WESTON, W.Va. – A local business owner is in her fourth year of helping students and student-athletes in her community get the recognition they deserve.
Tina Cunningham took over the store that became known as Hometown Outfitters in Weston in 2018.
Almost immediately, the Lewis County native started looking for ways to give back to her community.
Cunningham, who seemingly finds inspiration everywhere she looks, was inspired by a letterman jacket that had been left behind from an order taken by the previous store owner.
“I called back up to the school, and I said, ‘Hey I want to sponsor a jacket. If you know a kid who can’t afford one, bring them down to the store and we’ll make sure they get a jacket,'” Cunningham said.
One letterman jacket quickly turned into three jackets that her store would sponsor for students at Lewis County High School who otherwise couldn’t afford them. Her idea then began to spread.
“The girl I had working for me called and said, ‘This is a really cool thing that you’re doing.’ She was crying. And she said, ‘These kids were so excited to try on a jacket and fill out the form,'” said Cunningham. “We even had one mom, who was in tears when she came in here. She went outside, and took her kid’s picture, and posted it on Facebook.”
One of the initial students to receive a sponsored Letterman Jacket was a former Minutemen basketball manager. The story spread throughout the community quickly over Facebook, and the program has grown from there.
“2019 to 2020, it was between seven and eight jackets. And this year it has grown so much that this year we have 24 sponsors,” she said.
Cunningham says something like this couldn’t happen without the help from her community.
The Letterman Jackets aren’t just for athletes either. Band members, student managers, and LCHS academic standouts can receive one, too.
“They put a lot of work into their school work. They’ve put a lot of work into the sport that they’re playing, or the instrument that they’re learning to play. And parents shouldn’t have that burden just so that your kids can have that,” Cunningham stated.
Lewis County High students who would like a letterman jacket, but can’t afford one, can apply for the program at the high school.
Those who would like to donate towards a jacket, or sponsor a jacket entirely, can do so on Hometown Outfitters’ website.
Hometown Outfitters is located at 35 Garton Plaza in Weston.
Cunningham also has a space in her store for slightly used sporting equipment that families can either donate, or use if they can’t afford new equipment.