BUCKHANNON – On the lookout for a great holiday gift that supports an even better cause?
Look no further than the Band of Brothers 2022 West Virginia Scenic Calendar, which is back again this year featuring dazzling, picturesque photos, all captured by local photographer Al Tucker in Upshur County and around other awe-inspiring areas of the Mountain State.
After a record-breaking fundraising year in 2020 that focused on brightening Christmas for nursing home and long-term care patients, the Christian men’s group is returning to one of their main missions: making sure at-risk kids of all ages – both within and outside of Upshur County — aren’t forgotten at Christmastime.
This year, the group’s goal is to raise $38,000 and as of mid-November, they were about $10,000 short of their target, Tucker, a longtime Band of Brothers member, said.
“We’re focusing on underprivileged kids, and those are kids who fall through the safety net here and around the state – kids who, for whatever reason, don’t get picked up on the radar by programs in place to help them,” said Tucker. “There maybe is not a parent or guardian who cares enough to make sure they get something for Christmas or have some sort of Christmas … so they don’t.”
Locally, the group is working with Lori Ulderich Harvey, executive director of the Upshur County Family Resource Network, and Jody Akers, director of attendance and transportation with Upshur County Schools, to identify kids and teens who are at-risk of not experiencing Christmas without help from others. Additionally, the Band of Brothers is collaborating with the Underprivileged Children’s Foundation, a statewide group based in Charleston that assists youth in roughly 13 counties throughout West Virginia.
“Our sub-theme this year is ‘We Need a Little Christmas,’ and we want that to apply to all children,” Tucker said. “We are working hard to help as many of them who wouldn’t get ‘a little Christmas’ without the kindness of people.”
The Foundation, which is well-established in the Mason, Wood, Cabell and Kanawha County-area, partners with Child Protective Services.
“They really do a number of things all related to disadvantaged kids, and at Christmastime, they have this program to actually go out there and take Christmas presents and take food – kind of like what we’ve been doing,” Tucker said.
In prior years, Band of Brothers members traveled to locations where people desperately needed help. In 2016, they worked on the Southern West Virginia Flood Relief Project; in 2017, they focused on the Hundred Flood Relief Project; and 2018, they traveled to poverty-stricken McDowell County to lend their hands and hearts in an effort to improve people’s lives.
In 2020, they made Christmas celebrations possible for 35 nursing homes in north-central West Virginia, including the W.Va. Veterans Nursing Home facility in Clarksburg. Now, in 2021, supplying direct services and aid, especially when it involves travel, isn’t as feasible as it once was, Tucker said.
“We’re all getting a little older, and so it’s a little harder to travel to all of the places we’ve been in previous years, so we thought, ‘Let’s go out there and find those people who are actually touching the people in need,'” he said. “So, we’re working with the Underprivileged Children’s Foundation, and they’re so excited. They’re beyond excited.”
Tucker said he’s spoken with the president of the group, Tommy Vance, who grew up in an impoverished environment and understands what that’s like firsthand.
“They go into places where there’s not a Christmas tree in the house,” Tucker said of the Foundation. “They go into places where there will be a lock on the refrigerator, and they go into places where kids have knocked a hole in the wall to hide food so they would have enough to eat. There was this one child they were telling me about, and in his bedroom, behind a piece of furniture, he would stuff food in there. Most of us can’t even fathom that.”
“Even though we’re a poor state, it’s hard to imagine that,” Tucker added. “They work with what they call at-risk families, and those are families who are still together, but they’re really struggling, and they might lose their kids, so they’re not very economically viable. So, the Foundation wants to make sure that they find those kids, and they get a Christmas. That warms our hearts, obviously, because no one should be left behind at Christmastime.”
The Band of Brothers’ goal is to share Christmas cheer with youth of all ages – not just younger children, who usually receive assistance and are rarely overlooked. That’s not always the case with middle school and high school aged-youth.
“The younger kids will get help – and of course, some don’t – but that mid-level kid, sometimes he or she is left out,” Tucker said. “The Foundation is doing great work, and they’ve already got about 500 kids identified across 13 counties.
Locally, the Band of Brothers hopes to raise enough funds to provide assistance to the prison angel tree program, the Upshur County Christmas Store, and possibly the Upshur County Healthy Grandfamilies program.
To purchase a 2022 West Virginia Scenic Calendar, contact Tucker at email@example.com, get in touch with a BOB member or click here to secure one from My Buckhannon’s online store. For every calendar sold, My Buckhannon will cover all transaction and e-commerce fees so that every penny shoppers pay goes directly to the Band of Brothers.