Toyota donation
Upshur County Schools superintendent Dr. Sara Stankus, front left, accepts a $20,000 donation for the backpack program from Buckhannon Toyota president Jason Minsker and general manager Kip Cottrill. They are joined by principals from many county schools.

Buckhannon Toyota helps make sure kids don’t go hungry over the holidays

‘Tis the season for giving, and with the holidays just around the corner, one large donation from a local business couldn’t have come at a better time.

Flanked by principals from most of the Upshur County schools, Buckhannon Toyota president Jason Minsker presented school superintendent Dr. Sara Stankus with a $20,000 donation that will bolster the backpack program, which provides local children with extra food on weekends and over extended breaks.

“This is like an early Christmas present to the school backpack program,” Stankus said. “This donation is huge — it’s wonderful — because it means we will be able to buy food that students can take home on the weekends. They can get that every Friday from their schools … It makes a huge impact for kids who don’t have food.”

The backpack program is supported by the community to make sure county kids don’t go hungry while away from school. Families opt into the program as needed.

“We send out letters asking if you’re in need or your family needs some support – sometimes people are just going through a hard time and they need a little extra help,” Stankus said.

Minsker said he and general manager Kip Cottrill approached the school system about programs Buckhannon Toyota could help support, and the backpack program jumped to the top of the list.

“Kip and I have been talking for a while about different things we could do in the community,” Minsker said, “and once we found out how many kids – it’s almost 600 kids in the county impacted by this, every school in the county has a program – we decided now was the time.”

Minsker said supporting the local community – and especially children – is important to the business.

“This is really something that means a lot to us, I know it means a lot to Kip, and it means a lot to everybody here,” Minsker said. “We try to support the county and the community in a lot of different ways, but the school system, [Kip and I] both grew up here, we both went to B-U, and that’s definitely something that got us thinking about it.”

Cottrill noted that several Buckhannon Toyota employees were also helping with the backpack program.

“It’s meant a lot for us at the dealership – Jason, myself and everyone here,” Cottrill said. “We have several employees who are involved with [the backpack program] through church organizations. We started talking to them and got a feel for how many people were involved and how big it had become, from grassroots to where it is now.

“We’re just blessed to be able to step in and help the community, because the community has been great to us and we’re glad to give back.”

Stankus said the backpack program is supported by the community, churches and civic organizations. As children head home for the extended holiday break, they’ll be getting extra generous portions of food.

“[The schools] have people going out, buying groceries, bringing it in, putting it in bags and then distributing it to the kids,” she said. “They give a more substantial donation to the children over the holidays to accommodate for that extended time away from the schools.

“I just want to thank [Buckhannon Toyota] so much.”

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