The Back to School Bash lets Monongalia County students “shop” for school supplies each year. This year it’s drive-through.
Most students go shopping for school supplies before the new school year starts. But one-fifth of kids in Monongalia County live in poverty—they don’t necessarily get to start the school year with new backpacks and folders and all the confidence that comes with that.
But the annual Back to School Bash, now in its fourth year, gives any student who needs it a brand-new backpack, school supplies, and hygiene items for a strong start to the school year.
“Back-to-school shopping is a big deal,” says Christine Wang, co-chair of the Back-to-School Bash and an adviser to the board of event organizer Pantry Plus More. “So we always set it up so they get their bookbag at the school and then, in every classroom, there are different supplies—they can pick their own supplies and pick clothing and pick shampoo and other things.”
Because of COVID-19, this year’s Bash will be conducted as a drive-through event at the Mountaineer Mall, with pre-stuffed bags.”But we have a lot of different ones,” Wang says, “so the kids will at least have a little bit of choice.”
Last year’s event drew 860 students. “That made us start preparing the minute that one was over, because we wanted to be sure we’d have enough this year,” Wang says. The pandemic only added to the need. “We are thinking it’s going to be anywhere between last year’s 860 and maybe double,” she says. “So we’re preparing 1,800 bookbags and 1,800 hygiene bags. We’ve been frantically working.”
Bookbags are packed with every supply students need: notebooks, filler paper, pencils and sharpeners, craft supplies, and, for the older students, calculators. Separate drawstring bags are packed with hygiene items like shampoo and conditioner, toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorant, and more.
Any Monongalia County student can attend the Back to School Bash. Going by the last name of the oldest student in the family, families with students A–M will be welcomed 10 a.m.–1 p.m. and with students N–Z 1–4 p.m. Families will be asked to provide their students’ names, addresses, phone numbers, schools, and grades. Students don’t have to be present, but Bash organizers encourage it. “We like for them to have some choice,” Wang says.
Readers who would like to support Pantry Plus More can donate on its Facebook page or website, drop financial or food donations at 9 Rousch Drive in Westover, or volunteer at any of the organization’s many, many community-supporting events.
images courtesy of Pantry Plus More