Winter has arrived in the mountains and hollows of West Virginia, eastern Kentucky, and Tennessee, and elsewhere throughout Appalachia. Thanks to the loyal supporters of Americans Helping Americans®, thousands of children, families, and seniors are prepared. Because of our emergency utility assistance program, hundreds of households who have fallen on hard times this year will receive the extra “hand-up” they need to keep the heat and lights on. In some cases, with families who live in public housing, the program not only prevents them from having their power disconnected, but it saves them from being automatically evicted and becoming homeless. Also this winter, there are homeowners who are safe and warm in the homes they love because of Americans Helping Americans’® home rehabilitation program.
Last winter in Gainesville, Georgia, a grandmother raising four grandchildren lost her job because she had no one to look after her youngest grandchild.
Subsequently she was forced to live in her car because she could not pay her utility bills and her electricity was disconnected.
But with a grant provided by Americans Helping Americans® for emergency utility assistance, our partner there, LAMP Ministries, was able to get her utilities back on and move back into her apartment, as well as find affordable child care for her grandchild so she was able to get her job back.
Working with small grassroots charities who organize volunteers of church and school groups, dozens of roofs are repaired, and drywall and siding are installed. In the case of the elderly and disabled, handicap ramps are built, which allow these individuals, many of whom are veterans, to get in and out of their house no matter the weather outside.
And then there are the children. We can’t bear to think of them standing out at bus stops on cold dark mornings in threadbare hand-me-down coats, or worse, only ragged sweaters and sweatshirts. Because of your generosity, this winter, 4,000 children have received heavy winter coats in their choice of a multitude of colors, which for many of them is their very first brand-new coat. In addition, to help ensure these children are snug in their beds at night, we have also distributed thousands of heavy winter blankets to families so that they will be warm during the harsh winter months.
Putting on a warm winter coat before walking to the bus on a frigid December morning is something most children in the United States take for granted – in some cases they even have to be reminded by the moms or dads to put on a coat before heading out the door.
This year, with your help, we plan to distribute a total of 4,000 coats to children and adults in need across Appalachia.
Each coat costs $16 for children and $18 for an adult-size coat because we are able to buy the high-quality warm winter coats in bulk at a much cheaper price than individually at a big box discount store.
“I am sure many people would not think of this as a big thing,” reported Dyanne Spriggs, co-executive director of our longtime partner in McDowell County, West Virginia, Big Creek People in Action.
“But it is a BIG THING in our community.”
Dyanne went on to explain that the past winter was “very harsh” even for the hardy people of West Virginia who are used to the long cold winters in the mountains and hollows.
“We struggle through some rough weather conditions here,” she added. “To know that we are able to offer a warm coat to someone in need was especially gratifying.”
Because we realize that it is not only young children waiting at bus stops who need warm winter wear but also their parents – and especially their grandparents – we purchase them in all sizes from toddler to adult XXL.
“We were able to offer this service to all age groups in our community, and while working our gymnasium that I day I witnessed people from all walks of life being helped and grateful for the assistance they were receiving.
Among them that day was an elderly gentleman who had great difficulty walking and needed assistance just to get into the gym; and grandmother raising seven grandchildren on her own who not only needed coats for all of them, but one for herself as well; a young, frightened teenage girl pregnant with her first child; local veterans struggling to get by on meager fixed income, and “children who were so excited at receiving their first new coat.”
“Most of all, we were just thrilled to be able to help the people in the community we love,” says Dyanne. “Big Creek People in Action and Americans Helping Americans® – what a great team we make!”
This year, they are once again waiting for that new coat to get them through another harsh Appalachian winter.
This Giving Tuesday, our goal is to donate 4,000 coats. Help us give the gift of warm winter wear today:
The distribution of winter coats at the headquarters of our partner Come-Unity Cooperative Care (CCC) in Laurel County, Kentucky was orderly and efficient.
That’s not an easy thing to accomplish when there are 276 coats to be distributed to children in need.
First off, before any of their clients arrived, staff and volunteers arranged the coats by size on a rack and then posted a notice that the coats were available. As clients’ requests came in, they were each registered by name, address, age, sex and size, and each child was able to try one of for size to ensure the right fit.
Just as we count on our supporters to help us fulfill the need for thousands of coats throughout Appalachia, those in this rural region of Kentucky rely on Americans Helping Americans® to provide these coats to CCC for distribution in its service area.
“Our community knows that our agency is a place of help for them when they have nowhere else to turn,” stated CCC executive director Linda Lipps.
Among those with “nowhere else to turn” was Rose who took in three of her grandchildren into her home “and they did not have coats to wear.
“CCC gave us all nice new coats,” Rose told us. “The kids are so proud to wear these pretty coats. I thank you for providing them for us.
“There was no possible way that I could have bought coats for them.”
In Beattyville, Kentucky Sherry Lanham, director of the Lee County Family Resource Center, stated it matter-of-factly, “The coats provided by Americans Helping Americans® made sure all the children were warm throughout the winter.”
Lee County has among the highest poverty rates in the country, and the need for coats is great there as many families struggle just to put food on the table, much less new coats for their children.
“Many of our families are single-parent families with one income and they are often overlooked – and the children suffer,” says Sherry. “Through this program, all children were able to come and get coats without the stigma of being ‘poor.’
“They know that we are here to help and they can come to us without fear of being made fun of or being labeled as a ‘poor’ family,” she added. “Many of our parents are from the generation that finds it difficult to ask for help and they are often embarrassed to ask for help for themselves…but they will ask for help for their children.”
Thanks to our supporters, we are able to be there to assist Sherry in her mission to ensure that they can provide EVERY SINGLE CHILD they serve with a winter coat so that not one of them has to be turned away and told the heartbreaking words that the very last coat was just given out.
Sherry recounted “one of my favorite quotes” was from a little third-grade girl as she tried on her brand new coat, after always only getting worn out hand-me-downs from her older siblings, or used coats from the local thrift shop.
“I have my very own new coat for the first time ever!” she exclaimed with glee.
And this from Sherry to our supporters expressing her gratitude on behalf of the children and families she serves for the coats:
“Americans Helping Americans® has gone beyond our wildest dreams in the way they have helped our community.
“We are so very grateful for all that Americans Helping Americans® has done for our families and our children. You have truly made a lasting impact on our families and our school.
“Without the help that we received from Americans Helping Americans® many of our children would not have had appropriate coats for the winter.
“It is wonderful to have your support.”
The frigid days of winter are already upon the communities in the mountainous regions of Appalachia. That’s why each year, we distribute thousands of coats and winter accessories to our partners, such as Big Creek People in Action (BCPIA) in McDowell County, and others in the Appalachian regions of Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and elsewhere.
Last December, thanks to our supporters, we were able to provide hundreds of heavy winter coats which BCPIA distributed to the neediest children and adults in their community.
“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,” reported BCPIA co-executive director Marsha Timpson.
In Beattyville, Kentucky, our partner, the Lee County Family Resource Center located in the local elementary school, distributed hundreds of coats to students in the fall. They keep a reserve supply on hand for those cold winter days when a child shows up for school without any kind of coat or jacket.
Through our “Coats for Americans” initiative, we strive to supply our partners with enough coats to meet their ever-increasing demands.
Nothing gives them, and us, more satisfaction than seeing the huge smile on the face of a child when they put on their very own brand-new colorful new coat.
“I want to thank Big Creek People In Action for the winter coats they have given out this year,” said Brandi. “Every time I have gone to Big Creek People In Action they have signs posted that the coats came from Americans Helping Americans®.
2016 has been a year to remember! Because of friends like you, so many smiled with joy.
- In West Virginia, 412 veterans received food support; 85 children attended a summer enrichment camp; 34 children attended an afterschool program where they received one-on-one tutoring; and more.
- In Georgia, 217 were warmed with our utility assistance program; 414 benefited from a food bank support program; 47 youth learned at a summer enrichment camp; and more.
- In Tennessee, 14,459 meals were delivered to hungry children living in rural areas while school was out for the summer; 2,240 individuals benefited from food bank support and the “Neighborly Meals” program for the elderly and disabled, and more.
- In Kentucky, 456 children received new pairs of shoes through our Barefeet Program; 23 youth participated in a Youth Leadership Training Program, and more.
- Throughout Appalachia, 15,714 children and adults benefited from in-kind donations including backpacks filled with school supplies, winter coats and accessories, blankets, and holiday and summer food distributions.
Watch the video to see all this, and more, that you have helped make possible.