The purpose of Americans Helping Americans® partner Raleigh Rescue Mission’s back-to-school school supplies distribution is two-fold, explained the organization’s director of strategic initiatives Christine Montague-Hicks.
First, it provides children with the opportunity to receive all the required school supplies they need to get off to a successful new school year, while sparing their parents the anguish as to how they were going to pay the pencils, paper and more they know their children need.
Secondly, the back-to-school event is designed to provide awareness to members in the community as to the resources that may be available to them as they prepare for the upcoming school year.
Prior to receiving school supplies, students and parents are required to visit at least five vendor tables which provided educational, nutritional, and other useful information that could potentially improve the student’s new school year.
And when they were not collecting schools supplies or gathering useful information, attendees were invited to share their favorite moves on the dance floor or line up to receive face painting.
Thanks to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans® we were able to provide the Raleigh Rescue Mission with 150 school kits for elementary school-age children.
“I really appreciate how much my son was helped with the school supplies, backpack included,” stated one parent. “School supplies and bag would have ran about 30-40 bucks I believe.”
Another parent reported, “The backpacks and supplies were really helpful, especially with having multiple kids starting school. I really appreciate it. It took some of the stress of getting my kids prepared off my shoulders.”
And from one of the child advocacy team members participating in the event: “The backpacks have really helped our preschoolers to be able to have something that is theirs and that they can take to their room every night.”
“Ya’ll really did a good job on taking care of those kids,” said one grandmother attending the event. “My grandkids were so happy to get the school supplies and they were very excited.
“God bless you all.”
This year, we were able to provide thousands of children throughout Appalachia with the backpacks and school supplies they need to be prepared from day one of a new school year thanks to our supporters who made it possible. It would not have happened without them.
On any given day, 40 homeless children will be fed, cared for, educated and counseled through the Children’s New Life Plan (CNLP) operated by Americans Helping Americans® partner in North Carolina, the Raleigh Rescue Mission (RRM).
For parents entering the RRM’s homeless services program, among the hardest aspects had been addressing their children’s needs while focusing on their own at the same time.
RRM’s New Life Plan is a continuous program that provides the framework for men, women and children experiencing homelessness to achieve long term stability and break the cycle of poverty, explained RRM CEO John Luckett.
And its CNLP track provides children with social and emotional skills development, counseling to deal with adverse childhood experiences related to homelessness, and tutoring to enable a child to read at their grade level.
CNLP services include before and after-school care, nursery for infants through toddlers 2 ½ years old, preschool with an educational curriculum for children aged 2 ½ through 5, and off-site therapy and safe and fun activities while their mothers are in classes or counseling.
As any parent of young children can attest, one of the biggest challenges, particularly for single mothers, is childcare.
The CNLP allows parents to focus on vocational training, employment and addressing issues related to adverse experiences and traumas that may have led up to them experiencing homelessness, says John.
“The cost of quality childcare and before/after school care programs can be expensive and stressful for single mothers,” he said. “Without the CNLP this would be a barrier for mothers in the program to obtain and maintain employment and to be successful.
“The before and after school program gives parents peace of mind because they know their children are safe and engaged in fun learning opportunities.”
Thanks to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans®, we are able to provide financial assistance to RRM for the operation of its life-changing CNLP that benefits not only the roughly 100 children served each year themselves, but their parents as well.
“Funds from Americans Helping Americans® are vital at this time to help support the needs of the children being served,” said John. “The Raleigh Rescue Mission is grateful for the support of Americans Helping Americans®. Your support has helped us to expand our children’s program to provide more comprehensive services for our children experiencing homelessness.
“Americans Helping Americans® donors’ support is helping our children build resiliency. The backpacks and school kits (also provided by Americans Helping Americans®) increase self-confidence and esteem,” he continued.
“The smile and excitement on a child’s face communicates how thankful they are for the gifts and opportunities experienced in the children’s program.
“Your gift lets them know they are valued, cared for and loved.”
Thursday, August 15, was the exciting start of a new school year for the children who attend Southside K-8 school in McDowell County, West Virginia.
An equally exciting day was Tuesday, August 20, for about two dozen or so Southside students who are fortunate enough to be able to attend the “Extra Cool Afterschool” program hosted by Americans Helping Americans® partner there, Big Creek People in Action (BCPIA) for the past 10 years.
Without this afterschool program, many of these elementary school children would “go home to a house with limited food and a parent who isn’t concerned about making them a hot meal for supper,” reports BCPIA co-executive director Dyanne Spriggs.
For the children who live in the area of the tiny community of Caretta, they are able to ride their school bus and get dropped off at BCPIA’s headquarters where the afterschool program is held. For children who do not live nearby, BCPIA staff goes to the school to pick up the students.
The students who attend the afterschool program have a busy schedule every Monday through Thursday beginning when they arrive at 3:45 p.m. for a computer lab until 4:20 p.m. when they have a break to go wash up for supper.
And what a supper it is as the children receive a healthy full course meal with typical menus being baked pork chops, green beans, mac and cheese, mixed fruit, roll and milk one day, meat loaf, mashed potatoes, green beans and applesauce the next, Italian chicken, potatoes, green beans and applesauce, the following day, and what is likely their favorite; pizza, with salad, corn and pears.
Following their meal, it’s time to brush their teeth (perhaps using their Mighty Molars dental kits provided by Americans Helping Americans®) and then time to do their homework for a half hour with the help of tutors who are there to answer questions and give them the individualized attention they may need but do not get in a classroom with 29 classmates.
Then, depending on the weather, the children get another half hour to play outside or exercise indoors, get a light snack such as graham crackers and peanut butter, or maybe even “ants on a log” (a.k.a celery with peanut butter and raisins).
While most of the kids in the afterschool program attend school nearby, a few, such as Karla are home schooled.
Last year, 10-year-old Karla was out on the playground at the same time as the children in the afterschool program and expressed an interest in signing up to join them and her mother signed her up for the summer program offered by BCPIA.
“At first she was very shy because she didn’t really know the kids,” said Dyanne. “But eventually she made friends and started the enjoying program.”
Another little girl told of how much she especially enjoys the tutoring she receives in the program because “her parents never help her with her homework,” said Dyanne.
“I really like the way you all help me with my homework and give me my spelling words,” she told one of her tutors. “I’ve been doing better in school since I’ve been here.”
Several of them also really appreciate the help they receive with special projects, such as for the science fair and social studies fair where they are provided with the presentation boards, computers to do their research, and help with printing out the information and putting it on their boards.
“I would have not been able to do my project without your help,” said one student.
And all of the kids express their gratitude “every day about the good food they eat here,” added Dyanne.
Thanks to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans® we are able to support BCPIA after school feeding program, at a cost of $5 per child per day.
“One of our most rewarding programs is our afterschool program,” says Dyanne. “Many of our parents do not place literacy or education as a high priority for their children.
“They majority of our kids have parents who are on some kind of public assistance and don’t work. Feeding these kids a good supper and snack and helping them with their homework are our greatest priorities.
“We face many challenges when it comes to educating our children, but with the support from Americans Helping Americans®, we are able to extend the reach of our education and afterschool program so that more young people receive the best opportunity to succeed.
“With support from Americans Helping Americans®, we can provide access to resources and networks that will, over time, make a large, significant difference in our community.”
Earlier this summer, I spent some time “being a kid” at summer camps in small towns throughout Appalachia.
In Kentucky and West Virginia at summer camps that are sponsored by Americans Helpings Americans, children find a place where they can be with friends and learn important skills. Educational activities in the summer are much more relaxed than those during the school year. Children can play and learn to be themselves at the same time.
The most moving thing I noticed though, was a child who learned self-confidence.
One of the campers I noticed was so shy; she had a hard time talking to anyone. After some time just playing with her, I was able to get her to open up. She told me she wanted to be police officer, just like her dad. I told her that she would be a great officer, and that one day, she would step up and be a hero just like her dad.
The next day, we were making volcanoes out of clay. Her volcano was gorgeous! After she was finished, she went around to help other campers with their volcanoes. I was blown away! Just a day earlier, she was so scared she couldn’t talk to anyone. Now she was not only talking to fellow campers; she was helping them learn!
I saw heroism in her that day. I was so moved. That confidence that she learned at summer camp will be with her as she goes into the new school year. Can you imagine what would’ve happened if she didn’t attend summer camp this year?
If you would like to go beyond the call of duty, a gift to Americans Helping Americans can help make more heroes!
In Jefferson City, Tennessee, Appalachian Outreach partners with the Jefferson City Housing Authority which provides a fully-equipped community room for an eight-week period, with Appalachia Outreach providing a four-day weekly program for children living in the city’s low-income housing units, as well as those homeless children living its Samaritan House family shelter.
The program is critical for the children living in these units and at the shelter, notes Appalachian Outreach Executive Director Jean-Ann Washam.
“The children attending this program would not be enrolled in a structured program this summer without our presence,” she told us. “As a result, some of these children would be left unattended.”
Appalachian Outreach is the only on-going program that serves the needs of these families at no cost. While are summer camps available, they charge a fee which would be unaffordable for these children’s parents.
In addition, transportation is an issue for these families so through its partnership with the housing authority, the summer camp site is within easy walking distance for the children and their parents.
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 ….