FOLLANSBEE - Leaders of the Follansbee Chamber of Commerce decided to put funds left from its recent veterans appreciation dinner to good use by helping several local groups that help children in various ways.
Chamber President Tony Paesano said when the chamber solicited contributions from area businesses and groups for its first veterans appreciation dinner, it made clear any funds remaining would go to causes benefiting children.
He noted helping children in need was the focus of the chamber's annual Make a Difference Day campaign last fall. The effort raised $10,000 for programs ranging from afterschool children's programs to efforts to provide backpacks filled with food to students in need.
HELPING CHILDREN — The Follansbee Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday presented checks to several groups serving children in various ways. Taking part were, from left, front, chamber members Lorraine Durante and John D’Aurora, Chamber President Tony Paesano, Shirley Cuomo of the Follansbee Christian Center, Denise Spensky of the Brooke County Council PTA, Sara Chadwell of Community of Christ Church, Jean Bartholow of Brooke Place, Danielle Stroud of Comfort House Child Advocacy Center and chamber member Carmel Eposito; and back; the Rev. Joe Cuomo of Follansbee Christian Center; chamber members Charlotte Kolenc and Eric Fithyan, Chamber Executive Director Debbie Puskarich, chamber member Brandi Puskarich and Jim Pennebaker of Comfort House. -- Warren Scott
Noting that poverty is an ongoing problem, Paesano said then the chamber's efforts wouldn't end there.
And on Tuesday he and other chamber members presented $315 each to the following groups:
The Brooke County Council PTA Clothes Closet, which provides various clothing to children in need at local schools. Denise Spensky, the council's president, said monetary donations help volunteers with the clothes closet to purchase underwear, shoes and larger sized clothing for high school students.
Brooke Place, a group home for girls run by Family Connections of Weirton. Jean Bartholow, a staff member at Brooke Place, said contributions such as the chamber's help to provide bedding, towels and toiletries for its residents.
She said the girls come to Brooke Place for various reasons, but child abuse and neglect is a common factor, and they sometimes have little time to gather any personal possessions when they are removed from their homes.
Comfort House Child Advocacy Center, which assists law enforcement officials investigating child abuse allegations by interviewing the children involved in a manner and atmosphere designed to be non-threatening.
Jim Penebaker, director of A Comfort House, said the center typically sees eight to 10 children each month, about an equal number of them girls and boys.
He or staff member Danielle Stroud conduct the interviews, depending on whether the child is more comfortable with a man or woman.
Community of Christ Church of Follansbee, for its backpack program for children at L.B. Millsop Primary School in Weirton and Follansbee Middle School.
Volunteers Gene and Sara Chadwell said each week more than 60 children receive the backpacks filled with food.
They said in addition to two $4,700 grants received from the national Community of Christ church in recent years, the effort has received boosts through donations from other churches, including New Day Christian Center of Wellsburg, which periodically holds spaghetti dinners to raise funds.
The backpack program is among several initiated by various churches and groups to provide food to children in need at nearly every Brooke County school.
Follansbee Christian Center, an afterschool program established by the Christian Assembly of Follansbee six years ago.
Shirley Cuomo said retired teachers and other volunteers assist children at the center with their homework and lead them in Bible lessons, Christian songs and crafts and in presenting programs around various holidays.
The children also receive a meal while there.
"This is a big shot in the arm," the Rev. Joe Cuomo, the church's pastor and Cuomo's brother, said of the chamber's donation.
Paesano also commented on the success of the veterans appreciation dinner, a collaboration with Vito's 2 restaurant. He noted each veteran attending received a goody bag containing a commemorative T-shirt, U.S. flag and discount card.
Paesano said the veterans enjoyed getting together with other veterans, and there are plans to make it an annual event.