Courtesy Photo The Energy Express staff at the Harless Center in Gilbert are pictured above. The summer program started back this week at four locations in Mingo County.

Williamson Daily News

GILBERT - The Energy Express summer reading and nutrition program returned to the Harless Center in Gilbert on Monday, June 17. Children from Mingo County who are entering first through sixth grades can participate in the summer program, which is sponsored by the West Virginia University Extension Service and AmeriCorps.

There are four locations for Energy Express in Mingo County, including Williamson PK-8, Matewan PK-8, Dingess Elementary and the Harless Center at Gilbert.

In addition to these state partners, county programs rely on a tremendous amount of local support. Local partners include Coalfield Cap and the Mingo County Board of Education.

Through a combination of healthy breakfasts, lunches and learning activities, Energy Express works to improve the lives of children by providing learning opportunities and nutrition during the summer months, when children from low-income areas are most at risk for falling into the "summer slide." The summer slide occurs when children fall behind academically because they do not build or maintain their reading skills throughout the summer months.

Children spend their days in a print-rich environment where they read, write and create artwork. In addition, the benefits of Energy Express extend beyond the six weeks of summer because each week every child receives a book to take home and keep.

Available at 80 sites, the Energy Express program helps approximately 3,400 children statewide. Volunteers from Mingo County are needed to help read to the children, serve meals and donate supplies. Organizers say that children benefit from having familiar community faces at the program sites.

Major funding for Energy Express comes from the WVU Extension Service, Volunteer WV, the states's Commission for National and Community Service and the Summer Food Service Program through the West Virginia Department of Education.

For more information, to volunteer, or to donate supplies or money for the program, call Dan Sizemore, Site Supervisor, or Cassidy Cline, Community Coordinator at 304-664-2500 (extension 114), or email