The southern end of Mason County received a very special visit on Friday afternoon as West Virginia native and actor Jennifer Garner attended Ashton Elementary to speak as a Save the Children Artist Ambassador.
“It is great to be home,” Garner said. “Over the past couple of years, I have worked with Save the Children in several states, but nothing makes me happier than being here in West Virginia to officially open our six new sites.”
West Virginia makes the 14th state to adopt Save the Children. The new sites in the state, in Mason and Roane counties, will serve approximately 2,500 children, ages infancy through sixth grade, living in rural areas by offering access to early education, literacy, physical activity and nutritional programs. The organization also offers home visitation.
“It takes the support of a good school to promote learning. And you guys are lucky to have a school like Ashton Elementary,” Garner said to the gymnasium filled with students.
Made possible by a $1 million commitment from former Gov. Joe Manchin, Save the Children also will receive an additional investment, totaling $2 million over two years to fund education programs in the state.
“Save the Children is here to support the moms and dads of Mason County,” Garner continued. “We take your smart kids, give them a little extra help, make learning fun, give them some exercise, and help them become readers and learners with all kinds of opportunities in their life.”
Garner continued to add that the program will make better learners and readers out of every single child.
“Keep going and keep reading, because the more you read, the more you learn, and the more you learn, the more you can do.”
Instead of cutting a ribbon to mark the opening of the site at Ashton, the Charleston native asked all those involved to donate a book to the library at the school. Ashton Elementary’s Principal Alesia Green accepted the books.
The program also was launched with the help of Mason County Interim Superintendent Suzanne Dickens, Mark Shriver, who heads of the U.S. Save the Children Program, Marty O’Gorman of Fridgidaire and Patsy Hardy, Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary.
“For the past seven years, Shriver has led up a reinvention of the division, with a sharp focus on the creating public-private education partnerships in southeast and the rural southwest, where one in four children live in poverty,” Dickens said.
Shriver praised Garner for being a “catalyst” for bringing the program home to West Virginia.
Hardy commented that West Virginia will make a great place for Save the Children sites because everyone is committed in the state to provide better education for all.
“Save the Children in West Virginia will not only provide a resource for families, but will also help those who need with assistance to move towards a healthy outcome,” Hardy said.
O’Gorman spoke on behalf of Fridgidaire who sponsors the program, stating that he looks forward to a long partnership. He added that community is a key part in the success of Save the Children.
Others in attendance for the event including Mason County Board of Education President Dale Shobe, Vice President Mick Cottrill, and members Tom Nunnery, Randy Searls and Teresa Warner, as well as Mason County Commissioners Bob Baird and Rick Handley. Del. Brady Paxton also made an appearance at Ashton Elementary.