In Beattyville, Kentucky life is hard for parents and children alike, as documented by an article in The New York Times describing it as one of the “hardest” places to live in the United States.
Thanks to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans® in the fall and winter, school children receive school supplies, winter coats and new shoes, and through our effort to bridge the digital divide in the distressed community, 30 deserving children are selected to receive all-in-one desktop computers to use at home to do their homework and communicate with their teacher when school is closed due to inclement weather.
Many actually dread the summer break, knowing it can mean long days alone at home alone with nothing to do.
But through our partnership with Cumberland Mountain Outreach in Lee County a projected 250 children and youth will attend its Kids’ Day Camp and Teen Leadership program.
The camp provides day care and proper nutrition for the children whose parents cannot afford to send their child to the only other camp operated in the county, which costs about $100 per week.
“While our families are struggling to eat, paying for camp is out of the question,” says Cumberland Mountain Outreach Executive Director Cindy Evanoff, who noted that without their camp during the summer, many of these children would simply sit at home while eating unhealthy food and get very little or even no exercise.
At Cumberland Mountain Outreach’s day camp, which runs for five weeks, three days per week, the children will get breakfast, lunch and healthy snacks throughout the day, participate in singing and other enjoyable activities and get at least two hours of physical activity.
In a county where nearly 90 percent of elementary school children qualify for the free lunch program and the median household income is less than $20,000 and about half the population below the federal poverty level, Cumberland Mountain Outreach’s day camp creates an opportunity of a lifetime for these children.
“With this type of poverty in our county it is impossible for families to meet their basic needs and summer camp and other summer activities are seen as a luxury only for those who have money,” said Cindy.
She cites several reasons why the day camp is so important to low-income children in the community: To make sure they are not home alone or in an environment of neglect, or even abuse; providing an opportunity for healthy outdoor physical activities; and the camp’s most important function – making sure children are fed and healthy during the summer.
“We want all of our children to know they are loved and that we will be here for them with food, clothing, counseling and another other services they may need,” says Cindy.
To be continued ….
This summer, as it has every year since 2010, Big Creek People in Action will once again be offering its Super Why Reading Camps and Odd Squad Math Camp in collaboration with West Virginia Public Broadcasting expected to serve about 60 children with educational fun for six weeks.
The Super Why camps are designed for children ages 3-7 providing five days of interactive learning adventures that show children the power of reading and motivate them to play with letters, sounds and words through a comprehensive curriculum.
We had heard from Big Creek People in Action co-executive directors Dyanne Spriggs and Marsha Timpson that there are been preschool children coming to camp on the first day not knowing their ABCs who by the end of the week know the entire alphabet and the sounds the letters make, and even spell their very own name before entering their first day of first grade.
The Odd Squad “Be the Agent” math camps are for slightly older children ages 5 – 10 where they use math, science and critical thinking in their quest to become agents following the format of the Emmy-winning PBS show.
The camps are made possible through a partnership with West Virginia Public Broadcasting which provides and program materials, resources and training, while Big Creek People in Action provides the staff to organize, advertise, recruit and run the camps, as well as ensuring the children receive a healthy lunch every day at each of the camps.
Thanks to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans® we are able to provide funding which pays for the food, drinks and snacks served to the children, books and literacy packets for them to take home, transportation costs, for the additional staffing required to run the program.
Without the funding from Americans Helping Americans®, Dyanne told us that they would not be able to serve as many children as they do each summer.
“If we didn’t have the funding to support this program, we wouldn’t be able to watch the young campers laugh and learn as they build literacy skills through classic fairytales with empowering superhero characters and their math skills through solving cases as ‘special agents,’” she said.
To be continued ….
It’s that time of year again that most schoolchildren throughout the United States eagerly anticipate each year, counting down the last weeks, days, hours and even minutes until that final bell rings marking the end of the school year – and the start of summer vacation.
The conventional wisdom is that all children cannot wait for that first day of summer break – sleeping in without an alarm clock, lazy fun-filled days hanging out with friends around a swimming pool on a hot sunny day, family vacations, summer camps, and more.
But that is sadly not the case for thousands of children in Hancock and Hawkins counties in rural, Appalachian Tennessee.
For these children, their summer days are filled with hunger, worry and wonder – when are they going to get their next meal with school closed for the next eight weeks or so?
Without the certainty of a meal or even two that comes with a school day, these children scrounge around their bare cupboards in an empty kitchen looking for something, anything edible.
And this is no exaggeration or hyperbole, but a simple and heartbreaking fact, even in the United States of America in 2019 there are children going hungry and their parents cannot afford to buy food for them.
That is why Rev. Sheldon Livesay, founder and director Of One Accord, Americans Helping Americans® partner serving these two counties, developed the idea of the Lunch Box bus.
While children in urban areas and small towns are able to walk to their school buildings and community centers in their neighborhoods for the free meals offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program, that is not feasible for children who live 10 miles from their school.
So, Rev. Livesay figured that if the children cannot come to lunch, he will bring lunch to them.
For the past several years, Americans Helping Americans® has supported the operation of the Lunch Box bus program, covering the costs associated with operating the buses – “retired” school buses that are seeing new life reborn as mobile cafeterias on wheels.
This year, Of One Accord, plans on delivering about 270 meals each weekday for 40 days between Monday, June 3, and Friday, July 26, making for a total of 10,800 meals.
Among the restrictions of operating a summer food service program, the USDA, which provides the food for the program, requires that the children must eat their meal while at the school or community center, or in this case, on the bus, thereby ensuring that the children get the meal and it is not taken from them by an older sibling or even parent.
For the past nearly 15 years Americans Helping Americans® has been helping people throughout Appalachia see, eat and smile better through our eyeglasses and dental programs, as well as providing them with emergency medical assistance for necessary prescriptions in times of extreme need.
For example, in 2006 we provided funding for a denture assistance program serving the residents of Martin County, Kentucky and Mingo County, West Virginia, for which we received dozens of letters with stories and thanks from those who experienced dramatic improvements in their self-confidence and quality of life.
Our emergency medical assistance program acted as a safety net for people of Appalachia who were working hard just to get by and had nothing left over after paying their bills and putting food on the table to cover the costs related to an emergency illness.
For example, one man in West Virginia told us in 2008 that he had gone without teeth for 30 years before Americans Helping Americans® provided him with a set of dentures.
“I couldn’t ever get enough ahead to get a set of false teeth,” he said.
A woman who received a set of dentures, exclaimed “Praise the Lord! I haven’t had a salad for 15 years.”
But not all of the recipients were elderly.
“I had my teeth taken out when I was 19,” one young man who had had gum disease told us.
“I hadn’t smiled since.”
Throughout the years our emergency medical assistance program provided help to those at among the lowest points in their lives – when they didn’t know how they would pay for the medicines they needed to ease their suffering and make them well.
More recently our focus has been on preventing dental disease in children through our Mighty Molars program helping to ensure they will have their own teeth throughout their lifetimes and never need dentures.
This year alone, we plan on providing 4,000 children in Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia with Mighty Molar dental kits which includes six toothbrushes, two tubes of toothpaste and 60 dental floss picks.
In many of the cases, the kits will be distributed by elementary schools which will have dental hygienists give a presentation on the importance of good oral hygiene and instruct them on how to properly brush and floss their teeth.
“Many of our students have told us they do not own a toothbrush,” reported our partner in Beattyville, Kentucky, the Lee County Family Resource Center, located in the town’s elementary school.
Our focus has also shifted to providing adults and seniors with eyeglasses as we have found while states such as Tennessee will provide low-income children with eye exams and prescription glasses, such is not the case for adults.
In Tennessee, working with our partner there, Of One Accord, we found out that while Medicaid covers the cost of an eye exam, it does not cover the cost of a pair of prescription eyeglasses.
We have heard instances where men and women were in jeopardy of losing their jobs because they could not pass the eye exam at the Department of Motor Vehicles without the pair of glasses they could not afford.
Thanks to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans® over the years we were able to help thousands of our fellow Americans return to health, see clearly and eat the foods they love and no longer be shy about having a big, broad smile for everyone they meet.