For many children in Appalachia, the summer break is not a fun-filled vacation with trips to Disneyland and hanging out with friends at the local swimming pool every day.
For too many, it’s weeks of not getting the nutritious meals they receive when school is in session, and boredom with nothing to do on the long summer days, and perhaps even loneliness and isolation in their rural home with no opportunity to play with school friends.
But thanks to Americans Helping Americans® partners in Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee and elsewhere there were hundreds of children for whom this summer was a different story.
These children attended free summer camps held by our partners, and supported by Americans Helping Americans®, so they didn’t have to worry about when their next meal would be, or how they would occupy their time all day.
They played educational games (having fun and learning without even realizing it) so that what they learned in the classroom last spring would not be forgotten by the time fall rolls around. They went on field trips to places they would never be able to visit without the camps.
But perhaps most importantly, they made new friends, learned from mentors and role models that there are adults who care deeply about their well-being, and forged memories that will last a lifetime.
Americans Helping Americans® supports gardening programs in Appalachia so that families with even just a small plot of land for a garden can make the best use of what they have.
Of course, the direct benefit is the fresh fruits and vegetables they are able to enjoy all summer long plucked right from their own backyard, but the sense of pride and accomplishment, especially among children, cannot be understated.
However, as August draws to a close and the gardening season is winding down, that doesn’t mean they will no longer be able to enjoy the fruits and vegetables of their labors.
Many of the gardening programs, such as the one operated by Cumberland Mountain Outreach in Beattyville, Kentucky includes a component which teaches participants how to properly can vegetables and make jams and jellies, thereby preserving their bounty long into the fall and winter months.
In fact, in Beattyville, the University of Kentucky Agriculture Extension Office even provides access to a certified commercial grade kitchen for those who might wish to sell their products at a farmers market to earn a little extra income, if they can bear to part with the delicious bounty they produced.
Before the Fourth of July, many parents in Rogersville, Tennessee were already thinking about the upcoming school year. Not that they would be glad to have their kids back in class and no longer underfoot at home, but worrying how they would outfit them for school, according to Americans Helping Americans® partner there, Sheldon Livesay of Of One Accord.
“Since the first of July, families began coming to our front desk or office letting us know they were under crisis conditions this summer and really needed help with school supplies,” Sheldon told us. That prompted him to plan what he called a “Back to School Bash” on Saturday, August 8, to provide clients, their families and children with the supplies they would need to be prepared on the very first day of school. “We are, in our opinion, seeing greater needs in low income Appalachia families than ever before,” said Sheldon, who incorporated Of One Accord in 1990.
But Sheldon wanted to do much more that simply distribute much-needed school supplies – he wanted it to be a “bash” in the truest sense of the word. And that it was.
“The event was not just promoted as a back-pack distribution, but a summer fun time to say thanks to those clients who with interact with all year,” he said. “Everyone that participated and those that attended chimed in saying this was a great event and they greatly and deeply thankful to Americans Helping Americans® for your help and investments in Appalachia,” Sheldon told us.
And we are greatly and deeply thankful to you, generous supporters of Americans Helping Americans®, who made the “Back to School Bash” possible. We are also grateful to Sheldon for providing us with some wonderful photographs of the event, which we are happy to be able to share with you.
“These photos don’t properly convey the facts when looking at the families as a whole,” Sheldon says. “It is very evident both from the cars they arrive in to the clothing they wear, that they are in financial struggle every day.” That may be so, but what these photos do convey is the joy, pride and hope in the hearts of these young people who know that there are Americans helping Americans across the country who truly care about them, and are willing to invest in their future.
Watch our slideshow below to see what you helped make possible!
Imagine living in house – the place you and your family call home – with a roof that leaks, floors that sag or worse, and in a condition that can only be described as squalid.
Or perhaps the homeowner is elderly, possibly a veteran who has served our country with dignity and honor, but today cannot get in or out of their house without assistance due to a lack of a handicap ramp.
Then ask why?
When there is barely enough money to put food on the table, keep the lights on, and other more immediate, pressing needs such as medication, making repairs to their home – the only thing they own of any value – comes in at a distant last.
Throughout Appalachia, volunteers are giving up a week of their vacation thinking of, and working to help, strangers hundreds of miles from their home, in tandem with grassroots organizations located in hard-hit communities in McDowell County, West Virginia, and Hawkins and Jefferson counties in Tennessee.
These organizations, Big Creek People in Action, Of One Accord, and Appalachian Outreach, respectively, identify those homeowners most needing help with home repairs in the communities, and organize groups of volunteers who come in to do the work.
That’s where Americans Helping Americans® – and you – come in.
Together, we are able to supply the critical funding to purchase shingles for new roofs, lumber for ramps and flooring, drywall for interior repairs, and more. Without this funding, these homes might not get repaired…this month…or even this year.
This month, while those Americans helping Americans are hammering nails, painting walls, and making general repairs, we will tell you of the true, and dire need in Appalachia today.
And we at Americans Helping Americans® hope to be able to continue to do our part – with your assistance – to keep the hammers hammering, the shingles being placed and the paint flowing.
We will not be asking you to climb a ladder or work sweating outside all day, but we will ask you to pick up a pen and write a check, or simpler still, click on the donate button.
In the upcoming weeks, you will see that it’s not just about making a home repair – but something much more valuable, restoring respect and pride in ownership.
Spring has finally sprung and the sounds of birds chirping and bees buzzing can be heard throughout Appalachia.
But what is really music to our ears at Americans Helping Americans® is the sound of nails being hammered as roofs are being repaired, porches are being rebuilt and handicap ramps are being built so that the elderly and disabled are able to get in and out of their home on their own.
Each spring, the home repair season starts in communities in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia where Americans Helping Americans® provides financial grants to our partner organizations who organize volunteers to do much-needed repairs for homeowners in need.
So thanks to you dozens of homes will no longer have leaky roofs and residents will be able to enjoy the beautiful spring weather on their new, safe, front porch.
The Robert family in Laurel County, Kentucky has long been a familiar and popular one in the community, says Linda Gilreath, Executive Director of Come-Unity Cooperative Care.
For several years, Mr. Robert operated a successful mom-and-pop grocery store in their small part of the county. He didn’t make a fortune, but he was able to provide for his family and to keep overhead expenses low. His wife and children also worked in the store. It would be an understatement to say that the store had been a huge part of their lives.
But that was before the rise of franchise stores nearby, which took business away from this local grocery store and eventually forced Mr. Robert to close the store. After years of being self-sufficient, Mr. Robert now had to look for a job to support his family. His wife is now working at a local call center, but her income doesn’t come close to meeting their financial obligations and they have been forced to live on what savings they had.
This past winter was harsh throughout the country, particularly in the part of Kentucky where the Robert family lived, and when they couldn’t pay their electric bill – double what they expected – they received a disconnect notice.
When Mr. Robert went to the electric company to see what arrangements could be made for payment, it was suggested that he come see Linda at Come-Unity Cooperative Care.
“Fortunately, the funds from Americans Helping Americans® for utility assistance were available,” Linda told us.
And as for Mr. Robert, he was very grateful for the help and remains hopeful that their situation will improve soon.
We are more than glad to assist the Robert family and grateful to you that we were able to be there in their time of need.