was distributed.
Despite dreary weather conditions, more than 100 people came to Paradise Island on Saturday night to show their respects in a candlelight vigil. Those who spoke to the assembled crowd recognized Cline Smith’s dedication, work ethic, love of helping others and, most of all, her strong Christian faith that guided her in all those efforts.
Aaron Blankenship, a longtime family friend who has a camper on the Paradise Island property, described the vigil as a “heartwarming” way to honor her memory.
“She’s been a great woman and a great minister to this whole area and this whole community,” Blankenship said. “She’s really spread the word of God and spread the love of Christ through this food pantry, through everything she does at the campground and through just reaching out to all these different churches and stuff in the community. She’s really going to be missed.”
Larry Mills, in-house supervisor of the Miracle Island Unlimited Food Pantry, said he hopes the pantry can continue with all the knowledge Cline Smith provided over the years.
“It’s very tragic, very sad, heartbreaking…” Mills said. “This is wonderful tonight to see that she was loved by so many people, and let’s just pray that what she has taught us over the years, that we can still be moving and do whatever we … whatever God tells us to do, that’s what we’ll do.”
Mills said he, Mike Smith, and others directly involved with the pantry will have conversations on how to proceed.
“We’ll sit down and talk, and we’ll see where God leads us and make a decision from there,” Mills said.
Mingo County Commissioner Gavin Smith, a longtime friend and classmate at Gilbert High School, read a story she posted to her Facebook page on April 4, just 17 days before her death. In the story, Cline Smith wishes happy birthday to her late mother.
“2010, I lost my best friend and my mom....,” the post reads. “Gone but NEVER forgotten, my mama. Each night, with my thoughts, it’s as if it has just happened. I KNOW it’s wonderful there. Once there you would NEVER want to come back … just to be in the presence of Jesus ... My mom and my best friend ... That’s where she is and where I will be also ... soon.”
“Priscella is not going to be a woman that will be easily replaced,” Commissioner Smith said. “She did so much for so many. Unselfish. Never did see an end to it. Every day she woke up, when she opened her eyes, it was to help somebody, and those kinds of things in our community are welcome, and it’s hard to replace here in southern West Virginia.”
The candlelight vigil event was presented by the Logan County Prevention Coalition. Coordinator Sharon Moorhead presented a plaque to Cline Smith’s husband, Mike, designating her and the Miracle Island Unlimited Food Pantry as their “Hometown Hero.”
The plaque is dated Dec. 15, 2020, which Moorhead said was the original scheduled date for a planned “Hometown Hero” event by the Coalition. However, due to the strong presence of the COVID-19 pandemic in the community at that time, the event was never held.
“One of the first people that we picked for that was Priscella of Miracle Island,” Moorhead said. “The COVID hit strong in December, and we had to postpone. With regret, we never did get to do that. So at this time, Mike, we would like to present you the plaque to say ‘thank you.’ We couldn’t have done what we done without her and Miracle Island.”
Moorhead said Cline Smith helped the Coalition distribute 10,800 hot meals from March 24, 2020, to Jan. 5, 2021, as well as 200 food boxes and baby items.
“That’s just who she was,” Moorhead said. “When she found out we were doing it, she was like, ‘What can I do to help?’ She was always ready to help everyone.”
To see photos from Saturday night’s candlelight vigil, visit www.WilliamsonDailyNews.com.