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Community offer Pantry Plus More plenty of help

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Pantry Plus More Vice President Micah Weglinski said he and others associated with the school-based feeding program are fielding such questions often since COVID-19 forced the closure of schools statewide last week.

“When we heard schools were closing we put our heads together and came up with a plan. Literally within 24 hours, we’d raised thousands of dollars and had about 200 people sign up to volunteer — that’s up to about 300 now,” Weglinski said.

“The community support has been overwhelming.”

Weglinski explained that working with off lists provided by school guidance counselors, program coordinators deliver boxes of shelf-stable food directly to families each Monday. On Thursdays, volunteers drive routes delivering boxes to families with school-age children who have signed up to receive them.

This first week, that totaled more than 300 boxes, at about $35 per box, according to Tom Bloom, a Monongalia County Commission and one of the nonprofit’s founders.

Bloom said he’s been “astounded” by the backing of the community — both individuals and businesses, particularly in these uncertain times.

He explained that the pantry was given access to Target prior to business hours March 16. When the total was counted up, Target’s Laurel Worley said the tab — more than $400 — was on the house.

Restaurants like Cracker Barrel and The Wine Bar at Vintner Valley have donated all their produce rather than allowing it to spoil during the forced closure of bars and dine in restaurants.

Chuck’s Furniture provided a box truck to collect a large order the Mountaineer Food Bank.

Justin Byar, of Bartini, is creating recipes and videos in which he shows how to stretch the food provided in the boxes with simple recipes.

Milwaukee Brewer Jedd Gyorko and his wife, Karley, wrote the program a “five digit” check.

And on, and on, and on.

“I know they probably don’t want it publicized, but I feel like everyone should know these are the kind of people we have in this community. It’s unbelievable,” Bloom said.

“And all that was within 36 hours.”

Weglinski said he hopes all the volunteers and supporters of the program understand how much they are appreciated and how critical their efforts are in the fight to keep kids in Monongalia County from going hungry.

“Without the community, this program doesn’t work. And every time we’ve had something thrown at us, the community steps up to support us,” Weglinski said, recalling the support during teacher work stoppages the last two years.

He said that the program currently has funds on hand to continue at this level for about eight weeks.

“We’re committed to continuing this as long as it’s needed,” Bloom said.

“It’s going to come down to the community, but we’re going to find a way to make it work and this community will find a way to make it work. It’ll happen.”

For information on how to donate, volunteer or sign up to receive food during the school closure, check out The Pantry Plus More on Facebook or the nonprofit’s website

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