BUCKHANNON – Monday marked the second time in less than a year Buckhannon Toyota has donated $20,000 to the Upshur County Schools Backpack Program, which provides food for students over the weekends.
Buckhannon Toyota owner and president Jason Minsker donated $20,000 in October 2018, according to a previous story, and the business again delivered a gift in the same amount Monday.
“The Backpack Program is a great program run through the Upshur County School System,” Minsker said. “We are firm believers in the program and feel it is very important. We didn’t realize the need until we spoke with Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus. When she told us of the need and how it impacted everyone, we decided to try to help.”
Stankus said the donation from Buckhannon Toyota was “amazing.”
“We are so blessed in this community with people who are generous, who care about the families and students. In our schools, we are sending backpacks of food home every weekend to help families who have some sort of need, and I am so thankful that Buckhannon Toyota stepped up to help our community like this,” Stankus said.
“We are glad to do it. We know it is important,” Minsker replied. “We talk about it a lot. It’s a great program and we are glad to help.”
Damon Rose, general manager for Central Atlantic Toyota, said Toyota is proud of the Minsker family’s charitableness.
“Thanks for letting Toyota be a part of this project,” Rose said. “We are big believers in local impact where our dealers can rally around the local causes. We love the schools.”
Buckhannon Toyota General Manager Kip Cottrill said the backpack program is essential for county families who are struggling.
“We are glad to do it,” Cottrill said. “The impact it makes on a ton of families is great, and we are glad to give back.”
Stankus said once the money goes out to the schools, representatives from each school work hard to make the money go as far as it can to buy the most food possible.
“The PTO grandmothers and moms clip coupons and go out so they can buy more with less,” she said. “Volunteers come in and fill the backpacks and put them in the lockers. It is different in each community school, but this money is far-reaching, and we really take spending other people’s money seriously. We want to get every bit of food out of it.”
Danielle Rexrode, backpack coordinator at Buckhannon-Upshur High School, said her school received a grant last year for the program, but noted the money is nearly gone.
“This donation is really great for us at B-UHS,” Rexrode said. “We give out 100 bags a week and this donation from Buckhannon Toyota will really help. I think we could actually raise the number we send home each week to 150, and this donation will really help us get to be able to do that.”
Rexrode said in her office, there is a pantry.
“If students are hungry during the day, they can come to my office to get food,” she said. “We want to make sure our students are not hungry. I hate that our society is at a place where we have to do this, but we do.”
She said on club days, students help pack up the backpacks with food for the students to take home.
Rexrode said this is the second year Buckhannon Toyota has donated to the backpack program.
Union Elementary School Principal Michelle Fleming said at her school, approximately 120 backpacks filled with food are sent home each weekend.
“This will really help out, and we are very grateful for their generous donation,” Fleming said.
Janet Phillips, Hodgesville Elementary School Principal, said her school fills and distributes approximately 31 backpacks each weekend and Tennerton Elementary School Principal Tristen Gray said his school fills and sends 45 backpacks home each weekend.
At Buckhannon Academy Elementary School, Principal Susanne Britton said they have 62 recipients in the backpack program.
“This donation will really help us purchase food to send home on the weekends,” Britton said. “When we have long weekends or extra time off, we always try to send home extra food.”
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Debra Harrison also praised Buckhannon Toyota.
“Our community backpack program is such a vital part of what we do,” Harrison said. “We need to feed our children and be sure they are not hungry. We need to take care of their food needs as well as their academic needs. With help like this from our very caring community we are able to do those things for our kids. We are excited – this is such a generous gift.”