KEYSER - Students across Mineral County received a bag lunch on Monday because two individuals talked among themselves and decided something could be accomplished to provide food for those who normally eat lunch at school.

By Jean Braithwaite
Tribune Correspondent
KEYSER - Students across Mineral County received a bag lunch on Monday because two individuals talked among themselves and decided something could be accomplished to provide food for those who normally eat lunch at school.
Kesha Hughes, an employee of Duckies Bar in Piedmont, and Desiree Suter, an employee of the Orioles Club in Keyser, started the process to make sure children were fed for the third day of the work stoppage by county teachers and service personnel.
The work stoppage was originally scheduled for only this past Thursday and Friday to draw attention to the need for pay raises and develop steps to stop changes in their Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) that would cause a hefty raise in monthly premiums.
Over this past weekend, however, a decision was made as a large number of educators gathered to protest at the Capitol Building in Charleston to continue the work stoppage for Monday, making that three days students did not receive school lunches.
Both Hughes and Suter contacted the owner of both of their workplaces, Joe Shoemaker, with their ideas of how to feed the students.
Hughes said, “Joe backed us 100 percent” and was all for the idea, and added to approval list was Shoemaker’s wife, Mandy.
“We wanted to all work together so that all the kids are taken care of,” Hughes said.
Volunteers came together at Duckies on Sunday and began to put together the bag lunches to be distributed on Monday, and Hughes said that as of Sunday evening, 369 lunches were ready to go, with “supplies to make 160 more.”
The bags were filled with a peanut butter sandwich, fruit cup, snack crackers, juice box, and a Hershey’s Kiss, with a possibility of having carrot sticks and a cereal bar to be included.
Those businesses who have joined with the effort to provide the bag lunches include Port West Restaurant, Home Town Realty, Royal Restaurant, Keyser Fox’s Pizza and Chester Fried Chicken, and the Candlewyck.
Educators have also become involved in this effort and Robin McDowell, principal at New Creek School, is among that number. She said, “There are students who are in need,” and depend on having school lunches; however now with no school, the parents may not have transportation available to come to the distribution areas to pick up the bag lunches.
McDowell said that she was willing to make deliveries to those families that were without means to get to the New Creek Fire Station, one of the distribution centers. The other distribution site is at the Orioles Club.
Suter was manning the Orioles Club site, and she said that a volunteer from the Frankfort area picked the bag lunches for that area.
She also said, “Donations are still coming in; everyone has been so generous to help,” as she added a gentleman had just brought milk, oranges and celery to the club for the lunches.
Suter said if the Mineral County school employees continue with the walk out, the food distribution may remain active during the last part of the week but is unlikely for today due to not having volunteers to prep and bag the lunches.
The Food for Thought program, under the direction of Dinah Courrier, may also be involved with feeding the students.
She said packages of food to carry the students over the weekends has been active for several years, and “depending on the strike,” the program could help with the nutritional needs during that time.
The normal packaging of the food takes place on Tuesday, and Courrier and helpers will make up about 400, and if necessary because of the work stoppage, “We could pack extra on Wednesday.”
She said that hopefully by today “we will have a better idea” on what we need to do about the delivery of the food.
She did mention that Food for Thought is distributed to the three Keyser schools, and the schools in Burlington, Elk Garden, New Creek, and Fountain, and a church in the northern end of the county does food packages for those students.