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Children receive free meal in the park

T-L Photos/SHELLEY HANSON ABOVE: SAMARA VALES, 4, of Martins Ferry receives food and treats Wednesday at Martins Ferry City Park. Handing out the treats, from left, are her grandmother, Betsy Polivka, Rebecca Holmes and Wendy Weaver. Samara is the daughter of Eileen Spano of Martins Ferry.

MARTINS FERRY — The Martins Ferry Youth Center provided a free meal and treats to children Wednesday afternoon in City Park.

The center, which is affiliated with Grace Presbyterian Church, has been closed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While most businesses have been allowed to reopen by the state, the center has not reopened because it would be difficult to observe social distancing rules, volunteers said.

Because of this, the center wanted to provide a free meal to children who may be missing their daily trips to the center that often included an after-school snack and dinner.

Tina’s Sweet Celebrations provided a chicken casserole bake, pepperoni rolls and cupcakes from the shop in Martins Ferry. The volunteers also gave drinks, chips and candy from the church.

Center volunteers Betsy Polivka and Rebecca Holmes said they miss working at the center and the children who go there to play pool, games and socialize with each other. For many of the children who went there, the free food also was very important, they said.

“Most kids don’t get a meal after school,” Polivka said.

Holmes said there would be little room inside the center to allow for proper social distancing, especially for the volunteers who work there. When that order gets lifted the center likely will reopen. However, with a possible vaccine against the virus still being developed and tested by scientists, it could be months before social distancing rules are lifted by Gov. Mike DeWine.

For those who are not familiar with the center, located beside the church on Hanover Street, it provides a safe place for youth to gather, Holmes said.

“There’s a lot to do and we get donations of food every day,” she said of the center when it is operating.

Tina’s, Domino’s and others frequently gave items weekly.

In addition to Polivka and Holmes, also in attendance to pass out the food was Tina Koller, owner of Tina’s Sweet Celebrations, and her employee Wendy Weaver.

Leftovers were going to the Martins Ferry Police Department.

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