CHESTER - It started with a memory of "going to Rock Springs Park every chance I got." From that simple reminiscence has grown a Facebook group that numbers 734 members.
Some of them know each other personally. Some know each other only as Facebook friends. What they all have in common is that they grew up in Chester or Lawrenceville. Saturday, they got a chance to meet each other at the "Take Me Home Country Roads First-Annual Community Reunion" in Chester.
Group founder Vicki Robinson Jordan, 60, of Chester, is still amazed at how the community has grown and at the interest in Saturday's reunion event.
"All I did was hit the 'create' button," she said.
Jordan said she founded the group about a year ago while on Facebook one day.
"I was bored," she said. "I saw a group similar to this and thought, 'If they can have one, then why can't Chester and Lawrenceville?'"
Jordan named the group "If You Grew Up in Chester or Lawrenceville, Then You Remember." She invited 10 of her Facebook friends to join.
"The friends I added told their friends, who told their friends. ... It grew like wildfire," she said.
The unifying theme of the group is memories of growing up and going to school in the area. Members post pictures, queries, memories and more.
"This was to reconnect with old friends that they lost touch with," Jordan said.
In the fall, Jordan polled the members and asked if they'd be interested in a reunion. The idea came from group member Matt Harris, who lives in North Carolina. The answer was an overwhelming "yes." Soon, a committee was formed to organize the event, which originally was called "The Gathering."
The nine-member committee was long on enthusiasm but short on cash. They decided on July 7 because of the date's closeness to the Fourth of July. In her search for a venue, Jordan called Chester Councilman Mike Dotson. They agreed that tents on the Chester Municipal Building parking lot would suffice.
Then Jordan began to worry about the weather. She called Dotson back, and, to her surprise, she was able to book the multipurpose building. Members who attended Saturday's event were encouraged to leave a donation, Jordan said. The committee also solicited donations from businesses and individuals in Chester.
"I've been overwhelmed by what this has become. At the same time, I'm flattered and I'm thrilled," Jordan said.
People are coming to the reunion from all over the country, including Texas, Florida, North and South Carolina, Illinois and Tennessee. Among those attending is former Chester Mayor Sally Riley.
"There are so many coming I can't keep count," Jordan said, noting that 150 to 200 people are expected.
Among them will be members of another Facebook group called "Memories of Hancock County and Brooke County, W.Va." Founded by 2011 Oak Glen High School graduate Jackson Wilson, the group boasts 499 members.
"I never thought that there would be that many people on Facebook who would be interested in Hancock County history," said Wilson, 19, of Lawrenceville, secretary of the organizing committee. "I'm very pleased with it."
Wilson is transferring to Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va., this fall to study historic preservation.
A charity auction held during the event will benefit Valley Hospice in Steubenville in memory of Nancy Dunn Haught. Her husband, Andy Haught, donated three hand-made birdhouses for the auction.
The evening closed with a 50/50 drawing and Chinese auction, proceeds of which will go toward next year's event.
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