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Artimez Working Hard to Feed Marshall County School Students

Gail Artimez stands beside one of the Marshall County school buses used to deliver food to students during the summer.

MOUNDSVILLE — Long days on the phone and in the field, working to ensure children get food packages delivered on time, are part of the reason Gail Artimez is being recognized as among West Virginia’s finest.

Artimez, the executive secretary for transportation at Marshall County Schools, was named as one of five finalists for the West Virginia School Service Personnel of the Year Award Wednesday.

The release announcing Artimez’s recognition highlighted her work during the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, when she took charge organizing efforts to distribute food to county students, who would otherwise not receive daily meals from the school due to closures. Unlike the Marshall County Schools Summer Lunch Program, which uses contracted workers, the drivers and aides for the springtime food distribution effort were volunteers.

Artimez said Thursday that she worked in a hurry to organize volunteers to help bring the program to fruition. With personnel at every level in disarray due to uncertainty due to COVID-19, Artimez worked to coordinate volunteer efforts to help distribute food.

“I got all the volunteers together, set up a schedule for them and would call or text them the day before, to make sure they knew where to go, if they had any problems, I’d take care of it,” she said. “We got the food to them, got what was needed, and came up with the different (pickup) sites.”

Artimez also contacted the non-school locations throughout the county, such as churches or apartment complexes, to seek their permission to let the school set up temporary spots. The property owners, she said, were thankfully helpful in that matter.

“We had to make sure we could use those sites, and everyone was very, very, very helpful,” she added. “There were a lot of long days.”

Her work continued through the summer as the Summer Lunch Program kept working to keep students fed, first on a weekly basis,then once every two weeks this month. Artimez said she and Transportation Director Harry Midcap have kept busy, helping at different distribution locations, keeping drivers on schedule and aware of changes to the plan.

“We’ve been going every Wednesday with one of the buses, helping distribute food to people, I always keep the drivers together and make sure they’re (kept current),” she said, especially as August saw the summer food program move to two weeks worth of food deliveries at a time.

Superintendent Shelby Haines spoke highly of Artimez’s commitment to the district and its students, and feels that she represents the county well at the state level.

“Mrs. Artimez is very deserving of this award,” Haines stated in an email Thursday. “As a state level finalist, she will represent Marshall County very well. During the school closure, the work of Mrs. Artimez was paramount to the food delivery program. Mrs. Artimez always goes above and beyond in everything she does.”

This year, 36 applications were submitted for consideration for West Virginia Service Personnel of the Year. The five finalists, along with county service personnel of the year winners, will be honored during a virtual service in conjunction with the West Virginia Teacher of the Year Program later this year.

In addition to Artimez, the other finalists are Stephanie Bennett of Upshur County Schools; Debra Dye of Wirt County High School; Susie Kirkpatrick of Gilmer County Schools; and Stephanie Toliver of Nitro Elementary School in Kanawha County.

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