Showcasing her community through genuine hospitality and caring connections.
All it takes is a kernel of an idea. From there, a Possibilitarian can turn frustration to hope, stagnation to vitality, “Why bother?” to “How can I help?”
That’s what you’ll see in these stories: West Virginians whose love for their communities turns out to be fertile ground where ideas sprout, thrive, and fertilize the imaginations of those around them. Sometimes to their own surprise, their purposeful action is catalyzing lasting change.
If you ever find yourself moseying through Grant County wondering how to spend your day, Sarah Moomau will be more than happy to point you in the right direction. The longtime owner of the Fort Hill Motel loves talking up her hometown of Petersburg and the surrounding area—and she’s an expert. Through her post at the motel and involvement with organizations like the convention and visitors bureau, the local historical society, the chamber of commerce, and more, Moomau thrives as a champion of her community.
If a visitor drops by the Petersburg motel, which she’s owned since 1984 and has expanded with the addition of long-term apartments and other updates, Moomau likely knows just where to send them. She directs people who love to fish to visit Eli Whetzels’ Three Rivers Guiding service and those who have a shopping bug to South Side Depot and Peddler’s Crossing. She encourages outdoorsy folks to not only hike and kayak the surrounding area, but also to look to the sky—she points them toward Brian Collins’ Eastern Soaring Association so they can catch a unique perspective with a glider ride.
Moomau is passionate, and her energy is infectious. She is a bona fide ambassador, showing visitors the best the area has to offer and helping them find memorable experiences. “Depending on their interests, we make sure that they find what they want to do,” she says.
For someone with so much love in her heart for her hometown, it’s surprising to learn that she didn’t always envision herself settling down there. “I couldn’t wait to leave,” she says with a laugh. “I was very blessed to be able to travel at a young age and see most of the country and a little bit outside the country. I’ve always loved to travel—but being away made me really appreciate the virtues of living in a small town.”
Among the biggest of those virtues: the network of friends and colleagues she has cultivated over the years, all of them sharing a can-do attitude that fosters brainstorming, collaboration, and camaraderie. “It’s so nice to have close friends that you respect who are professionals in different areas so that we can make things happen,” Moomau says. “We have a wonderful team of people.”
She thinks that towns like Petersburg are ripe for folks itching to make a change, and she urges anyone who wants to transform their own hometown to immerse themselves in a network like she has and pitch in wherever they can to help others succeed. “Never give up. With a lot of these projects, it takes a long time to develop them and find funding to make that happen,” she says. “If you see something that needs to happen in a small town, you have that network and that support from family and friends so that you figure out a way to do it.”
Moomau’s network is everything to her. Even in a short conversation, she is humble—she acknowledges that she works hard to put her town and county on the map, but quickly directs the spotlight away from herself and onto the people around her. “It’s a wonderful community,” she says. “The people here are remarkable, and the network of people with that can-do spirit is absolutely wonderful. I don’t know how I would get through a day without the friends that I have.”
Take in the area’s Civil War heritage at Fort Mulligan, soar the sky in a glider with Brian Collins’ Eastern Soaring Association, hike nearby Seneca Rocks or Dolly Sods, tour Smoke Hole or Seneca Caverns, take a train ride on the Potomac Eagle, and visit The Davis House Museum
The Grove Cafe and Bakery is a darling spot for light fare or a cup of joe and a delicious sweet treat, or walk up to the takeout window at Twisted Pig for to-die-for barbeque. Don’t miss the newly opened Taphouse at Hermitage Inn. Also try Family Traditions, Chillmers Soft Serve, and Meadowbrook Farm BBQ truck.
Make sure you stop at the South Side Depot, where you’ll find a wide range of locally made products. Peddler’s Crossing, Hayleigh’s and Nadia’s Country Décor, and Judy’s Drugstore & Gifts are great places to pick up a gift or two or something for your home. For something truly special, visit Garton’s Originals for realistic wooden carvings of animals or Yours, Mine, & Ours Boutique & Flea Market. In nearby Cabins, stop by the massive Smoke Hole Resort Gift Shop.
Step back in time when you stay a night or two at the Fort Hill Motel or the newly renovated Hermitage Inn, which was built in 1841 and converted to a hotel in 1881 and is one of the oldest buildings in town.