GOOD LIFE

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church to as­sem­ble the packs; oth­ers de­liver bags to the schools and, in some cases, dis­trib­ute them to stu­dents.

Ash­ley Wertz was sur­prised — and grate­ful — when an of­fi­cial from Mi­ami View El­e­men­tary in South Charleston called to ask whether Wertz wanted food sent home with her chil­dren.

Her hus­band had to leave his job in Oc­to­ber be­cause of health prob­lems — anx­i­ety at­tacks, seizures, mi­graines — and, be­cause she was a stay-at-home mom, the cou­ple and their five chil­dren were left with­out an in­come.

“This re­ally means the world,” said Wertz, not­ing that Suf­fi­cient Grace sent home ex­tra bags for her 2½-year-old twins. “We didn’t even have money to go buy food. I told Tracy, ‘Thanks for be­ing the hands and feet of Je­sus’ be­cause that’s what I felt she was.”

Wertz has since re­turned to the work­force, so her fam­ily no longer re­quires the help of Suf­fi­cient Grace. Still, she ap­pre­ci­ates know­ing that the ser­vice is avail­able.

In the two years that the non­profit has worked with Lon­don City Schools, Melissa Can­ney has seen the num­ber of chil­dren ac­cess­ing the ser­vice grow from 50 to 165 in the district’s three schools.

Can­ney, a district sup­port spe­cial­ist fo­cus­ing on nonaca­demic bar­ri­ers to learn­ing, said so-called “food in­se­cu­rity” is an is­sue in many class­rooms.

“Teach­ers ev­ery day see stu­dents who come to school re­liant on school lunches and break­fasts,” she said. “We get con­cerned when they leave here, es­pe­cially on the week­ends or for va­ca­tions.”

Suf­fi­cient Grace has plugged the gap, she said, with­out strain­ing the re­sources of schools or teach­ers. Some stu­dents rely en­tirely on their school for food; oth­ers need oc­ca­sional help to stretch dol­lars.

“So many are liv­ing with aunts, un­cles and grand­par­ents on fixed in­comes,” Can­ney said.

Stu­dents in Lon­don re­ceive bags only on Fri­days be­cause of the time it takes to man­age such a large de­liv­ery, Can­ney said.

The pro­gram, she said, has had un­in­tended ben­e­fits, such as al­low­ing staff to build re­la­tion­ships with these at-risk stu­dents.

Suf­fi­cient Grace’s pres­ence at West Jef­fer­son Mid­dle School has helped boost at­ten­dance, school coun­selor Amy Gi­rard said.

“A lot of my kids who don’t have the best grades come to school to get meals,” she said.

When chil­dren go to school hun­gry, Gi­rard added, they of­ten fall asleep and tend to be ir­ri­ta­ble. She keeps bags

in a desk drawer for any stu­dent need­ing a snack.

In ad­di­tion to the food, ev­ery few months Kronk and her team pro­vide hy­giene bags full of toi­letries, too.

“She’s re­ally thought of ev­ery­thing,” Gi­rard said. “She’s gone as far as to cre­ate goodie bags for Easter and Christ­mas.”

Kronk said she couldn’t have imag­ined the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s growth. She re­lies on the com­mu­nity — namely food pantries, fundrais­ers and in­di­vid­ual and cor­po­rate do­na­tions — to sus­tain the ser­vice, which costs about $35 a month per child.

And she couldn’t do it with­out her 25 reg­u­lar vol­un­teers, who this school year alone have do­nated a com­bined 5,500 hours.

Af­ter re­tir­ing as a preschool teacher four years ago, Va­lerie Murry said, she couldn’t wait to get in­volved with Suf­fi­cient Grace. Three times a week at Nor­wood, she hands out bags con­tain­ing about 10 items — Kraft Easy Mac, peanut-but­ter crack­ers and other sim­ple foods.

“I get to see the kids, and they’re re­ally ap­pre­cia­tive,” said Murry, who lives south­east of West Jef­fer­son. “A prin­ci­pal stopped in one day and told me, ‘You don’t real­ize how much you do.’”

Know­ing the im­pact of the group’s ef­forts is what keeps Kronk at it from year to year.

“A kinder­gart­ner once told me, ‘All this time, I thought I had a food fairy putting food in my back­pack,’” Kronk said.

“I bawled like a baby.”

“Port Saint Joe” (Brothers Os­borne):

Named af­ter the Florida town in which it was recorded, T.J. and John Os­borne hope to repli­cate the suc­cess of their crit­i­cally ac­claimed 2016 de­but al­bum, “Pawn Shop.” Other no­table re­leases:

“Eat the Ele­phant” (A Per­fect Cir­cle), “Church of Scars” (Bishop Briggs)

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