The “digital divide” is the difference between the “haves” and the “have nots” – those children who have computers and broadband access at home, and those who do not. Computers and broadband internet access at home and is a matter of concern of educators who more and more are requiring students have internet access to be able to do their homework, and parents who simply cannot afford it.

It’s also a concern to us here at Americans Helping Americans®.

To remedy that situation in Beattyville, Kentucky Americans HelpingAmericans® has launched a pilot project in partnership with Beattyville Elementary School and AT&T to help bridge the digital divide which exists in the community.

Over the Christmas holiday, and in many cases on Christmas day, about two dozen students unwrapped a big box containing a brand-new HP 20 All-in-One PC. The school system is licensed to install grade appropriate educational software to compliment what is taught in the classroom and AT&T has agreed to provide high-speed internet for less than $20 per month based on the family’s income.

Sherry Lanham, director of the Lee County Family Resource Center located in the school, oversees the program and selected only responsible parents who are available to monitor their children when they are using the computer at home.

For these fortunate two dozen children and their parents who could never afford to purchase a computer on their own, no matter how basic or relatively inexpensive, it was a Christmas they will never forget.

Among them was Crystal, an honor roll student whose parents both work and try to provide for her. The are supportive of her attending every school event and give back to their community through volunteer work, but are often overlooked because they never ask for anything.

“The parents and children were both in shock and disbelief that they were receiving such a gift,” reported Sherry.

Sisters Helen and Anna haven’t had it easy since their father was killed while serving in the armed forces in Iraq and their mother lost her job of 10 years after the company she was working for closed its doors.

“Christmas was a very difficult time,” commented Sherry, but the new computer brought a bit of joy into their life. “The girls loved the computer and as you can see by their smiles they are very happy.”

And then there’s Taylor, an honor roll student who became very close to his grandfather after his father left him and his mother when he was only a baby. However, despite being an excellent student and always remains positive, the unexpected sudden death of his grandfather hit him very hard.

“His one wish on his Christmas list was a computer,” said Sherry. “So when the mom told me about this I made sure he received one. His mom said this gift made their Christmas.”

Bridging the digital divide and providing enhanced educational opportunities for bright children eager to learn was only made possible through the compassion and generosity of people like you – the supporters of Americans Helping Americans®. The fact that it also granted Christmas wishes is icing on the cake.
 

In 2016, 1,371 individuals in Georgia and Kentucky benefited from Americans Helping Americans® emergency utility assistance program.

Not only did it mean hundreds of senior citizens and families with young children down on their luck were able to stay warm in their home on the coldest days of winter without have to choose whether to pay their electric bill or put food on the table, it also meant that they would be able to continue to live in their homes.

What we have learned working with our partners over the years is that our emergency utility assistance program actually prevents homelessness.

They have told us of the critical importance of the program by explaining that even if the rent is paid in full, landlords will evict tenants who have their utilities cut off fearing that pipes on their properties could freeze and burst in unheated apartments, as well as the belief that if they could not pay their electric bill that month, they may not be able to pay their rent the next.

We have even also been informed that parents could lose temporary custody of their children as state human services agencies will not allow children to remain in a home without utilities, and will take them and put them in foster care until the situation is remedied.

For most Americans, the thought of losing their home, or worse, their children, because of an unpaid electric bill – frequently less than $100 – is unimaginable.

But it happens.

However, thanks to people like you, hundreds last year and thousands more over the past decade not only have been able to keep warm in winter, but had those fears eliminated as well.

Such is the case with Ellen.

For example last winter we heard Ellen’s tale of woe when Joe, her four-legged companion and best friend, got sick and she chose to take her dog to the vet and then couldn’t pay her power bill.

But thanks to emergency utility grant assistance provided by Americans Helping Americans® to our partner in Gainesville, Georgia, Caring Hands Ministries, she and her dog were saved from certain eviction.

Ellen knows what would’ve happened if she could not come up with the $37 to pay her bill in full.

“They’d put me out and stick me in a home someplace with my diabetes and my breathing,” she told us. “I know what would happen to Joe too – a sick old dog, they’d kill him. He would never be adopted.

“But me and Joe we need each other,” Ellen added. “He wakes me up mornings and he is the reason I do get up.

“You saved two lives when you helped me with that power bill,” she said. “Somebody does care ‘bout an old woman and her dog.”

And Ellen, and her best friend, Joe, are just one example of how people like you who support Americans Helping Americans® makes a difference in the lives of many less fortunate every single day.

2016 has been a year to remember! Because of friends like you, so many smiled with joy.

  • In West Virginia, 412 veterans received food support; 85 children attended a summer enrichment camp; 34 children attended an afterschool program where they received one-on-one tutoring; and more.
  • In Georgia, 217 were warmed with our utility assistance program; 414 benefited from a food bank support program; 47 youth learned at a summer enrichment camp; and more.
  • In Tennessee, 14,459 meals were delivered to hungry children living in rural areas while school was out for the summer; 2,240 individuals benefited from food bank support and the “Neighborly Meals” program for the elderly and disabled, and more.
  • In Kentucky, 456 children received new pairs of shoes through our Barefeet Program; 23 youth participated in a Youth Leadership Training Program, and more.
  • Throughout Appalachia, 15,714 children and adults benefited from in-kind donations including backpacks filled with school supplies, winter coats and accessories, blankets, and holiday and summer food distributions.

Watch the video to see all this, and more, that you have helped make possible.

“Thank you for my coat. It is very warm,” says young Daniel, who added a drawing himself wearing a big, puffy coat and the words “happy and warm.”

“Thank you for my coat. It will be very warm for school,” reported “Carlos T.”

“Thank you for the warm coat. It was very nice of you to give me one,” little Kaleigh told us.

And as for Thalia, she sent us a self-portrait also wearing a big, puffy coat with a big smile on her face and one word – “coat.”

These children were all grateful for coats provided to them by Americans Helping Americans® Coats for Americans program last year.

This year, we are planning on shipping out 1,500 coats to children in Appalachian counties in Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia where winter is fast approaching.

In fact, as of December 1 the weather forecast in War, West Virginia where Americans Helping Americans® partner Big Creek People in Action(BCPIA) is located, calls for showers and a low temperature of 22 degrees.

That’s cold!

Imagine being a child standing at a bus stop waiting to be picked up to go to school in a threadbare, hand-me-down coat – or perhaps even no coat at all.

In Beattyville, Kentucky where our partner there, the Lee County Family Resource Center is located in the town’s elementary school and serves hundreds of students, the conditions for that day are not predicted to be much better – showers with a low temperature of 25 degrees.

And these forecasts are predicted actual temperatures – not including wind chill factors.

Also because we realize that there are adults, some homeless living in the woods and under bridges, also who need to be warm in winter we will be providing our partners with 425 adult size winter coats.

As we were told by BCPIA co-executive director Marsha Timpson who was gratified to be able to provide the children and adults BCPCIA serves after a coat distribution:

We recently had a free giveaway and were able to offer coats, shoes and hats. I am sure many people would not think of this as a big thing – but it is a big thing in our community.

This was a very harsh winter for people across our nation this year and we struggled through some rough weather conditions here. To know that we were able to offer a warm coat to someone in need was especially gratifying during a winter such as this one.

At Americans Helping Americans® we understand the great need for preventative dental care for children, beginning when they are able to hold a toothbrush and brush their teeth themselves.

In Appalachia, that’s too often not the case.

Now, we are proud to announce that we will be implementing our “Mighty Molars” program this fall, providing children and youth with dental kits, complete with toothbrushes, a three-month supply of toothpaste and dental floss picks to thousands of children throughout Appalachia in the coming year.

The statistics regarding oral health in Appalachia are staggering: in Kentucky, almost half of children ages 2 to 4 years old already have untreated cavities caused by drinking large quantities of sugary soft drinks and no preventative dental care.

In October, the Lexington, KY Herald-Leader newspaper reported that “Half of Eastern Kentucky children have untreated tooth decay,” and the problem is getting worse, not better.

In Eastern Kentucky, 53 percent of the third and sixth graders examined in 2016 had at least one untreated cavity amounting to about 15,100 children in immediate need of a filling.mighty-molar-kit-29-copy

And barely half of Kentucky children entering a public kindergarten during the 2014-15 school year had a documented dental screening or exam, although that’s supposed to be a requirement for admission.

Kentucky also has the highest proportion of adults under 65 without teeth because they did not learn good dental hygiene and develop good dental habits beginning with when they were children and now they are paying the price.

At Americans Helping Americans® we know it doesn’t have to be that way and that’s why we initiated our Mighty Molars program which is designed to instill good dental practices in the youngest of children so that six decades from now they will still have all of their teeth.

Our first partner in the program will be the Lee Family Resource Center, located in the Beattyville Elementary School, in Lee County, Kentucky. The town of Beattyville has been dubbed by The New York Times as one of the “hardest” places to live in the country, while the county is defined as one of 84 out of 420 counties in Appalachia as “distressed” by Appalachian Regional Commission.

For the vast majority of parents in the U.S., tooth brushes, toothpaste and regular dental checkups are a basic necessity for their children – but they can afford it. For the parents of the thousands of children in Appalachia who have never been to a dentist, rarely if ever brush their teeth and drink sugary sodas on a daily basis, dental care is not a “basic necessity” but an “unaffordable luxury” when rent and utilities have to be paid and food put on the table.

We will be providing hundreds of “Mighty Molar” kits to the Family Resource Center, as well as to the our long-time partner in McDowell County, West Virginia, which operates an after-school program throughout the year and camps when school is out for the summer.

In fact, West Virginia fares no better than Kentucky as having the highest proportion of adults over 65 without teeth, as well having one of the lowest percentages of adults who visit a dentist at least once a year.

And other statistics are just as disturbing, with two-thirds of children having cavities by age 8, and by the same age, only 37 percent have received protective sealants. In addition, a third- of 15-year-olds have untreated decay.

For years, we have having been providing assistance to senior citizens who have already lost their teeth by working with our partners in Appalachia and compassionate dentists who charge deeply discounted prices for dentures.

Now we are pleased that we be able to offer preventative care for the children of Appalachia in our mission to help them keep their teeth for their lifetime by building a sound foundation of tooth care today.

At Americans Helping Americans® we understand the great need for preventative dental care for children, beginning when they are able to hold a toothbrush and brush their teeth themselves.

In Appalachia, that’s too often not the case.

Now, we are proud to announce that we will be implementing a ‘Smiles’ program, providing children and youth with dental kits, complete with toothbrushes, a three-month supply of toothpaste and dental floss picks to thousands of children throughout Appalachia in the coming year.

The statistics regarding oral health in Appalachia are staggering: in Kentucky, almost half of children ages 2 to 4 years old already have untreated cavities caused by drinking large quantities of sugary soft drinks and no preventative dental care.

Kentucky also has the highest proportion of adults under 65 without teeth.

West Virginia fares no better as having the highest proportion of adults over 65 without teeth, as well having one of the lowest percentages of adults who visit a dentist at least once a year.

And other statistics are just as disturbing, with two-thirds of children having cavities by age 8, and by the same age, only 37 percent have received protective sealants. In addition, a third- of 15-year-olds have untreated decay.

For years, we have having been providing assistance to senior citizens who have already lost their teeth by working with our partners in Appalachia and compassionate dentists who charge deeply discounted prices for dentures.

Now we are pleased that we be able to offer preventative care for the children of Appalachia in our mission to help them keep their teeth for their lifetime by building a sound foundation of tooth care today.

 

 

For want of a pencil, the boy was unable take notes in class. For want of notes, the boy didn’t understand the lesson and couldn’t do his homework. For want of homework, he received a failing grade. For want a passing grade, the boy felt a failure and gave up on school.

All for the want of a pencil.

With acknowledgement to Benjamin Franklin who included the original proverb in his Poor Richard’s Almanac, the message is as true today as it was in the 1700s.

For a child, the seemingly smallest of things – such as the lack of a pencil and paper to be able to do their school work – is not insignificant, it can have a lasting impact on their life.

For thousands of children in Appalachia, it is tragic that they will go through a similar heartbreaking experience on their first day of school when they arrive in class without the supplies they need to be able to do their schoolwork.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Right now, we are working to distribute a total of 1,250 backpacks filled to the brim with school supplies for elementary school children and 500 junior high students so they are ready, willing, and ABLE to do their classwork on the very first day of the new school year.

 

One day a few years back, Sheldon Livesay, founder and executive director of Americans Helping Americans® partner Of One Accord in Rogersville, Tennessee had a brilliant idea.

Livesay, a long-time partner of Americans Helping Americans®, was well aware that hundreds, if not thousands of children would go hungry again the next summer when school was out if he didn’t come up with an answer.

In Hancock and Hawkins counties served by Of One Accord in northeast Tennessee there is a very high percentage of school-age children who are on free and reduced lunch programs and can be assured of receiving a healthy, filling lunch on weekdays throughout the school year.

But what about in the summer?

While it’s relatively easy in metro and suburban areas to establish summer lunch programs at community centers children in the neighborhood can walk to, that’s not possible for children who live in rural areas where their only option would be to walk miles on two-lane dangerous highways.

Sheldon’s solution?

To purchase a used school bus, but not to bring the children to lunch – but to bring lunch to the children.

So, after identifying the best bus he could acquire from a local school system at the best possible price he set about converting it into a sort of rolling cafeteria on wheels – seats were refitted to face each other with a table in the middle, and space was dedicated to carry the hundreds of meals that would be delivered each weekday.

Thus, Of One Accord’s “Lunch Box Bus” was born.

The program was so successful that not long after that he acquired a second bus and by 2014 two buses were each making 10 stops and each serving 200 children each day in the communities of Rogersville and Church Hill. In 2015, the numbers jumped to over18 stops with over 13,500 meals served.

In a typical week, the children will receive hot meals of what practically all children love for lunch – hot dogs, pizza, hamburgers – along with fruit and cold vegetables four days a week, and a cold meal, perhaps a bologna sandwich, once a week.

“In our area of Appalachia, we see a change where children are having to skip meals simply because the cost of living compared to incomes of families doesn’t allow parents to provide regular meals to their children,” says Sheldon.

“Unfortunately, we often hear, ‘This is the first meal I’ve had since yesterday.’”

Americans Helping Americans® funding helps the buses roll through the miles of Tennessee roads to reach hungry children.

Gary was just 2-years-old when his mother broke his leg – for the second time.

That’s all it took for the state of Georgia to give Gary’s father permanent custody of his young son.

Americans Helping Americans® partner Ann Fleming, executive director of Caring Hands Ministries in Cleveland, Georgia, will never forget the first time she met Gary.

“He was a frail, sad-looking boy the first time he came to the community Christmas dinner,” Ann told us. “He didn’t eat well and was very shy.”

Gary eventually began to put his faith in Ann, and when he was in junior high he “discovered” Facebook and would message her when he was having a particularly bad day.

While Gary survived that traumatic time in his life, the next two years were very rough on him. He was expelled from school and got in trouble with the law.

But despite those challenges, Ann never gave up on Gary who would still turn up at Caring Hands from time to time to help out.

And throughout all those years, Americans Helping Americans® was able to provide Gary with a little extra assistance to be able to be prepared for class on the first day of school with a backpack filled with supplies and warm in the winter with a heavy coat to wear while waiting at the bus stop on a frigid morning.

Gary started to do well in school and made the wrestling team even though he was its smallest and weakest member.

Through hard work and determination to make something of himself, along with encouragement and support from Ann, this year Gary is a state wrestling champion, is set to graduate with honors, and just signed on for a full scholarship a local college.

“Many thanks to Americans Helping Americans® for providing him with the means to help him stay connected.”