Bridging the Digital Divide in Appalachia, And Granting Christmas Wishes

Bridging the Digital Divide in Appalachia, And Granting Christmas Wishes

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.
 

#CoatsforAmericans: Keeping Appalachian Children Warm

#CoatsforAmericans: Keeping Appalachian Children Warm

“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.

Home Repair 2016 Season in West Virginia Begins Now

Home Repair 2016 Season in West Virginia Begins Now

This week begins the home repair season for Big Creek People in Action (BCPIA) in McDowell County, West Virginia.

Americans Helping Americans® has recently sent seed funding to BCPIA towards the initial purchase of the building supplies they would need such as lumber, drywall, paint, roofing materials and more. But the need is great, and we are hoping to send $10,000 in the coming weeks.

Beginning March 5, and continuing into October, 25 groups of volunteers from colleges and universities such as the University of Notre Dame, the University of Richmond, Emory & Henry College, Ryder University, Mars Hill College, Centre College as well as numerous church groups will descend into the tiny community of War for a week at time doing repairs for homeowners in need.

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An estimated 350 people will be volunteering this year to work on about 40 homes benefiting more than 200 people.

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BCPIA co-executive director Marsha Timpson said the average cost of repairs to a house is between $500 and $700 with on some occasions allocating up to $3,000 for a single job.

“We do not necessarily limit what can be spent on one home,” Timpson said. “We try to complete any projects to correct health and safety hazards on a home, dependent on volunteers and funding. Sometimes, we may not do every project that a homeowner wants so that we can serve other people that need the services also. We have the lowest quality of housing in the state, so the need is tremendous.”

She also explained that in addition to giving of their time, the volunteers also contribute for their own lodging and supplies — $250 per person per week for church groups and $25 per person per night for college groups.

“The supply budget really varies with each group and what they can come up with,” she said. “It can be anywhere from $200 to $2,000.”

Timpson said some groups, especially the college groups, bring plenty of volunteers – as many as two dozen or so – but not enough funds to keep all the members of the group busy. Funding from Americans Helping Americans® helps to supplement the cost for materials and alleviate the problem of someone having a half-finished bathroom for several weeks while waiting for another group to come in to finish the project.

BCPIA headquarters is located in a former high school with the third floor dedicated to dormitories where the volunteers stay during their week there.

“Much of this fee goes toward the upkeep of the dormitories,” Timpson said. “There is a tremendous amount of laundry and cleaning to do when the groups are here. The majority of them cook their own meals, but sometimes there is a group that asks that we cook the evening meal for them. They pay us $10 to $12 per person for this meal.”

Some of the projects identified by BCPIA that they will be working on this season are:

  • a house in Welch with five 5 adults, 3 who are disabled, and 2 children, 1 of whom is disabled. BCPIA will be installing sheetrock in a bedroom and painting the walls;
  • a house in Warriormines with 2 adults and 2 children, 1 of the adults and 1 of the children are disabled. BCPIA will be installing sheetrock in the home and doing repairs on some floors; and,
  • replacing a bathroom floor at a home in Johns Branch lived in by two disabled adults and four children.

Even averaging repairing 40 homes each year still leaves many remaining on a waiting list of at least 100 more, according to Timpson.

Those whose homes have been repaired are grateful for the assistance.

“I want to say thank you to Big Creek People In Action and Sidwell Friends for all their hard work. You have truly been a blessing. We are very pleased with how everything looks. You have done a wonderful job. Greatly appreciated the young people and the respect they showed by my husband and I. We were blessed to have been able to get to know these people, so a BIG thank you.”

“I greatly appreciate the ramp you all built for me. You really did a great job. Everyone was really great. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

”I want to thank the Big Creek People In Action for sending the Christ United Methodist Church people from Yorkana, Pennsylvania to my house in Berwind, West Virginia. They put shingles on my roof and built me a whole new porch so I will be able to take my husband outside. My husband had a massive stroke and a aneurism in December, 2010, which left him paralyzed on his left side. I am so pleased with the work they did, they were all so nice and sweet and friendly. I can’t begin to say how much I appreciate these good people. I hope the Lord Blesses each and every one of them as much as he has Blessed us. Once again, thanks for all the help.”

And on behalf of the thousands supporters of Americans Helping Americans® who have new roofs, floors and handicap ramps, and the hundreds more who will receive assistance this year, we thank you for making it possible.

Putting Youth and Adults on the Right Path

Putting Youth and Adults on the Right Path

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.

 

Providing Warmth for a Family Down on Their Luck

Providing Warmth for a Family Down on Their Luck

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.