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CHARLESTON, W.VA. –For many Raleigh County residents, the Fishes and Loaves program at the Beckley Dream Center has become known as the place to go in a time of need. For a program that began more than 15 years ago with merely two shelves in a storage closet, that accomplishment couldn’t have happened without the dedication of community volunteers.
On Wednesday, July 21, Governor Joe Manchin will honor the Beckley Dream Center for its dedication to service at the annual Governor’s Service Awards banquet at the Charleston Civic Center. The banquet is held as a part of Faces of Leadership, the annual state volunteerism conference.
Presented since 1995, the Governor’s Service Awards honors youth, young adults, adults, seniors, families, and organizations who exemplify outstanding dedication to volunteerism and community service in West Virginia. The Beckley Dream Center is one of three winners in the Organization category.
Since the program’s inception, Fishes and Loaves has expanded four times and has gone from serving 36 families in 1994 to 6,067 families in 2009. The program’s clients, who consist primarily of the working poor and the elderly, receive free groceries, hot meals at the Center three to five days a week, school supplies, clothing, baby supplies, cleaning supplies, computer literacy tutoring and much more.
“Due to the recession over the past year, the number of families and individuals requesting help continues to rise every month,” said Emmett Pugh, Mayor of Beckley. “Still, no one is ever turned away.”
In 2009, Fishes and Loaves fed more than 6,000 families and 14,000 individuals. The program even secured funding to purchase a mobile kitchen used to feed children one free meal each week during the summer and to feed people during times of disaster.
“Thanks to the Fishes and Loaves program, 68 of our residents receive sufficient food to last between paydays,” said Della Cole, site manager for a low-income community for the elderly and disabled in Beckley. “I cannot express how valuable this program is for those people who may not otherwise know where their next meal is coming from. Often, they have to decide whether to purchase food or medication.”
Working closely with the WV Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Fishes and Loaves has provided county residents with shelter during times of disaster and helped distribute supplies throughout Raleigh and Wyoming counties during flooding emergencies. The program also provided shelter and food to more than 350 people during the first of many significant snow storms this past winter.
In addition to supplying county residents with food, clothing and other necessary supplies, Fishes and Loaves provides more than 100 children with free haircuts prior to the start of each school year. During the holiday season, the organization gives free turkeys and toys to more than 1,000 families.
“The Fishes and Loaves program has been a tremendous asset to our community,” said Mayor Pugh. “The volunteer staff of more than 85 individuals give their time to make the program an ongoing success. This program fills a much-needed niche in our community and lets those less fortunate find the going a little easier.”
The Governor’s Service Awards are administered by Volunteer West Virginia, the state’s Commission for National and Community Service to honor outstanding individuals, organizations and businesses solving community problems through volunteer service. A panel of volunteer judges, including past awardees, choose the recipients on the basis of achievement, community needs, continuing involvement, innovation and impact of service.
Other recipients of the 2010 Governor’s Service Awards include, by category:
- Lifetime Achievement: Pearl Hamby, Mercer County; Helen Early Jones, Harrison County
- Youth: Miranda Shafer, Roane County
- Young Adult: Chris Lewallen, Monongalia County
- Adult: Greg Clarke, Kanawha County
- Senior: Willard Wade West, Harrison County
- National Service: Loretta Scott, Calhoun County
- Organization: Manna Meal, Kanawha County; Mason County Quilt Trail, Mason County
For tickets to the awards banquet, or information about the conference, contact Moya Doneghy at (304) 558-0111 or 1-800-WV-HELPS, or by email at email@example.com.