R.E.A.C.H. food pantry receives boost
FOLLANSBEE — Efforts by a local charity to feed area residents in need have received a boost from the steel industry.
The Follansbee R.E.A.C.H. Program received about 3,520 pounds of canned goods and other nonperishable food from staff at Mountain State Carbon as well as Go Green America, Grae-Con Construction, Murphy Consolidated Inc. and North American Century Steel Erectors Inc., all contractors that work with the steel firm.
United Steel Workers of America Local 9545 also donated $250, which serves about 30 households monthly, said Ed Wilkerson, who co-chairs the food pantry’s volunteer board with Bill Kocher.
He said the food pantry was chosen by Mountain State Carbon employees to be the focus of charitable efforts under AK Steel’s AK Cares program.
Employees of Mountain State Carbon compete with staff at other AK Steel facilities to generate the most support for their chosen cause, with the winner receiving a bowl-shaped traveling trophy dubbed the Souper Bowl.
Mountain State Carbon employees have won the Souper Bowl twice, once for collecting 1,700 pounds of food and the the next year for collecting more than 2,000 pounds of food.
In 2017, to celebrate the Follansbee plant’s 100th anniversary, the company donated $5,000.
Wilkerson said the program is among charities locals think of around Christmas because it provides food baskets to residents for that holiday and Thanksgiving. But it also aids people throughout the year, he said.
He said Bonnie James, its volunteer director, oversees a handful of volunteers who sort and pack the food for distribution on a monthly basis.
Wilkerson said another major yearly contribution comes from Follansbee area residents who leave nonperishable food out for postal carriers to collect during an annual food drive promoted by the Follansbee office of the U.S. Postal Service.
Follansbee Postmaster Pete Melnyk said this year mail carriers are scheduled to collect food left near mailboxes on May 9.
Wilkerson noted the program was initiated by several area churches and many remain involved. It also is among charities receiving proceeds from the Follansbee Christmas in the Park festival and was presented $3,000 by the event’s organizers.
Those wishing to aid the food pantry or seeking food assistance may call (304) 527-3663.