Grant J.B. Chambers Memorial Foundation Buys Food for Bridge Street Middle School Students

Photo by Alan Olson Mike Schmitt and Amanda Yates help distribute bags of food to parents and students at Bridge Street Middle School.

WHEELING — With seven consecutive class days canceled due to the statewide strike by teachers and service personnel, some disadvantaged students who rely on school meals are getting hungry.

A $1,500 grant from the J.B. Chambers Memorial Foundation helped buy food for needy students and families, who picked up their items Friday afternoon at Bridge Street Middle School.

Principal Joseph Kolb said the grant allowed the school to buy 75 bags of canned and other foods, which were prepared and offered to any students of the school around 4 p.m. Friday. This also allowed families of the students to come in and take the food home. Alongside the bags, boxes of pizza and other baked goods were available for consumption on the spot.

“We spent the entire $1,500 on food for our students,” Kolb said. “There’s approximately two to three days worth of food for a family of around three to five, and any Bridge Street student could come by, get some pizza, and hopefully, that will help them out for the weekend.”

Kolb said the idea for the program originated with teachers coordinating during the walkout.

“This was our teachers’ idea to do this, and a lot of them are here volunteering their time,” Kolb said. “Regardless of a work stoppage, we’d do this anyway.”

Eighth grade teacher Mike Schmitt helped to distribute food Friday afternoon. He took the time to express his desire to see West Virginia legislators carry out the agreement met between unions and Gov. Jim Justice.

“We’re just counting on the Senate to act on the deal we agreed to,” he said.

“Even when we were in elementary school, we were doing canned food drives,” added parent James Shaw. “Anything we can do to help give back.”

Teachers have been helping in other ways, too. One Wheeling mother who asked to remain anonymous said two Ohio County teachers have offered to take care of her three children who attend Woodsdale Elementary School because both she and her husband work full-time. Neither she nor her husband have local parents or relatives to help out. She took one of the teachers up on her offer.

April Henry of Morgantown said she appreciated that her second-grader’s teacher emailed her websites, such as and, so the children can keep their skills sharp.

Working mom Jean-Anne Renshaw said she makes sure her daughter who attends Woodsdale Elementary School “spends some time reading every day,” but otherwise she is hanging out with friends whose moms stay home. Renshaw said she supports the teachers.

“I love our Woodsdale teachers and staff. They are amazing. (It’s) like a private school,” Renshaw said.

Grandparents are being called upon to help, too.

“I’m watching my 8-year-old grandson who makes excellent grades at Woodsdale Elementary School,” Sharon Bohn said. “We are doing math and reading in the mornings. I am sure this strike is taking a toll on everyone with children, and jobs, but the teachers have to do this to get equal pay as in other states.”

One dad has not found it so easy.

“The lack of routine is crushing my already struggling first-grader, and our business has come to a complete stop due to lack of child care,” said Brandon Holmes, who runs a furniture refinishing business in North Wheeling.

Jamie O’Hare of Wheeling, who works full-time, said she was fortunate that her husband, a Wheeling Jesuit University professor, was on spring break last week. They have no local family to help, either. She is not worried about their academics but has other concerns.

“It’s more a matter of our special needs kids needing routines and being poor at transitioning to school when they are unsure what the next day will bring,” O’Hare said.