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Summer is here, and for many high school and college age students, part of their vacation is spent helping needy homeowners in Appalachia by volunteering to work during the sweltering months of June, July and August repairing homes. The nails they hammer, the paint they roll, the wooden floor planks they cut to size, the roof shingles they staple on…are provided by you. Thanks!

Generally, working in groups of two dozen or so organized by their school or church groups, the young people spread out to West Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky, working with our partner organizations, to assist in the renovations of homes in need of repair, but with the homeowner having no means to pay to fix leaking roofs, sagging porches or to build a handicap ramp.

To make this happen requires partnership – the grassroots organizations who select and vet the recipients, who must own the home; the dedicated volunteers giving of their time and efforts; Americans Helping Americans® which provides grant funding for the purchase of materials such as shingles, drywall and lumber; and, of course, you, who make that funding available.

None of us could do it alone, it takes all of us with a common mission to transform unsafe and unliveable housing, with possibly even life-threating deficiencies – such as no way for residents to exit in case of a fire or structural collapse – into a home the owner can be proud of.

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.

Tom isn’t yet into his teenage years but, being homeless without strong parental authority, he was already on the fringes of gang activity. But thanks to Americans Helping Americans® partner L.A.M.P. Ministries in Gainesville, Georgia, Tom is on the right path today.

Before he was able to get into any serious trouble, he entered L.A.M.P.’s youth delinquency prevention/intervention program and, according to Executive Director Mary Mauricio, he has already made major changes.

“He is not hanging out with gang members,” says Mary. “He has had no new offenses since starting the program.” On top of that, his school attendance and grades are better

And we couldn’t be more pleased to hear this from Mary:

“Tom’s Juvenile Justice probation officer says this program is the best thing that’s ever happened to Tom and the other young people in his caseload who participate.”

And we couldn’t help but share this wonderful news with you, supporters of Americans Helping Americans®, who played such an important role in showing him that it is not gang members who truly care about him, but people like you.

 

Nearly one in five of the 300 elementary aged children in area schools served by Americans Helping Americans® partner Big Creek People in Action (BCPIA) in War, West Virginia, benefits from its “Extra Cool Afterschool” program.

During any given week there will be around 20 children who will be picked up at the school by BCPIA staff and brought to the state-licensed afterschool program where they receive one-on-one tutoring to ensure they understand the concepts (such as multiplying and dividing fractions) that they were taught in class that day, as well as getting to enjoy some fun learning activities.

But before they are driven home in the BCPIA van in the early evening, they are also given a filling, nutritious meal to ensure they will not be going to be hungry.

For many, such as young “Denny” who only needed a small incentive such as a piece of candy, it was all that was necessary to ensure he did his homework and who now excels in quizzes and tests at school, we were told by a BCPIA afterschool teacher recently.

And for us at Americans Helping Americans® we are proud to be able to assist in providing that little boost that makes a huge difference in the lives of young boys and girls – even if they are too young to realize it themselves right now.

Imagine going to school and not being able to read what the teacher is writing on the blackboard – even while sitting on the front row – because you know you need glasses, but your parents can’t afford to buy a pair.

Or perhaps being a senior or veteran who could otherwise drive themselves to run errands, but for the lack of a pair of glasses.

In Rogersville, Tennessee, thanks to a grant from Americans Helping Americans® to our partner there, Of One Accord, soon 80 children and senior citizens won’t have to strain their eyes to try to see clearly.

Through its eye care program, Of One Accord partners with a local optometrist for discounted prices for exams and regular glasses for children and even bifocals for senior citizens who need them.

It’s a sight we here at Americans Helping Americans® just love to see.

While spring is just around the corner, this past harsh winter in northeastern Georgia with its record-setting frigid temperatures and snow and ice storms won’t long be forgotten.

In February, we heard from our partner there, Caring Hands Ministries, that they were experiencing “the worst snow storm in many years” and Executive Director Ann Fleming reported how that during this particularly rough winter how the Americans Helping Americans® utility assistance program made all the difference for hundreds of their clients who otherwise would’ve gone without heat and electricity.

And more than just providing warmth and comfort, we learned that our utility assistance grant funding, made possible through your generous contributions, literally saved lives.

“Today,” Ann told us recently, “you are helping get gas for an elderly couple who have taken in their son and his family, including two young boys” and another who was struggling to pay their utility bills after a medical emergency.

Both families would typically have enough money to pay their utility bill for what would’ve been normal usage for a winter in Georgia.

But this winter is not normal,” Ann informed us. “Americans Helping Americans® and your donors are making such a huge difference here. Please tell the folks that help you ‘thank you for the help and for the hope.’”

We are proud to be able to oblige.

“Sam” lives alone in his home in Bean Station, Tennessee on a fixed income and the deck and steps to his front and side door were unstable and unsafe and he doesn’t have the resources to hire someone to do the repairs.

In addition, Sam has health issues and while he may at one time been able to make the necessary repairs to his home himself, that time has passed.

For Sam, trying to get in and out of his house alone was an accident just waiting to happen.

But thanks to you, supporters of Americans Helping Americans®, and our partner in Jefferson City, Tennessee, Appalachian Outreach, it’s a potential accident that has now been prevented.

Appalachian Outreach executive director Jean-Ann Washam told us that last fall, through their home repair program funded in part with a grant from Americans Helping Americans®, the necessary repairs to the steps and front porch have been done, so that come spring he will be able to enjoy the beautiful Tennessee evenings just rockin’ away on that porch.

“The goal of our program is to make homes safer for the homeowners so they can continue to live in their homes,” Jean-Ann told us. “We would not have been able to do this repair this year without the support from Americans Helping Americans®.”

And we would not have been able to provide that support without you.

Four young children and their baby brother were living in an unheated basement with no electricity or running water with their mother, struggling with an illness, and their father who is disabled.

When Americans Helping Americans® partner Caring Hands Ministries in Cleveland, Georgia and its executive director Ann Fleming heard of their plight, they took action.

“These are the sweetest children, and very polite,” Ann told us, this despite the fact that their shoes and clothes had been ruined in bad weather.

Funding from Americans Helping Americans®  which supports Caring Hands’ Neighbors Helping Neighbors program, helped pay for a safe place for them to stay – a motel as no shelter space was available – and provided them with food pantry assistance so they would have something to eat for the first time in two days. The children were also provided with new shoes and winter coats.

Thanks to your support of Americans Helping Americans® and our partnership with Caring Hands, our efforts together has resulted in work which the mother described with one word – “lifesaving.”

“I just prayed and prayed and called everyone, even if I couldn’t see them helping – and then all this happened,” the mother told Ann. “We will be okay.”

Ann cited the family’s story as just one example of “so much of what Americans Helping Americans® has helped us to do” and explained how this sad tale with a happy ending has resulted in much more good work in her community.

“Because we were able to help, thanks to Americans Helping Americans®, we were able to share their story with caring people who have helped further with more motel time and clothes and more food,” she said.

The mother was grateful for all the assistance for the family and that her prayers had been answered – but she had one more request of Ann.

“You find those people who fixed it so you could help and you tell them ‘thank you’ and you keep on telling them.”

Ann, who was more than happy to oblige, passed along her thanks to Americans Helping Americans® and today we pass that thanks on to you – our supporters who are the ones who are actually most deserving of her gratitude.

Without you, who knows what this family would’ve done with no other place to turn. And, thanks to you, we don’t have to wonder.

“Denny,” says Big Creek People in Action Extra Cool Afterschool program teacher Maria Frazier, is a fourth-grader who is “a joy to teach and always has a smile on his face.”

But he has had his ups and downs when it came to the quality of his school work. Denny is one of four children from “a decent but poor family” and it’s hard for his parents to give each of them the individual encouragement they need, Maria told us.

Denny in particular had trouble with spelling when he first entered the afterschool program, but with that one-on-one attention he went from failing tests to making perfect scores.

“We made a big deal over it and took his picture with his test and put it on the wall,” she said. “He was so proud.”

However, after that success, he began to show up saying he didn’t have any homework (which Maria knew was not true). So Maria had an idea – she began offering him a small prize or piece of candy when he would bring in his homework.

“Believe it or not, this worked!” Maria said. “Now Denny’s grades have improved and he usually has his homework out and ready before I even ask. Small things like this make my job rewarding.”

At Americans Helping Americans®, we believe it’s the small things such as finding an innovative way to provide youngsters with that tiny bit of encouragement to help them succeed that makes for much bigger and better things – and that makes our job so rewarding as well.

Thanks to your support, we are able to provide assistance to BCPIA’s Extra Cool Afterschool program and help to being there for “Denny” and so many others just like him.

On the morning of Wednesday, December 31, the last day of 2014, the low temperature in Cleveland, Georgia, where our partner Caring Hands Ministries is located was 29 degrees.

The forecast for the first week in January 2015 there also calls for low temperatures below freezing.

Imagine being a parent with young children, a senior citizen on a fixed income, or a disabled veteran, waking up on that subfreezing morning in a house with no heat or electricity.

Can you put yourself in the place of a person having to choose between putting food on their table or paying their rent so they don’t get evicted from their home in the middle of winter with no place to turn?

Between those two dire choices, paying a utility bill is a distant third.

But thanks you in 2014, we at Americans Helping Americans® were able to keep the lights on and the furnace running for hundreds of households in the most poverty-stricken regions of West Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia and Kentucky through our emergency utility assistance program.

Make your donation in support of our programs today!In addition to helping prevent those at risk from literally freezing to death in their own homes, keeping the power on in a house means a family can enjoy a warm meal and use portable electric heaters and electric blankets to keep them toasty warm inside no matter the temperature outside.

This past fall, we heard from Caring Hands Ministries executive director Ann Fleming who told us that our emergency utilities assistance funding kept the electricity on for one of their clients, suffering from cancer, who needs a respirator to survive and no electricity would mean no oxygen.

“That could have ended his life in hours,” Fleming told us.

But thanks to you, Fleming has saved a text on her phone that she received from the client after his overdue electric bill was paid before the company disconnected his service.

“We’re going to be all right now. We’re going to make it.”

On behalf of Brian, and hundreds of other households throughout the poorest regions of our country, we say thank you for helping them “make it” through another cold Appalachian winter.

Won’t you help make it a warm and happy new year for your fellow Americans so that they won’t have to make that terrible choice between food, shelter or heat or even life and death?  Please give today…