The Lunch Box Bus is rolling!

The Lunch Box Bus is rolling!

Monday, June 4, was a momentous day for hundreds of schoolchildren in Hancock and Hawkins counties, Tennessee – it was the first day of summer vacation that the Lunch Box bus came to their tiny communities bringing them a free, healthy and filling lunch.

Americans Helping Americans® is proud to be a national organization helping our partner there, Of One Accord, to make such a big difference for hungry children in the rural, northeast Appalachian region of the state.

Of One Accord Executive Director Rev. Sheldon Livesay noted at a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the 2018 kickoff of the Lunch Box bus program which is now in its 13th year that they are on track to serve the 100,000th meal this summer.

In a video prepared for the supporters of Americans Helping Americans®, Rev. Livesay explained why the program is so necessary for the children they serve.

In large cities, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program is able to serve hundreds of children living within a few blocks of a feeding site, such as a school, church or community center.

“That’s not the case here in rural Appalachia,” he said.

Since the children can’t get to the meals, the meals are brought to the children on four Lunch Box buses which will operate for more than 40 weekdays this summer.

The buses traverse the rural two-lane roadways through the mountains to remote mobile home parks, community centers and low-income communities where between 15 to 25 kids and youth hop on, enjoy lunch with their siblings, friends, and neighbors, and hop off full and ready for an afternoon of fun with no worries about when they’re going to get their next meal.

“It takes several different stops to begin capturing those numbers of children and making it possible for everybody who needs help to get help,” he said.

While Of One Accord is reimbursed for the cost of the food itself by the USDA, it is up to Rev. Livesay to come up with the roughly $30,000 cost to operate the program which includes, bus fuel and maintenance, insurance, driver’s salaries and other miscellaneous expenses.

And thanks to our supporters we are able to help with a substantial portion of those costs.

“Americans Helping Americans® is a national organization that is supporting us this year,” stated Rev. Livesay in the video kicking off the 2018 season. “They’re doing a fundraiser for us through the month, and we certainly want to thank you, Americans Helping Americans®.

“God bless each and everyone one of you.”

Electric for Mr. Jones

Electric for Mr. Jones

For the first time in 65 years of married life, after coming home from the hospital himself, Mr. Jones was scared his wife would also return from the hospital to a cold home.

He had been out for three hours driving from one church to another determined to find someone who would help him pay his electric bill before the disconnect date on his notice. He didn’t know where to go for this was the first time in his eighty-four-year-old life that he had been in this situation.

He had been in the hospital for three weeks recently and his wife was actually in the hospital at the present time. The expense of medication upon his release from the hospital was more than his monthly social security income. He had a disconnect notice from both the electric and water companies in the mail that the neighbor had piled on the kitchen table. His wife was due to be released to come home with home health care within the next week. He knew this could not happen if the utilities were disconnected.

The office worker at one of the churches that he visited told him to our partner, Come-Unity Cooperative Care. “They are your best chance for help,” she told him. They were able to pay all his bill except for the $100 that he was given by the church.

Moments like this would not be possible without the support we receive from our supporters.

Lack of dental care hurts

Lack of dental care hurts

We help to provide dental health tools for children in Appalachia because there is clear evidence that dental inequality hurts them in ways that many people can’t imagine.

You may know, for example, that there “are striking disparities in dental disease by income. Poor children suffer twice as much [tooth decay] as their more affluent peers, and their disease is more likely to be untreated. These poor-nonpoor differences continue into adolescence. One out of four children in America is born into poverty, and children living below the poverty line (annual income of $17,000 for a family of four) have more severe and untreated decay.” – Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General (Executive Summary).

But did you know that poor dental health has serious economic ramifications that leave communities stuck in a seemingly endless cycle of poverty?

According to the New York Times“[p]eople with bad teeth can be stigmatized, both in social settings and in finding employment. Studies document that we make judgments about one another — including about intelligence — according to the aesthetics of teeth and mouth.

About one-third of adults with incomes below 138 percent of the poverty level (low enough to be eligible for Medicaid in states that adopted the Affordable Care Act Medicaid expansion) report that the appearance of their teeth and mouth affected their ability to interview for a job. By comparison, only 15 percent of adults with incomes above 400 percent of the poverty level feel that way.”

In short, children in poverty are more likely to have poor dental health, and this ultimately makes it more difficult for them to find a job and escape poverty. Thus, the cycle continues, and continues, and continues.

This is why we take dental health so seriously. Because the future of children in Appalachia depends on it.

Why dental health matters

Why dental health matters

Poor dental health is not only painful for children, but is also correlated to persistent poverty. As noted in the New York Times – “Experts have long observed that people’s teeth both reflect and reinforce poverty.”

This is why we work so hard to ensure good dental health for children in Appalachia. Living in some of the poorest regions of the country, these children get stuck in a cycle of poverty that is due, in part, to poor dental health.

· Children without access to dental care must often go to the emergency room when decay has gone too far, missing days at school.

· Teens can find challenges entering the workforce, at times hesitant to seek work in a public setting where they feel stigmatized by their discolored or broken teeth.

To address this problem, we started Mighty Molars. With the help of our partners, we are able to distribute toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, and information about proper dental hygiene. This ‘small’ investment pays big dividends for children in Appalachia, by providing better health and a brighter future.

By helping to make ‘mighty molars,’ we hope to help alleviate poverty, one smile at a time.

Making teeth “Mighty”

Making teeth “Mighty”

For those in Appalachia who are struggling to put food on the table for their children and themselves, and praying they don’t get sick because they can’t afford the medical bills, dental care is almost nonexistent on their list of priorities.

The result, particularly in Appalachia, is that children develop cavities, even before their adult teeth come in. The impact of poor dental health on academic achievement is profound, and we want to set these children up for success.

This is why we created the #Mighty Molars program. We work with partners in Kentucky, West Virginia and elsewhere to provide children with “Mighty Molar” dental kits.

 

Each kit contains:

  • toothbrushes
  • toothpaste
  • dental floss picks
  • information about proper dental hygiene

Children will learn the importance of taking care of their teeth at a young age – before it’s too late.
Our goal is to remove barriers to academic success and health for children in Appalachia.

 

Utility Assistance Program Saves Woman and Four-Legged Best Friend from Homelessness

Utility Assistance Program Saves Woman and Four-Legged Best Friend from Homelessness

“Somebody does care ‘bout an old woman and her dog,” Ms. Stella told us after worrying about how to pay her power bill last winter.

She and her four-legged companion Joe literally could’ve been out on the street as public housing will evict a tenant if their electricity or heat is shut off. Joe had gotten sick and she made the choice to take him to the vet, and even though the vet gave her a very reduced price for the dog’s medicine and didn’t charge her for the office visit, for Ms. Stella $37 was the difference in being able to pay her electric bill in full.

“I know what would happen to me – they’d put me out and stick me in a home someplace,” she said. “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,” she added. “He wakes me up every morning and he is the reason that I do get up. You saved two lives when you helped me with that power bill.”

But that’s not the end of the story. Our partner there Caring Hands Ministries was able to put her in touch with a church group that will bring Ms. Stella supper once a week and visits with her.

And as for old Joe, Caring Hands reached out to the local humane society which is helping her with the cost of his food, medicine, and shots.