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Clay-Battelle Area Family Services helps families who live paycheck to paycheck

BLACKSVILLE — Many families find themselves living paycheck to paycheck and in need of some help to get by.

Those in Blacksville are no different.

Alysia’s family is one of those. And she’s found that help in Clay-Battelle Area Family Services.

The Dominion Post agreed not to use her last name for the privacy of her family.

Alysia has been going to the Blacksville center’s food pantry since 2014. As her family faced tough times over the years, Alysia said having the local agency helped when they were most in need.

“Paycheck to paycheck, not having enough food to get along; we go to the pantry and it helps us get further, so when we get paid, we can get our groceries,” Alysia said.

Although it has not been a grave necessity, every little bit counts.

“My husband said we don’t really need to go [to the pantry] but it helps,” Alysia said.

In the town of Blacksville, population 180, Clay-Battelle Area Family Services thrift shop and food pantry provides that help to many, especially as coal mines that once kept area residents employed have closed or slowed production.

According to statistics from the Mine Safety Health Administration, the coal industry in the region has decreased over the past couple years.

In the third quarter of 2017, there were 913 employed in the industry. By 2019, during the same time period, that number dropped to 582 employees.

Director of the pantry, Tom Sollars, said all those involved with the center are volunteers. The center has been running now for over 20 years, helping families in need. With the fluctuation of layoffs in the coal mines, Sollars said the families being helped by the pantry also fluctuates.

 Volunteers Sue Ross (left) and Pearl Lewis go over a list of food items to package for one of the families they provide for in the community.
Tiffany Morgan/The Dominion Post
Volunteers Sue Ross (left) and Pearl Lewis go over a list of food items to package for one of the families they provide for in the community.

With the small community, there are donations from several businesses, churches and local schools. Sollars said the surrounding schools, for example, hold drives during particular times of the year.

The pantry helps an average of 75 families per month, according to treasurer Pearl Lewis, but that number is ever-changing. Lewis also said, so far this year, more than 3,000 people have walked through the doors to make donations. Lewis said that a lot of those who come to the pantry are single-parent families.

Just this year, 731 families have been at the Blacksville’s pantry, according to Lewis.
All of the families in need go to Lewis first, and she said before starting she does one thing: Listen.

“I ask them how they are, and they say, ‘There’s no need to complain,’ and I said, ‘I will give you five minutes. … You talk, and I’ll listen,’ ” Lewis said.

After Lewis gives them the opportunity to vent to her, the proper paperwork is filled out for the food the family can receive. That’s determined by the number of people in the house and the income made.

Lewis said during the holiday season, families with children have the option to get a nice gift (or gifts) at the center.

Both Lewis and Sollars said their pantry could always use volunteers, as well as donations.

The pantry operates from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and 5-8 p.m. Tuesdays. The center serves as a place to purchase clothing, children’s toys, dishware, as well as basic food needs.

The center, 6061 Mason-Dixon Highway, Blacksville, uses all monetary donations to provide laundry detergent, dish soap and personal hygiene products.

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