WEST MIDDLESEX — When the school year begins this fall, local students will receive some needed supplies and a West Middlesex graduate’s memory will be kept alive thanks to the nonprofit “Marla Makes A Difference.”

Melinda Pivarnik, mother of the late Marla Pivarnik and a member of “Marla Makes A Difference,” said the organization is on track to provide supplies to about 160 fourth, fifth and sixth graders at Oakview Elementary School in West Middlesex this fall.

The nonprofit organization was founded by the family and friends of Marla Pivarnik, a West Middlesex graduate who passed away at age 22 in 2013 due to medications accidentally prescribed by two separate physicians.

Prior to her passing, Marla had received her honors degree in psychology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and planned to pursue her master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh.

As someone who loved learning, Marla always looked forward to the beginning of school each fall and enjoyed shopping for school supplies.

That’s why, to honor Marla’s memory, her family and friends devoted “Marla Makes A Difference” to providing school supplies to local students — starting with West Middlesex Area School District, although there have been a few donations to other schools in the past.

The distributions are also organized so that students can pick and choose kinds of supplies and colors they like — allowing the students to go “shopping,” Melinda said.

For this year, Melinda said the organization will continue focusing on donationing at Oakview Elementary School in West Middlesex, although an exact date for the distribution has not been set.

However, she added the nonprofit was open to donations at grades at other school districts if there was a need.

To raise funds toward the supplies, Nancy’s Middlesex Tavern in West Middlesex hosted a cornhole tournament on July 16. Aside from cornhole, the event also had about 15 baskets provided by local businesses that were raffled off.

The event raised about $1,000, but some rainfall and a cornhole tournament elsewhere in Mercer County on the same date may have affected possible attendance, so Melinda said organizers are considering another cornhole tournament in the fall.

Other fundraisers included a spaghetti dinner at the Kedron Masonic Lodge in West Middlesex. The idea started prior to the COVID-19 pandemic with Marla’s father Michael Pivarnik, who mentioned it to a coworker at Lowe’s, who was a lodge member.

Officials at the Kedron Masonic Lodge were open to the idea, and despite being delayed a couple years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the spaghetti dinner finally got underway in April.

There were baked goods, Italian music and a 50/50 raffle, with local couple Jule and Bonnie Marche providing and preparing the food, along with some other volunteers. The event received a positive response and officials are considering another spaghetti dinner in the future, Melinda said.

“The spaghetti dinner went very well, and the food was so delicious,” Melinda said.

The Primary Health Foundation also donated $200, while Jordan Wooley, a former coworker of Melinda’s, did the designs featured on the notebooks.

Since “Marla Makes A Difference” has its official 501c3 nonprofit status, Melinda said organization officials are also considering reaching out to businesses and corporations in the future about possible donations, since those donations toward 501c3’s are considered tax-deductible.

But along with donations to the three Oakview Elementary School grades, Melinda said school librarian and Marla’s former teacher Gaylynn Kuncio also arranges lists for classrooms where the teachers may need supplies, such as post-it notes or markers.

Although the notebooks are often used by the students for journaling — one of Marla’s favorite activities — Melinda said she often receives “thank you’s” written by the students on the notebooks’ pages, which are sent to her by the teachers.

“They’ll draw pictures of butterflies because Marla liked butterflies, and even if kids see me out somewhere, they’ll say ‘hi’ and ask me about Marla,” Melinda said.

For more information or to make a donation, send an email to Marlamakesadifference@gmail.com. People can also reach out if they know if individual families that may need help with school supplies.

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Like David L. Dye on Facebook or email him at ddye@sharonherald.com.

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