NEW MANCHESTER-With August just around the corner, parents and children's thoughts are already turning to school.
On Saturday, some of them were at Tomlinson Run State Park to take advantage of a school supply giveaway organized by the Energy Express program.
"It's a big help," said Brandi Emler, of New Cumberland, who was at the giveaway with her daughter, Brooklyn Barnhart, 6. "This should get us through at least the first half of the school year."
Michaela Shaw, 8, of Newell, reaches for a box of crayons at Saturday’s Energy Express school supply distribution at Tomlinson Run State Park. She was there with her sister, Alexa, 7, and her parents, Justin and Lisa Shaw. (Photo by Stephen Huba)
Brooklyn, who is entering the first grade at Allison Elementary School in Chester, picked up some notebooks, folders, crayons, colored pencils, a pencil box, construction paper and erasers.
Zachary Nolder, 14, an incoming eighth-grader at Oak Glen Middle School, picked up school supplies for himself and his sister, Felicity Nolder, 17, an incoming senior at Oak Glen High School.
He stuffed a paper grocery bag full of pencil boxes, notebooks, folders, crayons, markers, rulers and scissors. "Everything but a book bag," he said.
Zachary is working as a volunteer this summer at the Energy Express site at Oak Glen Middle School. "It's pretty fun. I like reading to the kids. I like it all," he said.
Energy Express, a six-week summer reading and nutrition program for children entering grades 1 through 6, enlists the help of young volunteers like Zachary and college-age mentors employed by AmeriCorps.
Participating children come from rural and low-income communities in Hancock County and elsewhere in West Virginia. A program of the West Virginia University Extension Service, Energy Express helps children avoid the "summer slide" by engaging them in reading activities, "non-competitive" games, arts and crafts, and drama, said WVU Extension Agent Carole Scheerbaum.
In Hancock County, more than 80 children are enrolled at the Energy Express sites at Oak Glen Middle School and Weir Middle School, where they get served breakfast and lunch. The program closes on Aug. 1.
Justin and Lisa Shaw, of Newell, said their daughters, Alexa, 7, and Michaela, 8, benefit from Energy Express, even though they're good readers and read a lot at home.
Michaela enjoyed Energy Express so much last year that she returned this year, her mother said. "She just loves it. She looks forward to it more than going to school," she said.
Saturday's school supply distribution, a community service project of Energy Express, was for the general public, not just Energy Express participants. Volunteers collected supplies over the past few weeks by passing out 850 bags door-to-door and placing donation boxes at 25 Hancock County businesses, said Julia Provenzano, an Energy Express community coordinator.
Sixty bags were returned with supplies, she said.
Cash donations were received from the Weirton and Calcutta Walmart stores, New Cumberland VFW Post 3526 and Calcutta Giant Eagle.
The supplies collected exceeded the 1,900 items that were given away last year, said Patrice Cain, Energy Express site supervisor for OGMS.
"We're able to help a lot of people this way," Provenzano said.
Among the items given away on Saturday were: washable markers, notebook paper, crayons, colored pencils, erasers, scissors, notebooks, composition books, folders, glue, pencils, backpacks, pens, rulers, pencil cases and book covers.