WINFIELD, W.Va. (AP) — Jillian Carney nervously eyed the number of shoeboxes stacked in a bin in the hallway of Winfield High School on Tuesday.
"I'm really worried," she said.
The Winfield High senior, along with the school's student council, is trying to collect 1,000 shoeboxes filled with items for elementary students in McDowell County by Dec. 10.
They had fewer than 100 on Tuesday.
Carney, 17, of Scott Depot, who is president of the student council, came up with the idea with the help of her mother, Kathy Carney.
"My mom is very passionate about helping people in the state — she loves West Virginia," Carney said. "So many people always send help overseas, but we need it here at home too."
After receiving information about the national project Reconnecting McDowell, designed to improve the southern county's struggling economy, community services and schools, Carney pitched the idea to student council members.
Once they were on board, Carney called the McDowell County Board of Education and asked which elementary schools could use the supplies. "All of the schools responded," she said.
To be able to give every elementary student a shoebox full of things like school supplies, sanitary items, clothes and anything a student might like, they need about 1,000 boxes, according to Carney.
"It just fills my heart with pride," Nila Stover, a teacher's aide at Winfield High, said about the project.
Stover, who said students in her class have put together 12 boxes, has relatives from McDowell County.
"It's just amazing seeing people want to help those who are less fortunate," she said before stuffing some packets of animal cookies into the bin.
Carney has gotten students from Poca and Nitro high schools to participate and hopes other schools will join in and help the effort.
The boxes need to be packed up by Dec. 15. "That's the absolute deadline," she said.
Carney plans to personally transport the boxes to McDowell.
"I want them to know this really means a lot to us," she said.
"We're helping our own state, which benefits everyone," said freshman Jada Kuhn.
Faith Burchett, a senior, agreed, "We have to take care of our own."
For more information about how to donate, visit a Facebook page dedicated to the project at www.facebook.com/McDowellShoeboxes.