By PAMELA SCOTT JOHNSON
July 23, 2012
DELBARTON - Summertime and the annual Energy Express program goes hand in hand for a number of young students and their college-student mentors.
For those unfamiliar with Energy Express, it is a popular program offered through the West Virginia University Extension Service to address children’s needs in the areas of summer learning opportunities adequate nutrition and provisions of a safe and secure environment. Research has shown that children from families and communities with limited resources regress academically at a disproportionate rate.
The Energy Express program provides opportunities for these children to maintain/improve their skills while enjoying nutritious meals (breakfast and lunch) in a nurturing and enriching environment. Americorps is the organizational partner that supports these efforts by supplying college students who serve as mentors to the children.
Mingo County has six Energy Express sites including Kermit, Matewan, Delbarton (Burch), Dingess, Gilbert and Williamson. At Burch, mentors such as T. Michael Kinder, Site Coordinator, say that exciting things are happening as they see happy children continuing to maintain or improve their cognitive abilities. Although they are one mentor short this year in comparison to previous years, the Burch team has thrived with approximately 35 to 40 children each day as well as having several regular teen volunteers.
The kids look forward to coming to the more-relaxed atmosphere and enjoy reading by themselves and with volunteers and special celebrity guests. They love writing stories, making art projects and playing noncompetitive games. They are also given a book to take home at the end of each week.
Anyone wanting to get involved with the program to be a guest reader or a volunteer is encouraged to call 304-475-2700 or stop by the school to schedule a day and time.
In addition to the time doing organizational work and being with children, the Energy Express mentors and community coordinator are active in community service projects. Americorps requires that each member get 300 total service hours over the course of the 8 week program.
One of the major projects they are undertaking is a Blood Drive scheduled for Monday, July 23, from 2 until 7 p.m. at the Burch Middle School site. They are partnering with the American Red Cross and the Williamson Memorial Hospital to encourage all who can to donate blood on this date. Recent news reports indicate a shortage of blood during these summer months and those with the Energy Express program want to help fill this need and replenish their supplies.
Another project the mentors are undertaking is to assist with the Delbarton based “House of Hope” that distributes clothing and food for needy families who reside in our local communities.
For more information on the Energy Express program and its contribution and dedication to the youth in Mingo County, you may contact the local WVU Extension Office at 304-235-0370.