Monongalia County holds annual Pantry Plus More ‘Back to School Bash’

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – On Saturday, the community of Monongalia County came together to get prepared, and most importantly protected, for the upcoming school year. The Mountaineer Mall’s Pantry Plus More “Back to School Bash” was held for the fourth year in a row.

This event was started by North Elementary School’s Principal Natalie Webb. She said two students four years ago asked for her help to get a new haircut for the school year, and she decided to create something for all her students to benefit from.

“Everybody is coming in with their new duds, and if you don’t have the new duds, you feel left out…and no kid should feel left out,” said Webb. “I just wanted to do something that would help make my students life easier, because getting a new backpack is like a fresh start for a new great successful school year. Once I saw the difference it made in those students performances. They were happy, they were doing better with grades, I knew I had to try to figure out a way to do this for everyone.”

The collaborative effort from people all over Monongalia County is the key to the success each year. Volunteers, donations, and supplies has grown so much because of the selfless officals and organizers across the county.

County Commission President Tom Bloom told a story about how one year, a kid told him with the hygiene kits they received, gave him his first tooth brush he wouldn’t have to share with his sister.

“This is the first excitement of, hey they really do want to go back to school. After five months at home with mom and dad, I think mom and dad are ready to move them out, and I think the kids are ready to learn,” Bloom said.

“It brings tears to my eyes, it’s just I am so appreciative of all the help because there are so many families that need assistance right now, and I’m so glad that we’re able to give it to them,” said Webb.

On Saturday, they were able to hand out 1,800 backpacks full of school supplies, and with COVID-19 this year, additional they handed out 1,800 hygiene kits. Kits included, hand sanitizer, masks, tooth brushes, hair brushes, tissues, and more. Public school students from kindergarten to 12th grade were able to pick up on of each.

On top of the school essentials, donated books were also being handed out to students in accordance to age, reading level, and interest. At the end of the assembly line, each family also received a full box of fresh produce.

“When children are hungry, or they have to go to school without the proper supplies, then they aren’t focused on learning. The pathway out of poverty, is education, and that’s why we are out here. We are just doing out part,” said Co-Chairman of the Back to School Bash Amanda Bolyard.

“Growing up, my mom was on food stamps and we lived in federal housing,” said CEO of The Mon Health Systems David Goldberg. “Now to be able to come back out, later in my life and give back to those in need, I mean that’s our job as a community provider. As you look out, and you see these college students, these high school students, people from the community, coming out to help their community…that’s what’s so special about north central West Virginia.”

Webb and Bolyard said that without the community support, they wouldn’t be able to provide this type of support for their community and they are so grateful to all that helped. Especially this year with the coronavirus outbreak causing so much financial deficit for families all over the nation, everyone right now needs more support like this.

“I am so sad about not being able to provide haircuts, but we will be back next year for the haircuts you can be sure of that,” Webb said.

Bloom said that for those who didn’t make it out on Saturday and are still in need of supplies, they will be putting more back packs together to be distributed. For more information, contact either of the following:

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