When a backpack is more than a backpack

When a backpack is more than a backpack

The purpose of Americans Helping Americans® partner Raleigh Rescue Mission’s back-to-school school supplies distribution is two-fold, explained the organization’s director of strategic initiatives Christine Montague-Hicks.

First, it provides children with the opportunity to receive all the required school supplies they need to get off to a successful new school year, while sparing their parents the anguish as to how they were going to pay the pencils, paper and more they know their children need.

Secondly, the back-to-school event is designed to provide awareness to members in the community as to the resources that may be available to them as they prepare for the upcoming school year.

Prior to receiving school supplies, students and parents are required to visit at least five vendor tables which provided educational, nutritional, and other useful information that could potentially improve the student’s new school year.

And when they were not collecting schools supplies or gathering useful information, attendees were invited to share their favorite moves on the dance floor or line up to receive face painting.

Thanks to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans® we were able to provide the Raleigh Rescue Mission with 150 school kits for elementary school-age children.

“I really appreciate how much my son was helped with the school supplies, backpack included,” stated one parent. “School supplies and bag would have ran about 30-40 bucks I believe.”

Another parent reported, “The backpacks and supplies were really helpful, especially with having multiple kids starting school. I really appreciate it. It took some of the stress of getting my kids prepared off my shoulders.”

And from one of the child advocacy team members participating in the event: “The backpacks have really helped our preschoolers to be able to have something that is theirs and that they can take to their room every night.”

“Ya’ll really did a good job on taking care of those kids,” said one grandmother attending the event. “My grandkids were so happy to get the school supplies and they were very excited.

“God bless you all.”

This year, we were able to provide thousands of children throughout Appalachia with the backpacks and school supplies they need to be prepared from day one of a new school year thanks to our supporters who made it possible. It would not have happened without them.

Creating a New Life in Raleigh, North Carolina

Creating a New Life in Raleigh, North Carolina

On any given day, 40 homeless children will be fed, cared for, educated and counseled through the Children’s New Life Plan (CNLP) operated by Americans Helping Americans® partner in North Carolina, the Raleigh Rescue Mission (RRM).

For parents entering the RRM’s homeless services program, among the hardest aspects had been addressing their children’s needs while focusing on their own at the same time.

RRM’s New Life Plan is a continuous program that provides the framework for men, women and children experiencing homelessness to achieve long term stability and break the cycle of poverty, explained RRM CEO John Luckett.

And its CNLP track provides children with social and emotional skills development, counseling to deal with adverse childhood experiences related to homelessness, and tutoring to enable a child to read at their grade level.

CNLP services include before and after-school care, nursery for infants through toddlers 2 ½ years old, preschool with an educational curriculum for children aged 2 ½ through 5, and off-site therapy and safe and fun activities while their mothers are in classes or counseling.

As any parent of young children can attest, one of the biggest challenges, particularly for single mothers, is childcare.

The CNLP allows parents to focus on vocational training, employment and addressing issues related to adverse experiences and traumas that may have led up to them experiencing homelessness, says John.

“The cost of quality childcare and before/after school care programs can be expensive and stressful for single mothers,” he said. “Without the CNLP this would be a barrier for mothers in the program to obtain and maintain employment and to be successful.

“The before and after school program gives parents peace of mind because they know their children are safe and engaged in fun learning opportunities.”

Thanks to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans®, we are able to provide financial assistance to RRM for the operation of its life-changing CNLP that benefits not only the roughly 100 children served each year themselves, but their parents as well.

“Funds from Americans Helping Americans® are vital at this time to help support the needs of the children being served,” said John. “The Raleigh Rescue Mission is grateful for the support of Americans Helping Americans®. Your support has helped us to expand our children’s program to provide more comprehensive services for our children experiencing homelessness.

“Americans Helping Americans® donors’ support is helping our children build resiliency. The backpacks and school kits (also provided by Americans Helping Americans®) increase self-confidence and esteem,” he continued.

“The smile and excitement on a child’s face communicates how thankful they are for the gifts and opportunities experienced in the children’s program.

“Your gift lets them know they are valued, cared for and loved.”

197 Children in Kentucky Have New Shoes through our Barefeet Program!

197 Children in Kentucky Have New Shoes through our Barefeet Program!

With school now in session and cold weather approaching, children throughout Appalachia are in need of new shoes. To meet this need, through our Barefeet program, children are taken to a shoe store and are able to pick out EXACTLY what pair of shoes they want each year.

A few weeks ago, our partner, the Lee County Family Resource Center in Beattyville, Kentucky helped serve 197 children with shoes, thanks to our supporters. Imagine the look of joy when they were told they could take these shoes home! Here are some of their stories.

New Partner Spotlight: Community Helping Hands Clinic of White County, Georgia

New Partner Spotlight: Community Helping Hands Clinic of White County, Georgia

In White County, Georgia there is but one primary care physician for 4,130 residents – ten times the national average of 1 doctor per 435 patients.

In addition, 16 out of every 100 county residents lack health insurance and cannot afford preventative care, or to pay for medical treatment when the need arises.

Fortunately, the Community Helping Hands Clinic (CHHC) is there to provide free or low-cost health care services based on income operating with five volunteer doctors who provide medical assistance to hundreds of patients in need each year.

In addition to preventative care and treatment for illnesses, they also treat chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. At the clinic patients can also receive dental and vision support.

CHHC was founded in 2009 when a group of White County citizens came together to discuss the need for a free clinic to serve the uninsured residents of the area…a clinic that had long been the dream of a prominent local physician.

CHHC provides primary health care to adult patients between the ages of 18 and 65 who cannot have, nor qualify for Medicaid, Peach Care, Medicare or any other form of health care insurance.

“White County has many challenges regarding healthcare, a county which has no hospital, high patient-to-doctor ratio, and above average number of residents without any type of insurance,” states CHHC Executive Director Gene White. “With your help, we can resolve a few of those challenges and continue to serve the needs of our neighbors with quality and compassionate healthcare.”

Americans Helping Americans® is proud to now be partnering with CHHC by providing the clinic with a grant of $5,085 for assistance in treatment costs and other operating expenses.

New Partner Spotlight: Five Loaves & Two Fishes of McDowell County, West Virginia

New Partner Spotlight: Five Loaves & Two Fishes of McDowell County, West Virginia

Five Loaves & Two Fishes is located on Coal Heritage Road (US-52) in the small community of Kimball about five miles from Welch, the county seat of McDowell County, West Virginia, arguably among the poorest counties in the country.

The county, once thriving in the 1950s with a population of more than 100,000, has seen its population drop to some 20,000 today due to the decline in the coal industry on which tens of thousands of families relied upon.

The unemployment rate is 8 percent, nearly twice the national rate, but the people who remain love the place they call home, and will never leave despite the hardships they face.

Among the challenges is the lack of convenient access to healthy food in the rural region known as a “food desert” where well-stocked grocery and big-box stores are few and far-between.

The situation was exacerbated with the closing of the Walmart in McDowell County and the end of a partnership with a U.S. hunger relief organization. It meant funding for fresh produce was lost.

The closing was especially difficult for Five Loaves & Two Fishes, run by Linda McKinney and her husband, Bob, who told West Virginia Public Broadcasting that superstore’s closing actually inspired their family to rethink how they get food for the pantry.

Five Loaves & Two Fishes still manages to provide approximately 15,000 individuals with nonperishable food items annually and the family-operated organization which relies solely on volunteers are propped up by the family-owned small business, Roadside Farms.

Roadside Farms delivers food such as its “Mega Salad” containing cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, banana peppers, carrots, red onions, and more on a bed of its hydroponic lettuce mix, along with other menu items to residents in local communities such as Welch, Pineville, Rockview, Brushfork, and others.

Comments on its Facebook page include “Food is amazing and I respect a business that goes above and beyond for their customers” and “delicious, healthy and fresh food for a good price. Love everything that I’ve tried.”

In addition, Roadside Farms donates lettuce to nearby schools and supplements fresh produce for the Five Loaves & Two Fishes food bank – a self-sustaining and innovative solution Americans Helping Americans® is proud to support.

“I just never want anyone to go hungry, ’cause I watched as my grandmother provided for the children who lived in our holler that would come in our yard and play,” she told West Virginia Public Broadcasting. “She always had fresh bread, hard salami.”

She and her husband, a retired minister, have been running the food pantry since 2009, and Linda notes that the need to help hungry people keeps growing in McDowell County.

New Partner Spotlight: Sprouting Hope of Marion, Virginia

New Partner Spotlight: Sprouting Hope of Marion, Virginia

Among Americans Helping Americans® newest partners is Sprouting Hope, located in Marion, Virginia in the rural southwest region of the state.

Sprouting Hope’s mission is to feed the community by growing and sharing healthy produce, with the vision of everyone having access to healthy food.

“With a focus on serving and empowering low-income individuals, we not only give a fish, but also teach how to fish by making the program accessible for participants to work and learn in the garden,” states the organization.

Everything grown is distributed to volunteers, food pantries, soup kitchens and a local free clinic. In addition, Sprouting Hope offers youth education and therapeutic gardening programs for people in the mental health community.

It’s 13,800 square foot garden serves more than 300 families with approximately three tons of fresh produce annually.

Sprouting Hope is located in Smyth County, which as a population of less than 6,000 and a median household income of $38,900, much lower than the statewide average of $68,114. Indeed, the services of Sprouting Hope are much needed.

Fresh produce provided to households by Sprouting Hope is key to healthier diets, particularly for growing children in a county where 55 percent of them qualify for free and reduced-price meals and one-third are expected to develop Type 2 diabetes in their lifetime and are at risk becoming seriously obese.

Low-income rural Appalachian communities are at an even greater risk than the general population, so access to nutritious food is vital to their health.

With funding from Americans Helping Americans, Sprouting Hope will be able to restart their Homegrown project which allows applicants to participate in a multi-year education course teaching them how to start a farm in their own backyard.

In the first year, they will learn the basics of farming including proper ways to ward off insect pests and diseases and learn more about the options and benefits of organic gardening. In the second year of the curriculum, participants will be instructed on how to qualify for food certifications and sell their produce at local farmers markets.

Fresh food and self-sustainability will work wonders for this community and this project can be emulated across America.