WVSOM staff members provide care packages for truckers

WVSOM members handed out bags filled with prepackaged snacks and other items to tractor-trailer drivers stopping at the rest stop on I-64 near White Sulphur Springs.

West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) employees found a creative way to help those who are ensuring the region’s stores remain stocked and infrastructure keeps operating during the coronavirus pandemic. On April 9, some of the school’s staff distributed care packages to truckers at a local rest stop.

Joyce Martin, a program and outreach coordinator in WVSOM’s Center for Rural and Community Health, was among the employees who gathered at the Westbound West Virginia Welcome Center, located off Interstate 64 near White Sulphur Springs, to distribute bags filled with prepackaged snacks and other items tractor-trailer drivers might find difficult to obtain due to changes brought about by the pandemic.

Martin said the idea came to her when her husband, a driver for a power company, pointed out that many commercial transport vehicles are unable to fit through restaurant drive-through lanes or to safely maneuver through the small towns that populate southern West Virginia. She shared the idea with Drema Mace, Ph.D., WVSOM’s vice president for community engagement and development, whose father and brothers were over-the-road truck drivers. Mace consulted her brothers on items that would be most needed by truckers at this time.

“Without truckers, our needs would not be met,” Martin said. “With both of us knowing that restaurants are currently limited to drive-through services, we felt there was a need to offer prepackaged food items, personal care items and other things drivers might be able to use. It’s a small token of appreciation for all they’re doing to keep things moving.”

Each care package contained bottled water, an apple, a granola bar, canned franks and beans, canned sausages, beef snacks, chips and snack crackers. The bags also included rubber gloves, napkins, reusable cutlery, personal care items, a cloth mask handmade by WVSOM’s clinical sciences department staff, a bottle of hand sanitizer contributed by the Maxwelton-based distillery Smooth Ambler and inspirational booklets provided by First Baptist Church of Fairlea.

Martin said those involved are evaluating needs on a day-to-day basis and may consider additional outreach efforts at a later time.

Truckers who received packages at the welcome center expressed their appreciation for the effort. Richard Scott, an independent driver-owner from Cincinnati, offered to make a donation, but staff assured him the packages were intended as gifts to thank drivers for their service.

Joe Stephens, a driver with Schneider for the Dollar General chain of variety stores, said he was pleased that school employees identified the need to help those in the trucking industry during the pandemic.

“It feels great that somebody’s thinking of us,” Stephens said. “We’re out here risking our lives every day. We do what we can to try to stay safe. This is a time when everyone should be pulling together and do what they’ve got to do.”