Students pitch in to help the needy

PARKERSBURG – With a few weeks to go before they return to the classroom themselves, more than two dozen Parkersburg and Parkersburg South High School students readied school supplies for more than 1,000 students around the region Thursday morning.

Members of the PHS Red Wings dance team and cheerleaders from both PHS and South stuffed backpacks for the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley’s annual school supply distribution. The items will make their way to children in need from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade in Wood, Wirt, Calhoun, Jackson, Pleasants, Ritchie and Roane counties and the Belpre-Little Hocking area in Washington County.

“This stuff seems like yearly things for us … and they’re simple,” said PHS senior Sloane Miller, a member of the Red Wings. “But for so many of these kids, this is going to be a great gift.”

Joyce Mather, United Way executive director, said the goal of the project is to make sure children whose families struggle financially are equipped with the same tools for success as their peers. The United Way used grant money and a donation from Huntington Bank to purchase supplies at discounted rates from businesses including Kroger, Noe Office Supply, Office Depot, Parkersburg Office Supply and Shalom Imports. Dental supply companies SmileMakers and Practicon also donated materials to be placed in the backpacks.

Loading the backpacks took a little over two hours thanks to the students’ assembly line-like work, Mather said.

“This is a huge community project,” she told the girls before they started packing. “It could never become a reality without the help of kids like you.”

Students like South junior Megan Law said they were happy to contribute.

“I think it’s a good thing to do to help the community,” she said.

Red Wings director Kimberly Griffey said giving back to the community is one of the goals of the group.

“I stress the fact that we’re a performing team, but we also get involved and help when we can,” she said.

Mather said students from Wood County Christian School and volunteers from the Mid-Ohio Valley Fellowship Home helped unload trucks and set up the items to be packed on Wednesday. That process took about eight hours.