In places like War, West Virginia, Gainesville, Georgia, Cleveland, Tennessee, Cleveland, Georgia and Beattyville, Kentucky there are hundreds of families in need of basic hygiene items including soap, hand sanitizer, dental kits and for those with infants and toddlers, diapers.
In these times of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, these items can literally be lifesavers, but many of these things are unavailable on store shelves right now, and unaffordable for parents who have lost their jobs and are struggling just to put food on the table.
At Americans Helping Americans, we are able to purchase these items in large quantities directly from a wholesaler and ship them to our longtime partners who have requested them for their clients — Big Creek People in Action in War, LAMP Ministries in Gainesville, Ocoee Outreach in Cleveland, TN, Caring Hands Ministries in Cleveland, GA and Cumberland Mountain Outreach in Beattyville.
And thanks to our supporters, we are shipping 5 pallets boxes containing 2,000 diapers, 200 bars of soap, 160 dental kits and 16 32-ounce bottles of hand sanitizers which they will receive by the end of the week. Our hope is to be able to do a similar shipment for nearly a dozen more partners in the coming weeks.
At Americans Helping Americans, our partners throughout Appalachia strive to project what the most pressing needs will be for those most in need in their communities in terms of food, basic needs, education and more, for the year ahead.
But no one could have anticipated the hardships that would be imposed on those families and seniors already struggling to get by in these times of the coronavirus pandemic.
Our grassroots partners have limited means, few staff, and we’re already stretched to their limits in operating their programs, and we understand that even the best-laid plans can go awry.
Within the past week, we have been hearing from many of them as they have been forced to cancel well-established programs for the foreseeable future as other dire needs have emerged.
In these extraordinary times, they must adapt, and we are giving them the flexibility to use their grant funding to adjust the services they offer to put these resources to best use.
For our partner in Beattyville, Kentucky, Cumberland Mountain Outreach, which has for many years operated a popular free summer camp for children and youth, the tough, but necessary, decision to cancel camp this summer had to be made.
Among the benefits of the summer camp program for the older youth is its Teens in a Leadership program in which the youth who had attended the camp for several years as children are put into mentorship roles providing the younger children a positive role model to look up to.
Instead, this year, these promising teens will be contributing to their community through service projects, such as delivering food boxes door-to-door to senior citizens and the disabled this summer.
When a partner inquired as to whether we had much-in-demand face masks, it turned out that we had a few thousand on hand which we could provide them.
While non-perishable food boxes will always be in demand, we are also receiving numerous requests from our partners for soap and other personal hygiene items, as well as disposable diapers. So, we have adjusted our focus as well and will soon be shipping thousands of bars of soap, diapers and other items in the knowledge that sadly, this is likely just the beginning of a long, difficult summer.
None of what we do, and a lot of what our partners do, would be possible without the generosity of Americans Helping Americans whose support we, and our partners and their clients, rely on month after month, year after year.
These are uncharted waters, but with your help, we are helping thousands of our fellow Americans steer their way through the storm and make it the calmer waters we have faith are coming in the months to follow.
Throughout Appalachia, our fellow citizens in distressed communities struggle to get by even when times are good — and with the current coronavirus pandemic things are certainly far from good.
Among the things these people count on the partners of Americans Helping Americans for are supplemental food to get through the month, relieving them of the stress of having to choose between paying rent, purchasing their prescription medicines, keeping their lights on, or putting food on the table.
For example, in Gainesville, Georgia, Mary Mauricio, executive director of our longtime partner there, LAMP Ministries just reported that instead of having her clients come to their office to pick up food boxes as they had in the past, Mary and her team of volunteers are out and about delivering food boxes to grateful families in the lowest income neighborhoods in the community.
In Cleveland, Georgia, our partner Caring Hands Ministries is doing the same for their most vulnerable elderly clients, providing food, and perhaps equally important, a lifeline to the outside world where Caring Hands volunteers are the only people they can count on in time of need or even emergencies.
And in Welch, West Virginia, one of our newest partners, 5 Loaves & 2 Fishes has expanded its operations with longer hours and its volunteers are bringing the food boxes to the clients’ cars, rather than have them come into the building. With support from Americans Helping Americans these families are able to receive fresh meats, in addition to non-perishable food items and fresh produce.
We commend our partners for their selfless service in these stressful times of great need, and thank our supporters for making this all possible.