Energy Express made kids’ summer special

We at the Randolph County Davis & Elkins Energy Express would like to take this time to thank Davis & Elkins College for hosting our site, which was the home for 40 children, six mentors, one community coordinator and site supervisor.

Energy Express is a six-week summer and nutrition program for children living in West Virginia’s rural communities. This program is under the leadership of WVU Extension Service’s 4-H Youth Development program/AMERICORPS, and serves approximately 3000 children across the state of West Virginia.

Eligible students include those who are most at risk of summer slide in reading levels and are recommended by parents, teacher or administrators. Children who have finished Kindergarten up to children entering the sixth grade are able to attend. Family Resource Network takes donations for the supplies that are used in the program.

The Energy Express Program provides books for each week to go with the topic. At the end of the week, children can take them home. Books are also donated for the mentors to use.

Parents, siblings from seventh grade and up and community members are asked to volunteer time during the day. While volunteering, they are asked to do one-on-one reading, running errands for the mentors and other staff, and helping with any other jobs that are available. Students, at the high school, can earn community service hours and receive a half credit for over 60 hours.

This year we had two Elkins High School students that worked over 60 hours, in addition to two more Elkins students receiving extra hours for service. Two Phillip Barbour students drove to Energy Express to work on hours they need for graduation. Two young men from Montana were visiting family and they came and also worked off their community service for their school. Overall we had 10 children volunteer over the summer to help our program run smoothly, in addition to Elkins High School Girl’s Basketball team and Coach Kathy Duffield. We would like to thank our community coordinator, Amiah Price, for her work in recruiting volunteers and readers.

During the summer we have had a variety of visitors to read to our children. We asked most to come but we had several that just volunteered. The children were excited about the new Mountaineer, Michael Garcia, coming to read and having individual pictures taken with each child.

In addition, we had Randolph County Superintendent, Terry George and Assistant Superintendent Pam Hewitt, Elkins Mayor Van Broughton, Randolph County Sheriff’s Department, state troopers, state Division of Natural Resources (Jim Fregonara), Delegate Denise Campbell, Henry and Stephen Squirrel and the staff of Davis & Elkins College, plus many more. This year we had 15 special readers. We would like to thank you for taking time out of your busy work schedules to read and show our children the importance of reading, in all walks of life.

During the last two weeks, we have an open house so that the parents can come and see what their children can show off their writing and art work. Artwork is from recyclable items and painting is a requirement every day. Parents come in and are amazed at what their children have made and written in the first four weeks of the program. Compliments are given to the children, this just makes their self-esteem. This is something that most of children don’t hear all the time.

Each year Energy Express must complete a community service project and the children that attend do a service project as well. The community coordinator’s job is to do all the running, calling and picking up of the food. This year for the Mentor’s Community Service Project, our concern was that many of the children in Randolph County will not have adequate nutrition over the weekends when the school year commences in August.

Donation boxes were placed in several stores for collection of food items. Monetary donations were made to the 4-H Office or Family Resource Network. The mentor’s donated over $500 worth of food towards the children’s backpack program. The children’s project was to make cards for the Elkins Senior Center to be handed out to people at lunch.

We want to show the children that the community is important to support. Special thanks to Che’Bella, Alpha Delta Kappa Sorority and Crazy Harry’s for their donations, as well as those that donated to FRN.

Our last day was Aug. 1. The children helped their mentor pack up their rooms so that closing up could start for the site. It is a bittersweet day: mentors are saying goodbye to children that they have come to know over the past six weeks, and in reverse the children have come to know the mentors.

The children were treated to giant animals that they could paint and rinse off and repaint. We had a picnic lunch on the lawn of Davis & Elkins College, and said a sweet good-bye with a visit by Nick’s Ice Cream truck.

We would like to thank the following people for a wonderful, educational and loving summer: first and foremost, the parents of the children that attended. Secondly, the people that helped the children have a successful summer: Amanda Johnson, 4-H agent, the FRN, Randolph County Food Service, Evelyn Floyd, Kim Wegman-Eaton, and the teaching staff of Albert Hall, especially Bill King.

We would like to especially thank Davis & Elkins College for being so generous for letting us use the facilities: Albert Hall, the front lawn and the gym; the security staff for taking calls to open doors; and two ladies that saved our lives more than once over the summer – Toddie and Kathy (you rock). Lastly, the ladies that worked all summer: Amiah Price, community coordinator; and mentors Emily Nestor, Karissa Stell, Shelly Wilson, Macie Cooper and Julia Fregonara.

Linda Mullenax

Site Coordinator

Energy Express