Volunteer Deb Schneller, second from left, works with Energy Express participants Toni Conliffe, left, Aryanah Jefferies, Tiyjuana Coles, K.K. Scott and Micah Walker last week in Beards Fork.

The Energy Express program is going strong for another summer at the Southern Appalachian Labor School complex.

About 40 children in grades K-5 are participating in the six-week endeavor that provides learning experiences focused on reading.

“Everything is literacy-based,” says Jason Crouch, site coordinator for the past five years. “We start with the child and move out (to family, friends, community, etc.).

“We have a lot of art and writing, and it’s a non-competitive atmosphere.”

“We strive to not necessarily increase the child’s reading skills, but maintain them,” Crouch added. “It gives them a better start (when they go back to school in the fall).”

Crouch is assisted by volunteer coordinators Sadida David and David Smith and mentors Jonathan Clemins, Sarah Nuckels, Steven Morrison, Doug Mullins and Christie Gunther, as well as volunteers from the local community.

“And Global Volunteers (through SALS) have been a big help,” said David. “The mentors like the extra help (from all volunteers) because it lets them give more one-on-one teaching.”

David says it’s nice to see the children show signs of improvement. “It’s always enjoyable seeing the progress they’ve made.”

During the sixth week, the participants will be involved in a service project.

In addition to reading and art projects, the children also take part in outdoor activities.

The local Energy Express program — the lone one serving Fayette County — is funded and made possible by numerous groups, government agencies, churches and individuals.

According to Dr. John David, SALS director, the organization has to raise a 30 percent match (around $10,000) to offer the program, which helps offset the cost of transporting participants from the Oak Hill and Montgomery/Smithers areas. WVU Extension Service and AmeriCorps provides the remaining funding.

Other financial partners include local churches, civic groups, PTOs, businesses and individuals. Major donors include the Fayette County Commission, Fayette County Schools, City of Montgomery, WVU Extension Service, AmeriCorps, Southern Appalachian Labor School, W. Va. Department of Education and USDA.

“The programs also has numerous volunteers, both locally and with the groups that come to Fayette County to work with SALS, who contribute considerable assistance,” Dr. David added.

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There will be an open house at 10 a.m. on Friday, July 27 at the SALS center (former Beards Fork Elementary). The public is invited to attend and join in plays, songs and other fun activities.

Even though the program is halfway through its six-week stint, there are still a couple of ways the public can help. Volunteers are needed to assist children with reading and writing, help serve family-style meals and perform other tasks. To volunteer, call 779-2772.

Also, the Energy Express is accepting donations of school supplies and non-perishable food items from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 21 at the Kmart in Oak Hill. Officials ask that you donate what you can to help the community effort.

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