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Thumbs up: Pantry helps students with food, clothing

May. 15, 2013 @ 08:45 AM

More than a quarter of children in West Virginia, Kentucky and southern Ohio grow up in poverty.

The rates are even higher in many counties, including Cabell, where the most recent Kid’s Count report estimates that almost 35 percent of children are in a household with an income below the poverty level. That is up from about 25 percent in 2005.

So, it is no surprise that Huntington High teacher Theresa Rapp felt there was a need in the hallways of her own school. She first began to make a few food items available to students in her classes, but quickly discovered that many students and their families lacked basic essentials.

Now, Rapp has opened a food and clothing pantry at the high school. There she keeps toiletries, clothing donated by teachers and parents, food from Huntington Area Food Bank and loaves of bread from Heiner’s Bakery. If students have other needs such as medical or dental care, she tries to help with that as well.

“People cannot imagine how hunger could be such a problem at Huntington High,” Rapp told The Herald-Dispatch. “But it is a bigger problem than you might imagine, and I can no longer look away.”

The teacher makes a point to provide the help with no questions asked, and that has earned the trust of students, some of whom volunteer at the pantry.

Fittingly, she plans to name the enterprise “Cliff’s Closet” in honor of the late Cliff Beckett, a school bus driver well-known for giving thousands of students a helping hand.

The pantry is an inspiring effort, and an important reminder that improving education in our region often means providing support or guidance that students do not find at home.