This Christmas, 30 students at Beattyville Elementary School in Lee County, Kentucky received the best Christmas present of their young lives – an all-in-one desktop computer – and that number does not take into account their school-age siblings who will also be putting their new computer to good use.
Among them is Lauren who one of the first things she did on her new computer was to write a thank you note to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans®: “Thank you for my computer I love it very much. I can use it to do my school work and projects. I use it every day and I love it.”
Sherry Lanham, director of the Lee County Family Resource Center, worked with school staff to determine which of the students would benefit the most from having a computer in their home and told us that Lauren is an excellent student, but her mother could not afford to buy her a computer.
“Lauren will be one child who will probably still have this computer when she enters college,” said Sherry. “She is very thoughtful and caring and takes excellent care of her things.
“Her mom was so pleased to have this opportunity.”
Christopher was another of the fortunate recipients. He lives with his father, but his mother and sister live in another state.
“Christopher is an excellent student,” she told us. “He will be using this for classwork, as well as keeping up with his mom and sister.”
Johnny is a special needs child, his 5-year-old brother Tommy has a severe disability and their parents are the type of people “who are willing to do anything for kids in our community,” says Sherry.
“They are a wonderful family and were so happy with this computer because it will be a great help with the boys,” she told us.
For three years now, Americans Helping Americans® has been working to help bridge the digital divide in the rural, distressed small town of Beattyville.
Kids like Lauren, Christopher, Johnny and Tommy and many others are at a major disadvantage in comparison with their more well-off classmates who have computers and broadband access at home.
Before Christmas, these four children were out of luck when their school was closed during a winter storm and could not email their teacher for assignments and do their homework during what the school calls a NTI (non-traditional instruction) day.
But that was then. With the new year brings new opportunities for these 30 students, their siblings and even their parents who have finally truly arrived in the 21st century thanks to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans® who are helping us bridge the digital divide one family at a time.
Marsha Timpson and Dyanne Spriggs became best friends in elementary school while growing up in rural West Virginia. Today, not only have they remained best friends and continued living in their hometown; as co-executive directors of Big Creek People in Action, they are dedicated to serving the people most in need in the community they love.
While Marsha and Dyanne may not accurately be described as being two peas in a pod, they share the same mission of providing a high quality after-school program for dozens of elementary school children, ensuring that elderly and disabled local residents can stay in their homes through a home rehabilitation program which repairs leaking roofs and installs handicap ramps, and much more.
At Americans Helping Americans® we would never presume to tell this dynamic duo what the needs are in their community. But, as we have done for nearly 30 years, we rely on them to tell us what their greatest needs are, and together work to address those needs and help build a better future for the children of McDowell County, and a better life for its senior citizens who want only to continue to be able live simply in the home they love.
And we commend Marsha and Dyanne for devoting their lives to doing just that.
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:
Right now, in fact as you are reading this, there are hundreds of students at Beattyville Elementary School who are hoping that their dream of a having a desktop computer in their home (with broadband internet access, of course) for Christmas will come true.
Thanks to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans® we have been able to “bridge the digital divide” for more than 50 students at the school, along with their school-age siblings and parents.
And this year, thanks to people like you, we are on track to do the same for 30 more.
Working with our partner there in rural Appalachian Kentucky, the Lee County Family Resource Center (LCFRC), at least 30 students (hopefully more if more of our generous supporters are able to step up and make it happen) will be selected to receive an all-in-one computer with age-appropriate software enabling them to do their homework online at home – something they are unable to do today.
But the those chosen to get a computer is not based on the luck of the draw – but need and hard work.
LCFRC director Sherry Lanham’s office is located right in the elementary school and she is in daily contact with the students, teachers and administrators who know which of their students would put a computer in their home to best use.
“One of the most amazing programs last year was the “Computers for Appalachia” program that we were able to participate in for our students,” said Sherry.
Every child seeking a computer must write an essay detailing exactly why they need a computer, and what they will use it for.
“We have children working so hard on their essays for a chance of receiving a new computer,” says Sherry. “Parents have become involved and actually work with their children with the hope of being selected to receive a new computer.”
And the excitement is in the air at Beattyville Elementary.
“We have told the students that the winners will be chosen based on attendance, attitude, hard work, their essay, and need,” she told us.
Last year, one family who received a computer lives in an apartment complex and their home became in effect a computer lab for the other children living there.
“They worked with other families in the complex to share the cost of the internet bill and all the children there use the computer to do their homework, research projects, and other activities,” said Sherry.
We were able to meet our match in October to raise the funds necessary to reach our goal of 30 computers and on behalf of Sherry and all the students who have received computers – and those who will be having their best Christmas ever – we express our heartfelt gratitude for making it all happen.
And, just a reminder, there’s still time to help us exceed our goal. Each $300 we can raise between now and Christmas is one more computer we can put into the hands of one more deserving child, and one more deserving family.