FOLLANSBEE -A local food pantry, a domestic violence shelter and veterans in nursing homes here and elsewhere in the state are among causes that will benefit from the efforts of Follansbee groups, businesses and individuals participating in Make a Difference Day.
Many of them gathered Tuesday for the Follansbee Chamber of Commerce meeting at Vito's 2 to discuss plans for the event, which is promoted each year by USA Weekend to encourage everyone to engage in community service projects.
Chamber President Tony Paesano said some of the groups' activities will take place that day while others are ongoing, occurring over a month or two or more.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE — Members of the Follansbee Chamber of Commerce and several Follansbee groups gathered Tuesday to discuss their plans for Make a Difference Day, which is Oct. 27. Among the many Follansbee groups, businesses and individuals participating in Make a Difference Day are, front, from left, Mary Schwertfeger, Darlene Cortez, Jeanne Ferrell, Shirley Jean Cuomo, Chamber President Tony Paesano, Chamber Executive Director Debbie Puskarich, Amy Dugan of Chesapeake Energy, Cindy Kocher, Pat Accettolo, Carmel Esposito, Mary Ruth Morris and John D’Aurora; and back, Eric Fithyan and John McGuinness of Chambers and James Funeral Home, Jason Cuomo of Cuomo & Cuomo Law Offices, Vito “Skip” Cutrone of Vito’s 2, Mick Mullen, Charlotte Kolenc and Sharon McCauley. -- Warren Scott
Kicking off the campaign were attorney Jason Cuomo of the Cuomo Law Office of Wellsburg, who presented a check for $1,000 to the Follansbee R.E.A.C.H. Program, a local food pantry, and Amy Dugan, representing Chesapeake Energy, who presented a check for $1,000 to the chamber for the Veterans Memorial Park it established at Follansbee Park this summer.
Jeanne Ferrell, a retired school teacher, noted students at Brooke High School will collect nonperishable food for the food pantry.
Ferrell said as an incentive Principal Toni Shute, who is heading up the effort, will allow the student who collects the most food to use her parking space for a month. Shute has set a goal of 3,000 food items, she added.
Attendees also heard from Vito "Skip" Cutrone, owner of Vito's 2, who said the restaurant again will offer a free Thanksgiving buffet this year.
Cutrone said about 250 people turned out last year and he hopes to double that for this year's dinner, which will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thanksgiving Day. He said he's also planning to offer deliveries for those who can't make it there and accepting monetary and food donations for the R.E.A.C.H. Program at his other businesses, K&J's Skip 'n' Go and the Java Shoppe.
Those planning to attend or interested in helping should call (304) 527-4440.
Paesano said the need for the food pantry is strong, with the county's unemployment rate at 10 percent and 50 percent of children in Brooke County Schools eligible for free or reduced price lunches.
Sharon McCauley, a R.E.A.C.H. Program representative, said individuals who have exhausted their unemployment benefits are eligible for help from the food pantry. For information, call (304) 527-3663.
Eric Fithyan, owner of Chambers and James Funeral Homes, said he will accept donations for Wreaths Across America, an organization that provides wreaths for graves at national veterans cemeteries. He said many graves at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Bridgeville, Pa., the nearest such cemetery, were without wreaths last year, and he hopes to rectify that.
A $15 donation provides one wreath, he said, adding he's also collecting sweaters and gloves for veterans at local nursing homes and state veterans nursing homes.
In related business, Paesano said chamber members will be asked to make donations for U.S. flags to be placed on the graves of veterans at local cemeteries.
Mary Schwertfeger, past president of the 20th Century Woman's Club, said the group will be collecting paper products, clothing and other items for the Lighthouse Domestic Violence Shelter and providing coffee and doughnuts for its staff.
She said the club holds a monthly drawing to raise funds for the shelter and has supported other nonprofit organizations.
Shirley Jean Cuomo of Follansbee Christian Assembly said the church will host a presentation by Teen Challenge at its 10 a.m. Nov. 10 service. The Cleveland-based organization offers help to teens affected by drug addiction and other issues.
Cuomo said participants will discuss how the program has helped them during the service, which will be followed by a dinner. Those interested in attending are asked to call (304) 479-2630.
Mick Mullen, of Vets for Veterans, said the volunteer group, which is affiliated with the Brooke-Hancock-Ohio-Marshall Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, has been visiting veterans at local nursing homes to chat with them and give them caps bearing their military branches and flags in appreciation for their service.
"We tell them we just came to visit and listen to their stories," he said, adding the group meets at 6:30 p.m. on the first and third Monday of each month at the Brooke County Senior Center.
Follansbee Police Chief John Schwertfeger said his department will hold a Christmas party for local youth, thanks to the support of local businesses. He added a series of free family movies held through its Neighborhood Watch program at Follansbee Park this past summer was well attended.
Pat Accettolo of St. Anne's Sodality, an arm of St. Anthony Catholic Church's Altar and Rosary Society, has adopted the WTOV-TV Coats for Kids campaign as its project.
Paesano said the spirit of all of the projects underscores the meaning of a statement by Winston Churchill: "We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give."
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)