By RICHARD F. BELISLE
8:51 PM EDT, March 12, 2013
A move to increase awareness of the needs of poor children across West Virginia comes to the Eastern Panhandle on Saturday in a forum on child poverty, one of 12 being hosted across the state.
The “Our Children, Our Future” forum, at Westview Baptist Church at 301 S. Louisiana Ave. in Martinsburg, runs from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
John Unger, D-Berkeley/Jefferson, the senate majority leader, champions issues surrounding child poverty.
“Research shows that child development occurs between birth and age 8,” Unger said. “Poverty can result in a negative impact on a child's development that can lead to health and social issue problems like teen pregnancy, poor performance and criminal behavior,” he said.
Unger, Del. Tiffany Lawrence, D-Jefferson, and the Rev. G. Edward Grove of Shepherdstown, W.Va., organized and will attend the forum.
Lawrence said the goal is to encourage the beginnings of a grassroots effort to lower the numbers of poverty-stricken children in the three-county area.
“In my district (which covers Charles Town, W.Va., and Ranson, W.Va., next door) about 10 percent of the children live in poverty and are eligible for the free or reduced lunch program,” Lawrence said.
Hopefully, the 12 forums being around the state will result in some policy changes, she said.
Grove, 72, retired after 55 years as a minister in the United Methodist Church, including 15 years as pastor of United Methodist Church in Martinsburg.
He currently pastors two small United Methodist churches in Berkeley and Jefferson counties, supervises more than 25 churches in both counties and is director of development for Habitat for Humanity of the Eastern Panhandle.
“I’ve spent my life in social ministries dealing with street people, child poverty and health issues. It’s been my passion,” he said.
The forums are being sponsored by the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Family Coalition, Grove said.
Their platforms follow the creed of the nonprofit Our Children Our Future, The Campaign to End Child Poverty. Lawrence speaks frequently on the organization’s efforts.
Four Panhandle families among those invited to the forum will speak about the problems they face in daily living, Grove said.
The families present will ask Unger and Lawrence to comment on Medicaid expansion, family violence prevention, truancy, the drug crisis, child care cuts, prison reform and food in schools, Grove said.
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