BUCKHANNON – Members of the Band of Brothers joined local school principals during the Tuesday, Jan. 28 Upshur County Board of Education meeting to make some significant gifts to benefit Upshur County families.
Upshur County Student Services Director Jodie Akers welcomed the group as she explained what the men’s Christian group was doing to help those in the Upshur County Healthy Grandfamilies program.
“They have come to hand out special gift cards to our principals for grandfamilies here in our school district,” Akers said. “I was honored when Lori Ulderich Harvey from the Upshur County FRN (Family Resource Network) called me to ask if we wanted to participate.”
According to its website, the Healthy Grandfamilies program is a free program operating under the auspices of West Virginia State University that’s designed to provide information and resources to grandparents who are raising one or more grandchildren. Locally, Harvey, the executive director of the Upshur FRN, and Sarah Campbell, director of the Upshur County Senior Center, are heading up the initiative.
Al Tucker, of the Band of Brothers, said he and Tim Rock met with the BOE at Washington District Elementary School in October to talk about helping students.
“We are really the Buckhannon Christian Band of Brothers,” Tucker said. “We are people who love the Lord, and we love to study the Word and do His work. We have a heart for youth.”
He said the group has been meeting for six or seven years at 6:30 a.m. each Friday for a Bible study and discussion.
“About five years ago we decided to do something to help youth,” Tucker said. “Someone had the idea to sell calendars and take the money we raised and use it on a need we find. The first year, the need was for those affected by the terrible floods down south. We sold about 600 or 700 calendars and that, along with donations, we raised about $25,000.”
Tucker said this year, the calendar sales and donations will be used for school children who must live with their grandparents – which are referred to as ‘grandfamilies.’
“We said we needed to help those grandparents,” Tucker said. “Tim Rock is on the board of directors of the Upshur County Senior Center and learned about the Grandfamilies Project that the Upshur County Grandfamilies Coalition is working on. Lori Uldrich Harvey and Sarah Campbell at the Upshur County Senior Center lead that. We went to them and said we would like to help out.”
Tucker said this year, the Band of Brothers raised $32,000.
“We helped a lot of different organizations, and we put a nice amount of that money into the Grandfamilies Project,” Tucker said. “We are here tonight to present certificates to Save-A-Lot so the grandparents can go and buy groceries. We also are giving them a Bible from the Band of Brothers. We are so blessed to be able to do this. It’s not us – it’s people not only from across Upshur County but across the state and people who live elsewhere from Massachusetts to California. It’s amazing the amount of states where we have sent calendars.”
The Bibles were donated by Ralston Press.
Tucker said the Band of Brothers gives God all the glory for being able to do this and help others.
Upshur County Superintendent Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus thanked the Band of Brothers members.
“We stand in awe of this,” Stankus said.
Following the donations to each school for the Grandfamilies Project, the Band of Brothers made another donation to Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School Principal Michael Lynch for the food pantry at the school.
Rock said the Band of Brothers has always used a portion of profit from the sale of calendars to donate money for the middle school food pantry.
“We are pleased to be able to do this,” Rock said.
BOE members thanked the Band of Brothers for their donation to the food pantry, and Lynch said the money will be ‘well used.’
In Upshur County, more than 50 percent of kids in foster families have grandparents or great-grandparents caring for the kids. The program will work to get information out to the families over a nine-week period, teaching them about topics such as technology, social media, navigating the legal system, nutrition, navigating the education system and substance abuse.
In Upshur County, there are approximately 450 families where grandparents are raising their grandchildren.