Morgantown Corps keeps kids fed in school closure

By: David Ibata

When crisis happens at a Salvation Army corps, it often comes in twos and threes. In Morgantown, West Virginia, the Army was mobilizing to provide hot meals to schoolchildren during the recent statewide teachers’ strike when a sport-utility vehicle crashed into its thrift store.

The kids and their families got fed, the strike was settled after nine days, and the driver of the SUV was not seriously hurt; but the store in Fairmont, West Virginia, sustained significant damage to two load-bearing walls and will be closed for a while, corps officer Lieutenant Allen Adkins said.

About two-thirds of West Virginia’s school-age children – more than 183,000 youngsters — qualify for free or reduced-priced meals, according to the state’s Department of Education. When school is not in session, many students go without.

“We went from four or five school-age kids to 15 to 18 coming to the feeding program,” which the corps offers Monday through Friday afternoons, Lieutenant Adkins said. Several dozen families took advantage of free meals and food boxes at the corps and its social service offices in Fairmont and Kingwood.

When the teachers’ walkout began, no one knew how long it would go. Lieutenants Allen and Patricia Adkins and other area churches provided food to those in immediate need and began making plans for the long term. “I started reaching out to the schools and Board of Education, trying to get information on what kind of need they were anticipating, and they really didn’t know,” said Lieutenant Allen, whose corps serves three counties.

The teachers’ strike ended March 6. While it lasted, the Morgantown Corps found some new friends – teachers who came over to help.

“We had quite a number of teachers coming in to volunteer,” Lieutenant Allen said. “Most of them helped in the feeding program, in our community kitchen.

“It’s really pretty cool. The teachers didn’t know what we did, and now they want to bring their students on outings to The Salvation Army to learn more about what we do. They’ll be contacting us in the near future to set up field trips.”

As for the SUV – the crash happened on a Sunday night, and no one was in the store. It is closed until repairs can be made, but the social services office and food pantry in Fairmont reopened two days after the accident and continue to serve the community.