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Customers at Stone Tower Brews pay it forward to furloughed federal workers.

Local businesses pitch in to help federal workers

BUCKHANNON – Although a deal to reopen the federal government is believed to be imminent, local groups are still lending a hand to local employees who have now gone two pay periods without receiving a check.

The government shutdown has been going on since Dec. 22, and that means federal workers have not been getting paid over that period. People and organizations in the community have taken it upon themselves to help those who may be struggling without a paycheck.  

The Upshur County Parish House will be open Saturday Jan. 26 between noon and 2 p.m. for federal workers only. Bring your federal ID and the Parish House will provide a food package that will last about five days. The director of the Parish House, Alicia Rapking, said they will also offer gift cards for gas.  

“As the shutdown kept going further and further, and I kept even thinking about my own situation, if I had been a federal worker, would I be able to make it?” Rapking said.  “I just started thinking that people are going to need help. In addition to that, I realized that so many federal workers are strong, strong supporters. We have so many federal workers around here who respond when we need stuff, this is a crisis situation for them, we need to give back because they have been so faithful to us.”  

For those looking to donate, Rapking said the Parish House could use more kid-friendly food, like mac and cheese, to fill the food boxes.   

Earlier this week, the owner of Sweet-A-Licious, Michelle Jack, organized a dinner for federal workers and their families with sandwiches and soups, pizza and ice cream.   

“We didn’t quite have the turnout I was hoping for,” Jack said. “It was very heartwarming to just sit down and talk with them.”

Local restaurants and organizations chipped in to make the dinner possible, Jack said.

“The 88, the Elks Lodge, Wendlings, Legends and Dominoes were gracious enough to donate some food to me, and that meant a lot.”  

The Salvation Army in Buckhannon is offering complete food packages for federal workers without having to go through the regular sign up processes. Sharla Smith, the service unit director for the Upshur County Salvation Army, said federal workers only have to bring in their federal ID and show they are a county resident to receive a complete food package once every two weeks during the government shutdown.   

“Groceries are very expensive, so it’s kind of like they’re being put in a situation where they can’t provide food,” Smith said. “They don’t have the money to go to the grocery store and purchase the commodities and foods that they need to provide for their family during this time.”  

Smith said federal workers can go the Salvation Army store Monday through Friday and it is opened from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.   

Stone Tower Brews has started a “pay it forward” program where patrons can add an extra item, like a cup of coffee, to their bill and they will write a sticky note for that item at the front counter. Each sticky note is redeemable at any time for a federal worker. The general manager for Stone Tower Brews said she’s glad they are able to help.

“We are able to do this because of the kind people in Buckhannon who have friends and loved ones who are hurting from the government shutdown,” Courtney Page told My Buckhannon. 

Jason Kerner at the Buckhannon Fitness Center said the BFC is working with federal employees who have not been paid during the shutout.

“Everyone’s situation is different, so we just let our members know that they can come to us and we will work with them to make sure they can continue to work out,” Kerner said. “If a furloughed non-member came in and wanted to start to work out, we would work out something with them as well. The main thing is that we are in a position, as a independent local business, to actually talk with folks and personalize a solution for them while maintaining their privacy.”

McDonald’s locations in Barbour, Braxton, Gilmer, Harrison, Lewis, Marion, Preston, Randolph, Taylor, Tucker and Upshur counties are offering 50 percent off with a government ID or uniform.

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