Front (L-R) Sarah Lane, Makayla Johnson, Kelsey Jett,
Michelle Hall, Marsha Benson; Back (L-R) Kaitlyn Murphy,
Jared Fitzwater, Cole Sims, Joseph Overbaugh, Stewart Fitzwater

By Stewart Fitzwater

Through a combination of healthy breakfasts, lunches and learning activities, the Energy Express program continues to improve the lives of children in Calhoun County.

This year's program began on Monday, June 23. More than 50 children from Calhoun will participate in the summer program which is brought to counties by West Virginia University Extension Service and AmeriCorps.

The program is designed to provide learning opportunities and nutrition during the summer months when children from low-income areas are most at risk for falling into the "summer slide". The summer slide occurs when children fall behind academically because they do not build or maintain their reading skills throughout the summer months.

Available at 74 sites statewide, the Energy Express program helps approximately 3,400 children who are entering first through sixth grades.

In addition to these state partners, county programs rely on a tremendous amount of local support. Local partners include the Calhoun County Board of Education, Family Resource Network, Heads-Up after school program and Community Education Outreach Services.

Volunteers are needed from the county to help read to the children and donate supplies. Volunteers provide crucial services to the site and community that allow Energy Express to be such a success. Organizers say that children benefit from having familiar community faces at the program sites.

Children spend their days in a print-rich environment where they read, write and create artwork. The benefits of Energy Express extend beyond the six weeks of summer. Each week every child receives a book to take home and keep.

Major funding for Energy Express comes from the WVU Extension Service, Volunteer WV - The State's Commission for National and Community Service, the Summer Food Service Program through the West Virginia Department of Education, and the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts.

Entering its 21st year, Energy Express is one of WVU Extension Service's premier programs, uniting children and the community members to make summer a time for food, fun and learning in areas and for people in need.

For more information, to volunteer, or to donate supplies for the program, call Stewart Fitzwater at 304-354-6148 ext. 234. or, email Marsha Benson at   calhounenergyexpress@gmail.com

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