BUCKHANNON – The Upshur Parish House’s target number of new backpacks needed ahead of its annual Backpack/School Supplies Distribution has more than doubled over the past five years. And despite many generous community contributions, organizers of the initiative say they could still use more donations to achieve their goal.
The Rev. Barry Moll and his wife, Pam Moll, said 2023 will mark the fifth year they’ve headed up the Parish House’s backpack program. In their first year, the Molls’ goal was to amass about 400 backpacks brimming with school supplies. This year, that number has soared to 1,000.
Barry Moll, a retired Methodist minister and the former part-time chaplain at St. Joseph’s Hospital, said the number of students who need backpacks has spiked substantially in the past several years. He also credits the program’s growth to word spreading quickly in a small community amid tough financial times.
“When we started five years ago, they told us to target 335, so we said, ‘Let’s go for let’s go for 400,’ and we ended up getting 425 backpacks, and 666 people showed up,” he said. “Each year we went up — into the 700s, the 800s, the 900s and this year, we’ll be ready for 1,000 [students].”
The Molls said a slew of supplies and backpacks are still needed by Friday, July 21, if possible, and emphasized that the Backpack/School Supplies Distribution is available to any student in pre-K through 12th grade who attends school in Upshur County.
“You don’t have to be below the poverty line; any kid that goes to school here can come and get it,” Barry Moll said. “They might not really be considered living in poverty, but golly, a family getting backpacks for their three kids might allow them to buy new clothes for school.”
The backpack distribution is about preserving a sense of pride for kids and fulfilling the Parish House’s mission of ‘Neighbors helping neighbors.’
“At the heart of what is done here is dignity – that’s what this is about, and that’s what we want them to have,” Barry Moll said. “We want them to walk into school with a backpack they would have walked into a store and purchased.”
Pam Moll choked up at a poignant memory of a seven-year-old boy whose grandmother brought him to one of the annual distributions. His heart had been set on a T-Rex backpack, she said.
“He wanted a T-Rex backpack really bad, and we had had some earlier, but I didn’t know if we still had any left because they were popular,” Pam Moll said. “So, I raced back there, and I was thinking, ‘Oh, please God – please let there be one, and there was.”
Barry Moll recalled the boy’s buoyant reaction.
“When he walked out of here, you could have heard his shouts of joy probably halfway across [West Virginia] Wesleyan’s campus,” he said. “It was so wonderful.”
“It tore me up, but you know – that’s why you do this,” Pam Moll added.
The Molls stressed that no proof of financial hardship is necessary, and parents/guardians simply need to fill out a form certifying that they attend school in Upshur County.
“The need is significant; even if folks aren’t technically impoverished, with all the accelerating costs, if there’s a way that you can get something like this, that helps,” Barry Moll said. “All you’ve got to do is sign a form that tells us you go to school in Upshur County.”
The Upshur Parish House also wants to get the word out that it will be operating a satellite distribution location in southern Upshur County for the second year – this time, at Rock Cave United Methodist Church. That distribution is set for 4-7 p.m. Aug. 10 at the church, which is located on the hill across from the Banks District Volunteer Fire Department.
Anyone who wants to help may purchase supplies and drop them off between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Parish House, 68 College Avenue.
Current needs include:
- Backpacks for elementary-aged students (15-inch or larger); they especially love characters and designs
- Backpacks for middle school and high school-aged students (17-inch or larger); these are especially needed for boys
- Single-subject notebooks
- Packs of loose-leaf filler paper (wide or college-ruled)
- Pocket folders
- Glue sticks (no bottles, please)
- Blank index/note cards
- Pencil sharpeners
Please note: The Parish House does not need crayons, erasers or pencils at this time.
Backpacks/school supplies will be distributed at the Upshur Parish House as follows:
- Tuesday, Aug. 8 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 4-7 p.m.
- Wednesday, Aug. 9 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Thursday, Aug. 10 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- Friday, Aug. 11 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Backpacks/school supplies will be distributed Thursday, Aug. 10 from 4-7 p.m. at Rock Cave United Methodist Church.