Latest News

Mon County Center to host Pantry Plus More for sixth annual Back to School Bash

WESTOVER — For the uninitiated, collecting and sorting and moving the mountains of backpacks, school supplies and hygiene items that Pantry Plus More will hand out during the sixth annual Back to School Bash on Saturday could seem like a near unachievable task.

That’s why the nonprofit decided to call in a little muscle.

“They really have a lot of stuff in here to move around,” Morgantown High senior Eli Stahara said earlier this week as he and his teammates on the Morgantown High football team participated in a chaotic dance of volunteers among the books, boxes and bags stacked in the nonprofit’s Westover hub.

Of course Stahara is used to operating in the middle of the fray as the center on the Mohigan offensive line.

“I’ve always been big on helping out in the community. They do such a great job; we’re just here to move some stuff around and declutter some of the space so things can run a little bit smoother,” he said.

When it comes to the Back to School Bash, Amanda Bolyard is the one calling the plays for the Pantry Plus More team as the event’s chairperson.

After some 10 months of preparation, she’ll lead a small army of volunteers in the coming days as they move everything to the Mon County Center, in Mylan Park.

“Something we’re really excited about is we’re returning to our walk-through bash,” she said, explaining COVID-19 limited the event to a drive-through line and  pre-packed backpacks the last two years.

“This year we’re returning back to how we started, where they’ll be walking through and they’ll have their choice of backpacks and notebooks. They’ll be able to pick the color of folders they want; the kind of pencils they want. The full element of choice now is returning to the student,” Bolyard said.

Pantry Plus More Executive Director and Monongalia County Commissioner, Tom Bloom, said the event typically draws at least 1,200 students, but the nonprofit is anticipating 1,500 or more this time around.

“The longer we do it, more people are finding out about it. I also think that inflation has put a lot of families who were just barely making it to the point now where they’re not making it at all,” Bolyard said.

“When students go to school and they’re embarrassed they don’t have supplies or a backpack, and they’re getting called down to the office to pick those things up, they’re no longer focused on learning. They’re not paying attention to the teacher because they’re so worried about their peer perception. That’s why this is so important to us. Education is the path out of poverty.”

In addition to the supplies, the Monongalia County Health Department will be on hand with vaccines for the eligible and interested, as well as information about its in-house dental program.

The bash will kick off at 10 a.m. Saturday with last names A-M collecting supplies until 12:30 p.m. At 1 p.m., kids with last names starting with N-Z will take over.

“We’re excited. People have no idea the amount of work that goes into this and the amount of time Amanda puts in,” Bloom said. “The kids see this as shopping. It’s their tablet. They picked it. We didn’t pick it for them. It’s their supplies. They feel differently and treat them differently when they see things as their own.”