ST. CLAIRSVILLE – Ohio’s natural gas and oil industry joined together to help first responders, hospital workers, and school districts by donating meals, technology, and personal protective equipment, the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program (OOGEEP) and Ohio Oil and Gas Association (OOGA) announced today.

In total, OOGEEP donated $19,000 in gift cards from local restaurants and grocery stores as well as WiFi hot spots to support student virtual learning to hospitals and schools in Newark, Marietta and St. Clairsville. OOGA worked through its members to collect and distribute over 100,000 personal protective equipment items to first responders and EMAs across southeastern Ohio.

"Ohio is a strong community and we’ve always looked out for one another, but especially during these difficult times," said Kennedy Copeland, OOGEEP spokeswoman. "For the doctors, nurses, and medical professionals on the front lines of keeping us safe, we wanted to say thanks and provide a meal from a local restaurant."

OOGEEP purchased 650 gift cards from Elm’s Pizza Parlor and Snapshots Coffee & Kitchen in Newark to donate to Licking Memorial Hospital. For Marietta Memorial Hospital in Washington County, OOGEEP purchased 650 gift cards from Busy Bee, an area restaurant that sources food from local farms. To support families in St. Clairsville and students with virtual learning, OOGEEP also partnered with St. Clairsville-Richland City School District to provide $3,000 in gift cards to Kroger and a $3,000 grant for the district to purchase WiFi hotspots for students.

"We’ve had a lot of difficulty getting access for some of our kids in outlying areas and we have created some drive-in WiFi access points, but still there’s people who can’t get to those," Dr. Walter Skaggs, Superintendent of St. Clairsville Schools said. "The fact we’re able to purchase WiFi hotspots with this donation and get our kids access, that means everything to us."

Working through its member companies, OOGA donated masks, gowns, gloves, glasses and wipes to first responders and emergency management agencies across Southeast Ohio.

"So many people are hurting right now and facing tough times in one way or another," Mike Chadsey, director of public relations, said. "We put the call out to our membership for help, and because this is home for so many of our folks, they delivered. Our hope is that our donations quickly get to where they are needed the most and help in some small way."

The equipment will be used by various local agencies on the front lines to continue providing emergency services while keeping responders safe.

"We have enjoyed an ongoing partnership with the natural gas industry," Dave Ivan, director of the Belmont County Emergency Management Agency, said. "Because of that partnership they have recognized what are our needs are during these tough times and stepping up to meet those needs."