AP NEWS

Teachers, volunteers make sure Cabell students are fed while schools closed

February 20, 2019
Ren Thomas and other volunteers provide food for students out of school at Central United Methodist Church on Tuesday in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON — Work stoppage days are far from vacations for too many students across West Virginia. For thousands, the only meals eaten in a day are served from the cafeteria.

Simply put: No school, no food.

Likewise, Tuesday wasn’t a day off for many teachers either. In Cabell County, dozens volunteered to help cook, stock and personally deliver meals in the communities they would otherwise serve in the classroom.

“We know the need is there; there’s many kids that only get breakfast and lunch at school, with no dinner when they go home,” said Holly Litteral, an English as a Second Language teacher serving four Cabell County schools.

Litteral volunteered at her home church, Central United Methodist Church in Huntington’s West End, preparing around 50 free hot dog lunches in one of the city’s most impoverished communities.

“The strike today isn’t about us. It’s for the students.

So we need to fulfill their needs for food as well,” she added.

It was one of around a dozen churches and community centers across Cabell County alone that stepped up to keep students fed with school closed by the nearly statewide work stoppage.

It was a mixed-bag response of anything that would help. Some with kitchen facilities cooked and served their own meals for anyone to come. Others stocked take-home bags with enough food for more than a few days in case school was closed beyond Tuesday. Some teachers even delivered food in their own personal vehicles.

It’s a testament to the character and the heart required to be a teacher, said Heather James, a parent-partner who manages the food pantry at Huntington East Middle School.

“They’re not getting paid a dime for this,” she said. “It’s not about money. They’re doing it for the kids.

“These teachers spend as much time with these students as we (parents) do, sometimes more, so they really build a bond with them. They’re not going to let them suffer when the government can’t get it together and do the right thing.”

Huntington East’s food pantry feeds around 100 students each week — nearly a quarter of the school’s enrollment — stocking them with two lunches, three dinners, three breakfasts and snacks for the weekend.

That food would have otherwise stayed on the shelves, but James, teachers and other volunteers instead spent the day running food through Huntington’s Highlawn neighborhood from Community of Grace United Methodist Church.

“Since we had the food, we need to get it to them some way,” James said. “They’d be just as hungry today as they were for a Saturday.”

As Senate Bill 451, the main grievance behind the work stoppage, had apparently been disposed in the West Virginia House of Delegates, volunteers still stood ready to do it again Wednesday.

“We’re prepared to continue feeding these kids if it’s necessary,” James said. “If so, we’re talking about then providing hot meals for students and families.”

LUNCH OFFERED TO STUDENTS DURING STRIKE

HUNTINGTON — Lunch will be available at the following sites on days students are affected by the strike:

DISTRICT SITES

• A.D. Lewis Community Center, Huntington, 11 a.m.

• Fairfield East Community Center, 11:30 a.m.

• Guyandotte Methodist Church/Grace Food Pantry, 305 Main St., Huntington, 11:30 a.m.

• Milton Baptist Church, 1123 Church St., Milton, 11:30 a.m.

• YMCA Phil Cline Center, Huntington, 11 a.m.

COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS/CHURCHES

• Central United Methodist Church, 1043 Jefferson Ave., Huntington, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

• Playmates Child Care Center, 418 Bridge St., Huntington, breakfast 8 to 8:45 a.m., lunch 10:45 to 11:45 a.m.

Food bags will be available from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the following locations: Regeneration Church, First Church of the Nazarene, Crossroads Daycare, Altizer Baptist Church, Marcum Terrace Community Center, New Life Church, Community of Grace Church.