Gene Krizek, the charismatic founder of Americans Helping Americans®, has earned a place in the hearts of thousands of Americans in need. We celebrate his 85th year by sharing with you a glimpse into his amazing life.
Growing up as a child of the Great Depression and witnessing the hardship all around him helped spur Gene on to a lifelong path of helping those less fortunate.
A former Congressional Administrative Assistant and a retired Foreign Service Officer, he began his distinguished career serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II. After the war he distinguished himself in the USAF reserves for 39 more years.
In turn he worked with both President Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy in the early 1960’s, first as the Director of White House Liaison with the State Department, then administering the 1962 National Conference on Bail and Criminal Justice.
Gene went on to earn a special commendation from President Gerald R. Ford in 1976 for his efforts in South East Asia. His work helped 130,000 refugees fleeing the communist regime make a new beginning in America. These refugees, known as boat people, risked drowning in the South China Sea in their attempts to escape to freedom in the West.
Ending his military service in 1985 with the rank of Colonel and earning the Legion of Merit award, Gene continued to give back even after retirement. Through Georgetown University, he joined efforts with Bob Geldof, the British musician behind the Band-Aid Trust concerts for African famine relief. His expertise helped ensure the best distribution of funds raised to help feed the millions of starving people in Ethiopia.
Always ready to do more and help more people, Gene went on to found Christian Relief Services Charities, with his wife Adeline as his first volunteer co-founder and board member, in 1985. Since founding its offshoot, Americans Helping Americans® in 1990, he has been honored in Appalachia for his work with the disadvantaged, and was named a “Guardian Angel of West Virginia”.
Gene’s zest for philanthropy has seen him support schools, hospitals, orphanages and self-help programs in Africa, Lithuania, and Haiti. And of course, right here at home Gene has contributed so much to breaking the cycle of poverty, including establishing affordable housing for the homeless.
Serving Grainger, Cocke, Jefferson and Hamblen counties, Tennessee – Appalachian Outreach strives to provide a wholistic community approach to service. Whether it is firewood for families who cannot afford to pay their heating bills, new roofs for dilapidated homes to protect them from the harsh weather conditions of the Appalachian region, or for emergency assistance for the area’s homeless population, Appalachian Outreach is there to help. To learn more about Appalachian Outreach’s programs, please visit http://web.cn.edu/ao/
Serving McDowell County, West Virginia –Big Creek People in Action assists the people of War and surrounding communities at every stage of their lives, whether as children through tutoring and educational assistance, adults through computer literacy and vocational training, or the elderly and disabled through home repairs and utilities assistance. To learn more about Big Creek People in Action’s programs, please visit http://www.bigcreekpeopleinaction.org/
Serving White, Hall, Lumpkin, and Dawson counties in northeast Georgia – Caring Hands ministry lives up to its name by providing short term and long term assistance to alleviate immediate, basic needs. Caring Hands puts those who come through their doors on the path to independence and self-sufficiency by addressing the needs of both the individual as well as the community as a whole. To learn more about Caring Hands Ministries’ programs, please visit http://www.caringhandsministries.com/
Serving Laurel County, Kentucky – Come-Unity helps those who oftentimes fall between the cracks of other aid programs by providing those in most need with supplemental food, dentures and eyeglasses, and even new bed sheets, linens, and furniture for those following a fire. To learn more about Come-Unity Cooperative Care programs, please visit http://www.come-unity.org/home
Serving Lee, Owsley, Wolfe, Estill, and Breathitt counties, Kentucky – Based in the heart of Appalachia, Cumberland Mountain Outreach operates a summer home repair program and also distributes donated resources such as furniture and appliances to those in need. Its goal is to bring those serving the home repair program and those being served closer together. To learn more about Cumberland Mountain Outreach programs, please visit http://www.cmoky.org/
Serving Hall, Gwinnet, Lumpkin, and Jackson counties, Georgia – L.A.M.P. Ministries provides the abused, homeless, angry and at-risk youth of northern Georgia with a source of new hope for the future. L.A.M.P. Offers counseling and case management services, emergency shelters with food, clothing, and other items, as well as referral services to connect young people with the help they need. To learn more about L.A.M.P. Ministries programs, please visit http://lampministryga.com/
Serving Bradley County, Tennessee – Ocoee Outreach works to reduce the dramatic effects of economic disparity in eastern Tennessee by connecting local churches to summer service opportunities such as building wheelchair ramps, distributing and sorting food for emergency pantries and working with area children. To learn more about Ocoee Outreach program, please visit http://ocoeeoutreach.org/
Serving Hancock and Hawkins counties, Tennessee – Of One Accord serves a large area with wide variety of needs in a way that ensures dignity and respect for the most vulnerable. Its central distribution centers provide food, clothing, and furniture to those who need it while its mobile children’s food programs, summer food program for children and year round home repair teams allow them to reach out into the community. To learn more about Of One Accord programs, please visit http://ofoneaccordministry.org/
Serving Mingo, Wayne, and Martin counties, West Virginia – Oftentimes, years of lack of access to proper dental care can leave residents of Appalachian with severely decayed teeth and painful gum disease. Frequently, the only solution is to remove most, if not all, of the rotten teeth, but the cost of dentures is prohibitively expensive. Christian Help, among other services, provides basic dental care and helps the people of West Virginia afford dentures, eyeglasses, and other needed services not covered by Medicare. To learn more about Christian Help programs, please visit http://www.christianhelpmingo.org/
Serving Prince William, Stafford, and Fairfax counties, Virginia – While northern Virginia may be a place of great economic prosperity, the affluence of the area only makes the cycle of poverty that much harder to break for so many. Arms Outstretched serve some of the most at-risk members of the community such as homeless veterans, teens, and seniors by providing meals, counseling, and clothing to them, as well as fellowship and hope. To learn more about Arms Outstretched programs, please visit http://armsoutstretchedministry.com/
An early decorative art of Appalachia was the hand-pieced quilt, a “necessary” craft once common to every remote household. In the Appalachian region, art was often the result of need and eventually quilting became an art. Ballad quilts combine two Appalachian art forms, oral ballads handed down through the generations and quilting.
Artist Phyllis Nichols Rowe’s hand-crafted Ballad Quilt is pictured to the right. Click on the quilt to view a detail image. Rowe spent several years designing and two years making the quilt, which uses scraps of cloth, braid lace and brightly colored embroidery thread to depict classic English ballads. Phyllis Nichols Rowe has been a generous supporter of Americans Helping Americans® since 1996.
Ballad quilt photo courtesy: Alfred Lease, Jr.
Apple Stack Cake
The “Dried Apple Stack Cake” is the most “mountain” of all cakes baked and served in Southern Appalachia. The story goes that James Harrod, one of Kentucky’s earlier pioneers and the founder of Harrodsburg, Kentucky, brought the stack cake recipe with him when he traveled the Wilderness Road to Kentucky.
In the mountains, weddings were celebrated with “in-fares” where people gathered to party, dance, and eat potluck food. Because wedding cakes were so expensive, neighbor cooks brought cake layers to donate to the bride’s family. The number of stack layers on her wedding cake often gauged the bride’s popularity. Along with weddings, the stack cake was served at family reunions, church suppers and other large gatherings.
Apple Stack Cake photo courtesy Adam Briner/Knoxville News Sentinel
|Kentucky Quilt TrailThe Kentucky Quilt Trail is a celebration of the region’s quilting heritage as well as its historic barns and architecture.
The Quilt Trail began in 2001 in Ohio when Donna Sue Groves installed a painted quilt design on her barn to honor her mother, a fifth generation Appalachian quilter. From that simple act, the project has spread to more than 2,000 colorfully painted quilt designs on barns and other structures in 24 states.
The photo to the right is the Compass Quilt Block on the Kentucky Quilt Trail in Menifee County, Kentucky.
Photo by Terri McAllister
|Tennessee Music BoxWhile the typical Appalachian Dulcimer with its graceful, teardrop curves may have been common in the mountainous regions of West Virginia, Virginia, and Kentucky; the farming communities of southern Middle Tennessee produced a similar instrument called the Tennessee Music Box. This form of music box found its grace in the sound it made rather than its outward appearance. While the reasons for their development are still in part a mystery, the instruments themselves speak of the importance of music in the everyday lives of Tennessee’s pioneers.
These folk instruments, made from materials at hand, are traditionally played laid flat across the musician’s lap and plucked similarly to a guitar. The music box echoes the old mountain love of stringed instruments like the guitar, violin and banjo and is one of America’s major contributions to the world of music and folk art.
|Clogging Clogging is a uniquely American dance from the southern Appalachian Mountains. It emerged from a melting pot of influences — Celtic, African and Cherokee — creating a distinct new form of folk music and percussive dance, performed to the rhythms and driving beat of live banjo and fiddle.
There are many groups keeping the tradition of clogging alive including FiddleKicks from Pennsylvania (in photo). FiddleKicks brings Appalachian clogging to life with a whoop and a holler!
Photo by Cylia von Tiedemann, courtesy Fiddlekicks, www.fiddlekicks.com
Americans Helping Americans® is firmly committed to being a good steward of your generosity.
It is very important to us that you stay informed of how your contribution is spent and of all new developments concerning our programs and the Appalachian and Urban families they support.
If you would like to learn about the Americans Helping Americans® organization, please:
• See below to learn more about our financial accountability
• CONTACT the Americans Helping Americans® staff with any inquiries or comments.
AMERICANS HELPING AMERICANS® FINANCIAL STATEMENTS
AMERICANS HELPING AMERICANS® IRS FORM 990
Americans Helping Americans®’ Mission is to join communities, build and strengthen neighbor relations, and work side by side with residents to address community-wide concerns linking resources supportive of a healthy, safe and economically vibrant standard of living.
Our Philosophy is to nurture inclusive communities, unify to create support networks and determine actions to address serious common problems.
We respect the inherent worth and dignity of every person and treat all with justice, equity and compassion. We honor the lives, concerns and stories of people in need and expect our partners to do the same. We accept one another and encourage diversity of thoughts and ideas.
Stewardship and Accountability
We keep faith with the public trust through the efficient and compassionate use of resources entrusted to us and are mindful that our mission is accomplished through the generosity of others. We maintain and communicate accurate and timely information on programs and service provided. We evaluate and account regularly for how resources are used to implement and achieve our mission.
We believe in the power of community. We collaborate and build strong relationships, based on trust, with and among those who share our vision. We work together to accomplish the vision at the national and local levels, valuing each other’s roles and using an open process and honest communication. We seek out and are responsive to the input and counsel of our partners.
We operate with an acute sense of urgency that reflects the immediate needs of the people we serve. We challenge our employees, volunteers and partners to embrace the same sense of urgency to accomplish our shared vision.
We serve with excellence, compassion and responsiveness to meet the needs of those with whom we work, internally and externally. The better we serve the more people we bring together in commitment to our vision.
We act with honesty, trust and openness and deliver on commitments. We act within the spirit of agreements, contracts and the law. Our intentions and actions will be transparent and above reproach.
We believe that the ethnic, cultural and social diversity of our nation should be reflected in our staff, Board and network.
A list of the many ways to contact Americans Helping Americans.
This policy discloses what information is gathered about you when you visit any of our organization’s network web sites or correspond directly with us. It describes how we use that information and how you can control it…