Student plans school supply giveaway

PARKERSBURG — An incoming freshman at Parkersburg South High School wants to make sure area students have the supplies they need when they return to the classroom next month.

“Some kids in need can’t really get stuff for school,” 14-year-old Rylea Mercer said.

While she was a student at Blennerhassett Middle School, she noticed that “some kids just didn’t really have nice book bags, had to ask teachers for pencils a lot.” The teachers would often buy those and other supplies to have them on hand for students who needed them, Mercer said.

To help students and teachers, Mercer is asking local groups and businesses to contribute items for a back-to-school backpack event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Boys & Girls Club of Parkersburg, 1200 Mary St. The giveaway is open to anyone.

Students will go to different stations set up by participating entities — including Wood County 911, the Parkersburg Fire and Police departments, the Blennerhassett Friends of the NRA and Yellow Taxi — and get an item, along with a brief lesson on a topic such as fire safety, Mercer said. Those attending will receive cinch sack backpacks, notebooks, paper, pens, pencil pouches and hygiene products, which are especially useful after gym class, she noted.

After the kids have gotten their supplies, lunch will be provided at no charge.

Mercer’s grandfather Bob Mercer, a Parkersburg City Council member and 911 dispatcher, is helping out how he can, but emphasized Rylea is the driving force.

“This is strictly her,” he said. “She did this on her own.”

Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Ben Shuman said Mercer’s goal fits nicely with the organization’s mission.

“We are always happy to support groups that are trying to help our kids,” he said.

Mercer said it’s been a challenge getting some donations since she’s not part of an established group. She’s still looking for contributions of money or supplies. Anyone wanting to help, or groups who would like to participate in Saturday’s event, can contact Bob Mercer at 304-588-8074.

Any leftover items will be donated to the Children’s Home Society, he said.

Rylea Mercer said she hopes Saturday’s event is the start of a tradition.

“I’m planning to do this annually,” she said.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.