BUCKHANNON – Forty percent more youth in Upshur County Schools are utilizing the backpack program now than at the end of the 2020 school year.
Kelley Tierney, vice president for the Foundation for Better Schools in Upshur County, said the number climbed from 1,800 to 2,500, prompting members of the nonprofit to initiate a fundraising blitz for the entire month of March.
“We’ve had a lot of community support considering this was a quick thing. This is the first major fundraiser the backpack program has ever had, and it’s a countywide program. Prior, it had been each school doing their own thing,” Tierney said. “This was the first full year of a countywide backpack program, so everything’s housed in a warehouse, and the schools call and request how many backpacks they’re going to need for the weekend for their particular students.”
She said from the end of last year to the beginning of this year, there was a 40 percent uptick in the number of students utilizing the backpack program.
“The program provides weekend food items; it’s supposed to get them through Saturday and Sunday, but now, they’re doing over 2,500 backpacks a month for the entire county, but at the end of last year they were doing about 1,800,” Tierney said.
She said the program required more funding to accommodate all the students utilizing the program and still have some funds leftover for the next year.
“It’s great we were able to help all these kids but at the same time, just to be honest, it has really strained the coffers,” Tierney said. “There was concern with that huge uptick that, ‘would we still be able to finish out the school year, and still provide those backpack meals for the kids that need them?’ And let’s say we can get through the end of the year, there was definitely going to be nothing in the coffers to start next school year.”
The program has already raised around $5,000 or $6,000 halfway through the second week of the fundraiser, with the ultimate goal being $20,000.
“We’re always in fundraising mode, but this major event will last the entire month of March, and people can donate multiple different ways; they can go on the Foundation for Better Schools in Upshur County Facebook page and there is a PayPal option on that,” Tierney said. “They can mail a check to the Foundation and it’s 35 Lincoln Way and checks are made payable to Foundation for Better Schools in Upshur County or they could even drop it off at my office.”
The program hopes to raise $20,000 and Tierney said several local businesses are helping. Mama Roma’s is going to give 5 percent of their earnings to the backpack program for the whole month of March, First Community Bank is donating $20 for every checking account opened up during the month of March and Tierney’s State Farm Insurance office at 115 E Main St, Buckhannon is donating $10 for every quote they do for the entire month of March.
“It’s great the backpack program has been able to help, and I think a lot of people have been under the impression that there’s just so much food now because kids are getting these boxes delivered by school buses, the schools are having hot meals that they can pick up and they don’t need the backpack program,” Tierney said, “but let’s face it – if they’re utilizing those boxes, then there’s going to be two days that they probably do need these extra food items.”
To learn more about how to donate or the Foundation for Better Schools in Upshur County, visit their Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org.