CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- From afar, it looked like a knot of people hoisting campaign signs yesterday in front of Kanawha County Courthouse along Virginia Street East. But this was the day after the election and a closer look revealed signs and plastic buckets that said 'Power up the Pantry' and 'Donate Here.'
The donations were designed to restock the Mountain Mission's food and supply pantry for area residents, depleted by the double whammy of this summer's derecho and the recent Hurricane Sandy.
"This idea came about last Thursday, very quickly, once we saw a report on the news that some of the food pantries in the area were really struggling to meet the community needs following the storm," said Laura Jordan, spokeswoman for West Virginia American Water.
Her utility, along with Appalachian Power and Kanawha County government employees, teamed up and initially gathered donations in-house. Then, volunteer staffers hit Virginia Street from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday on behalf of Mountain Mission's emptied-out pantry shelves.
"The need is really great," said Jordan. "They need baby items, they need non-perishable food items. There are a lot of communities and families still struggling, being without power and being without some basic necessities."
City and county employees and officials also helped out, with Kanawha County Commissioner Kent Carper and Charleston Mayor Danny Jones stopping by the fund drive.
"We started at 7 a.m., and the response has been terrific," said Jordan, standing amid stacks of diapers, water bottles and canned food in the back of a Mountain Mission truck. "This truck was completely empty at the beginning of the morning, By 10 o'clock, it was nearly halfway full.
"Plus we have a West Virginia American Water vehicle that is full of donations -- it can't fit anything else in it. And there's an Appalachian Power truck that came full of donations, too, from the companies as well as employees from both utilities."
The fund drive comes at a very good time after a very bad time for the Mountain Mission's pantry, said executive director John Roberts.