Coronavirus Learning Pods will keep kids safe in Kentucky this school year

Coronavirus Learning Pods will keep kids safe in Kentucky this school year

Our partner in Beattyville, Kentucky, Cumberland Mountain Outreach (CMO) each summer (with the exception of this one) hosts a summer camp for elementary and middle school-age children.

After spending many years at the camp, CMO executive director Cindy Evanoff selects the most promising youth to join its Teens In Leadership Program (TILP) where they serve as counselors and mentors to the young campers and provide community service projects in the local area.

CMO, says Cindy, “assists in feeding the hungry, clothing the less fortunate, offering part-time jobs, assisting with home repairs for those who cannot afford it, and hosting the kids’ camps.”

Now she is on a new mission, one she could have never imagined at the beginning of the year.

“Because of the coronavirus pandemic, we are opening an online classroom setting for four or five families, no more than eight children, who cannot, or will not send their children to public school, but do not have the financial resources or educational skills to teach them at home,” she told us.

So Cindy turned to Americans Helping Americans® with a request for $5,000 to provide students with a safe, clean learning station with broadband internet (something many in the community lack at home) for each child, hire a part-time retired school teacher and a room monitor, purchase a ultraviolet air purification system, as well as provide the children with breakfast, lunch and snacks throughout the day.

Cindy said the goal of the learning pod is to address the individual needs of children with emotional or physical issues who will not or cannot attend public school because of COVID-19.

Cindy knows the need for such a facility is real as when schools there closed in the spring and online classes were offered it was a struggle for some to participate in their own education at their homes.

She explained that the program will be designed for low-income families and children of special needs or low-immune systems who will arrive there at 9 a.m. where they will have their temperature taken and recorded.

“If the program were not funded, some of the youth would try at-home schooling and fail this school year as they did last year,” says Cindy. Some would try to go to school with high anxiety and fear of getting sick because of their low immune system response.”

And the overarching goal “is to prevent eight at-risk children from coming down with the coronavirus as they learn and interact until this pandemic is over.”

These supplies really make a world of difference to these children

These supplies really make a world of difference to these children

Among our partners throughout Appalachia who receive hundreds of backpacks filled with school supplies for elementary and middle school students each year is Caring Hands Ministries in Gainesville, Georgia.

Our partners know who in their communities need the limited supply of school kits we can provide so they strive to ensure that they go to families who are the least able to afford the basic and essential necessities they are required by their school to have.

Following last year’s distribution, Caring Hands executive director Lafaye Murphy told us of one homeless family who were having trouble just trying to keep a roof over their heads and their five young school-age fed, much less paying for school supplies.

“The family is living in a hotel and cannot afford to buy the necessary supplies for their five children to go to school,” said Lafaye, noting that “children who don’t have proper and ample supplies to start school are less likely to get a good education because they don’t have what is required. They are also subjected to being bullied for being in a bad situation.

Lafaye also told of the excitement and the joy on the faces when they receive their backpacks filled to the brim with pencils, paper and all of the other items required by the school system.

This year, as years past, we are confident that our supporters will once again step up to the plate and help ensure that thousands of children in West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia and elsewhere will be ready for the first day of school and prepared for a successful school year.

Your gift of $35 will do just that for a child in need seeking an education and the ability to do his homework, without imposing a financial burden on his or her parents, especially for families with several children such as that one in Georgia.

“All the children were very happy with their school supplies,” she said, even one 8-year-old girl who told her she was “gonna be a doctor so she could fix her mommy (who had just been diagnosed with cancer).

“These supplies really make a world of difference to these children and helped ease the minds of many a mama and daddy. Thankfully, we were able to help all the children with the necessities needed to start the school year off on the right foot.

Whether in-person or virtual, kids throughout Appalachia are in need of school supplies

Whether in-person or virtual, kids throughout Appalachia are in need of school supplies

About this time every year, children throughout the United States begin looking forward to returning to school where they receive free meals every day, reunite with the friends who they may not have seen all summer long and participate in the joy of learning.

For parents in Appalachia struggling to keep food on the table, pay rent and keep the bills paid, however, it’s a time of worry and stress about how they are going to be able to pay for all the school supplies required by the school by the time classes start.

And, right now, with the COVID-19 pandemic making inroads into small, remote Appalachian communities, there is uncertainty as to whether schools will be open to students and teachers, or if learning will take place virtually.

Regardless, whether in class or at home, students will need pencils, paper and all the other items necessary to enable them to do their schoolwork.

Among our partners who count on the supporters of Americans Helping Americans® for school supplies for needy children in Appalachia is Big Creek People in Action (BCPIA) in McDowell County, West Virginia; among the poorest in the state.

BCPIA co-executive director Dyanne Spriggs notes that while the county is a place of startling natural beauty and is rich in history and culture, “it is also a place burdened by poverty, illiteracy, poor housing and poor infrastructure” where nearly half the county’s children live in poverty.

“There are very few jobs available in our area, so the majority of our people are on public assistance, Social Security, or unemployment,” says Dyanne. “When families struggle to pay their normal monthly bills, they usually don’t have money left to buy their children a bookbag and school supplies.

“Children deserve to have school supplies.”

This year, as years past, we are confident that our supporters will once again step up to the plate and help ensure that thousands of children in West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia and elsewhere will be ready for the first day of school and prepared for a successful school year.

BCPIA is the only organization in the area that offers a wide array of support programs to families – distributing school supplies, winter coats, dental kits and more provided by Americans Helping Americans®, as well as operating afterschool and summer camp programs supported by Americans Helping Americans®.

Dyanne explained that BCPIA simply would not have the funding available to purchase school supplies for hundreds of elementary and middle school children in the community.

“These people would go without school supplies if we didn’t receive support from Americans Helping Americans®,” says Dyanne. “Many of their needs would go unmet if we didn’t partner with Americans Helping Americans® and its supporters who are dedicated to helping those in need.”

The Coronavirus Can’t Stop This Vocational Tutoring Program

The Coronavirus Can’t Stop This Vocational Tutoring Program

Our longtime partner in McDowell County, West Virginia, Big Creek People in Action, has for several years been collaborating with the McDowell County Career & Technology Center on a tutoring program for students who need additional help in specific academic areas.

With support from Americans Helping Americans, BCPIA provides one of its AmeriCorps members and one of its own staff members to work with students four days a week at the vocational school.
The CTE provides the only vocational training available in the county where tutors work in the school with high school students who must complete National Occupational Competency Testing Institute workforce competency testing, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 10 training as well as pass a WIN career readiness program test to graduate from a CTE program.
“Performance on these tests is indicative of a student’s competency of basic skills and there are some students who require individual attention to bring their skills up to an average level,” explained BCPIA co-executive director Dyanne Spriggs.
Students who are in the tutoring program are chosen by the teachers as a result of the assessment of their basic skills. In addition, the tutoring program also works with students on credit recovery so they can graduate on time.
“The problem this year was when the school closed on March 13 due to COVID-19,” said Dyanne.
However, that didn’t put a halt to the vocational tutoring program.
“Schools remained closed until the end of the school year, but our tutors helped develop ways for the the students to work on their OSHA and WIN career readiness program from home,” Dyanne told us.
Among those students was Nicholas who remained in contact through Facebook as he was continuing his studies online who told them “I will miss you guys so much. Thank you for everything.”
Another was Alex, a criminal justice student who stayed in contact almost every day. “You are my best friends and I thank you for all you’ve done for me.”
And as for Adam, who is a computer technology program student, approached Dyanne in a local restaurant to express his gratitude for the tutoring he received. “Thank you guys so much for helping me with my credit recovery. There is no way I could have gotten it done on my own.”
Dyanne went on to report that with the highest illiteracy rate in the state and 40 percent of students not graduating from high school, “it is crucial that students get the help and support they need to reach their full potential and become successful adults.
“The kids who we work with are aware of the needs in their communities and how people view our area,” she continued. “Their self-esteem and self-confidence is very low.
“Our tutors are mentors as well and encourage and push the students to always feel and do well. They have been amazing in making students feel more comfortable and confident.”
And to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans, Dyanne wanted them to know:
“We really appreciate Americans Helping Americans choosing to support vocational training. Many kids in our area will never go to college and the training they receive can help them get a job.

“We appreciate your support in allowing us the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the kids that we serve.

Home Repairs Continue Thanks To Our Supporters and Partner, Appalachian Outreach

Home Repairs Continue Thanks To Our Supporters and Partner, Appalachian Outreach

Appalachian Outreach, our longtime partner in Jefferson City, Tennessee, provides food, clothing, furniture and household items as well as providing temporary home shelter at its Samaritan House Family Shelter where mothers with children get assistance with housing, budget counseling, tutoring and more to help them get back on their feet.

Appalachian Outreach is also among our partners which provides home rehabilitation to elderly and disabled homeowners in need of a roof repair, flooring, drywall, siding and who may be in need of a handicap ramp to get in and out of their house.

“We provide home repairs to low-income families and the elderly,” says Appalachia Outreach Executive Director Jean-Ann Washam. “The goal of our program is to make the homes safer, enabling the families to remain in their homes and preventing homelessness.”

In 2019, with financial assistance from Americans Helping Americans® made possible by our generous supporters, Appalachian Outreach was able to complete a total of 16 home repairs in rural Tennessee communities such as Bean Station, Dandridge, Morristown and several others in four counties.

Through the home repair program a total of 25 people were served, the majority of them being seniors 55 and older. Among the beneficiaries were 11 senior adults in poor health or disabled and 10 more elderly adults with age-related issues.

For 2020, however in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, it was a different story.

Jean-Ann reported that they were able to complete projects in last July, September and November and creating a safe home environment for these families by addressing safety issues with their homes.

“Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 outbreak most of our summer volunteer teams for June 2020 cancelled,” she said. “This left us with families that still desperately needed the repairs, but no volunteers to do the repairs.”

But she is not giving up.

“We are still working on solutions to our problems this year, some of them have been solved but not all of them,” she added. “We have become creative in our way at looking at the repairs that need done. We have prioritized the projects and are working with other agencies to partner together to complete these projects.

“We have had to contract out for some of the repairs, but we have had a few volunteer teams that are still willing to come and help.”

To our supporters, Jean-Ann wants them to know:

“Thank you for your continued partnership. It has made it possible for Appalachian Outreach to serve additional families. Please continue to remember us in your prayers and we seek to serve the families here in East Tennessee.”

And as for the beneficiaries, they were grateful for a new handicap ramp and a no more leaking roof.

“Thank you, now I can stay in my home!