FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — Fayette County school buses were full Tuesday, but not with students.

Instead 1,600 food boxes and hundreds of milk cartons lined the seats to be delivered to students in need across the county. This is the third time a group of volunteers comprised of teachers, principals and bus drivers have gotten together to complete the mission referred as the “bus brigade”.

Organizer Cindy Chamberlin of Clay County explained it was an effort started by her friend in another state the day before the teacher and school service personnel strike began. Several calls and a drive in a box truck later, the food boxes made their way to West Virginia.

“I got a phone call from a friend who does disaster relief in Tennessee and her church was getting overage FEMA freight from Texas and Florida that was going to be destroyed because they no longer needed it. So her church had paid to have it brought to Tennessee, the Nolachucky Baptist Association. We just had to cover the freight charge to get it here.”

Chamberlin said 9,000 meals were brought to West Virginia total. Several were sent to Clay County while the rest came to Fayette County with the help of Mountaineer Food Bank near Flatwoods. Last Thursday organizers held a meeting and were able to raise $1,000 to help get the food boxes from Tennessee. Since then more donations have come in both locally and from afar.

“Our little community has come together and its just touched my heart,” said Fayette County technology teacher and volunteer Melinda Louisos. “However, we’ve had donations from California, Florida, from Alaska. So our little community has stretched out worldwide actually.”

Retired teacher Marion Tanner said Tuesday this show of support has been encouraging. She was one of many wearing red in support of West Virginia educators and school personnel.

“We’ve had a tremendous outpouring of love from our community and the support they have given us to purchase this food. The teachers and the bus drivers come out and deliver this food to the kids’ homes.”

As volunteers loaded the food boxes onto busses at the Fayette County Bus Garage, the energy was high among many. At the time of the event, the house had approved the 5% pay raise bill for all state workers. While it still had to go through the senate and get a signature from Gov. Jim Justice, many were optimistic they would be returning to school tomorrow.

Volunteers agreed the return to the classroom can make a huge difference for students whose only meal daily comes from school. Fayette County also does a backpack program to provide students in need with meals for weekends.

“Everytime it’s inspiring to see people that come out to help sort out the food,” said Tanner. “We make snack packs and we give every child a box that has three meals in it.”

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