Dozens of kids sent to camp

Dozens of kids sent to camp

ABLE Families of Kermit, West Virginia, is our newest partner, and this summer we are proud to report that thanks to our generous supporters we were able to help send dozens of kids to camp operated by the grassroots nonprofit organization.

Each year, thanks to our generous supporters, we are able to provide hundreds of children throughout Appalachia with a fun-filled adventure at a summer camp where they enjoy participating in arts and crafts projects, take part in educational activities where they continue learning – perhaps without even realizing it – and, of course, are served meals and snacks that they likely would not be getting at home.

In fact, ABLE Families operates six or seven separate camps throughout the summer that offer a variety of enriching activities to keep children thinking, exercising, and eating well. Past camps have covered cooking, outdoor living, books, music, drama, dance, water safety, ecology, and various other topics.

Our new partnership with ABLE Families began this summer with a grant made possible by our supporters to assist the organization with the operation of its camps and just by looking at this photo of all these girls and young women in their Camp Appalachia t-shirts shows it was money well invested.

The Lunch Box Bus is rolling!

The Lunch Box Bus is rolling!

Monday, June 4, was a momentous day for hundreds of schoolchildren in Hancock and Hawkins counties, Tennessee – it was the first day of summer vacation that the Lunch Box bus came to their tiny communities bringing them a free, healthy and filling lunch.

Americans Helping Americans® is proud to be a national organization helping our partner there, Of One Accord, to make such a big difference for hungry children in the rural, northeast Appalachian region of the state.

Of One Accord Executive Director Rev. Sheldon Livesay noted at a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the 2018 kickoff of the Lunch Box bus program which is now in its 13th year that they are on track to serve the 100,000th meal this summer.

In a video prepared for the supporters of Americans Helping Americans®, Rev. Livesay explained why the program is so necessary for the children they serve.

In large cities, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program is able to serve hundreds of children living within a few blocks of a feeding site, such as a school, church or community center.

“That’s not the case here in rural Appalachia,” he said.

Since the children can’t get to the meals, the meals are brought to the children on four Lunch Box buses which will operate for more than 40 weekdays this summer.

The buses traverse the rural two-lane roadways through the mountains to remote mobile home parks, community centers and low-income communities where between 15 to 25 kids and youth hop on, enjoy lunch with their siblings, friends, and neighbors, and hop off full and ready for an afternoon of fun with no worries about when they’re going to get their next meal.

“It takes several different stops to begin capturing those numbers of children and making it possible for everybody who needs help to get help,” he said.

While Of One Accord is reimbursed for the cost of the food itself by the USDA, it is up to Rev. Livesay to come up with the roughly $30,000 cost to operate the program which includes, bus fuel and maintenance, insurance, driver’s salaries and other miscellaneous expenses.

And thanks to our supporters we are able to help with a substantial portion of those costs.

“Americans Helping Americans® is a national organization that is supporting us this year,” stated Rev. Livesay in the video kicking off the 2018 season. “They’re doing a fundraiser for us through the month, and we certainly want to thank you, Americans Helping Americans®.

“God bless each and everyone one of you.”

Lunch Box Program

Lunch Box Program

In the summer of 2017, hundreds of hungry children in rural Appalachian Tennessee waiting anxiously each weekday to hear their favorite sound. And no, it wasn’t the ring of the bell of an ice cream truck loaded with sweet treats for sale on a hot summer’s day.

In fact, the sound they were listening for was the sound of the big diesel engine of a school bus, not coming to take them to school, but instead bringing them a filling, nutritious meal, which sadly for many would be their only substantial meal of the day.

Our partner Of One Accord, serves lunch to hundreds of children living in impoverished Hawkins County, among the poorest in the state, and through its “Lunch Box” bus summer feeding program, a total of 12,464 meals were served in 2017.

The Lunch Box bus program is unique! A former “retired” school bus is converted into a mobile cafeteria where children get on the bus and eat their lunch with their siblings and friends, just as they do on a school day. The seats are turned facing each other with a cafeteria table in between allowing seating for 15 or more children to all eat at one time.

In 2006, Of One Accord was the first ministry in the U.S. to put the concept of bringing lunch to children in rural areas where offering a summer meals program at a centralized location is not practical or feasible, according to Executive Director Rev. Sheldon Livesay.

The four Lunch Box buses will serve an average of 320 children daily, with each bus making a total of 32 regular stops each day. This summer it is projected to serve 14,500 meals, from June 4 to July 27.

“The key for success is having to be consistent and to be at each location at exactly the same time each day for children to be able to depend on the bus coming,” he explained.

The need was great for such a program in the area. Hawkins County was among the last counties in the state that did not have a summer feeding program in place for school-age children, according to Rev. Livesay.

He told us that when the school system attempted to offer a summer lunch program, it didn’t work because the vast majority of children did not live within walking distance of the school; in the rural communities it was too far and too costly for parents to drive them to get a free lunch.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Summer Food Service Program funds the cost of the food, and we help to cover the cost of program expenses needed to run the operation. “Through the amazing help of Americans Helping Americans®, we were not only able to place two more buses on the road, but they are being sustained as a program through the support of Americans Helping Americans® raising the number of children served from 8,500 to 14,500,” Rev. Livesay said.

However, he added, “The sad note is we have children who board the bus who attest this is the first meal they have had since the day before, and we have even heard on a Monday, this was a child’s first meal since the Friday before.”

Supercalifragilistexpialidocioius!

Supercalifragilistexpialidocioius!

We know there are hundreds of thousands of kids in Appalachia who are bright and eager to learn. But too often they become discouraged by parents, many who are high school dropouts themselves and never earned a GED, who don’t encourage them to work hard and succeed in the classroom.They don’t take the time to read to their children at a young age, and never help them with their homework even if they could. And they don’t commend their children for bringing home good grades…and don’t admonish them to try harder when they bring home D’s and F’s on their report card.In the classroom, with as many as 30 or more other classmates, no matter how dedicated their teacher is, it’s impossible for students who are struggling to get the individualized attention they need to understand what’s in their textbooks and on the chalkboard.That’s where we come in.

Working with our partners who offer afterschool programs, such as Big Creek People in Action in McDowell County, West Virginia, the lives of many children are transformed where they receive the one-on-one tutoring they need to help them keep up with their classmates.On elementary school girl, Brittany, told us how she was doing well in all her classes, except math – and how to divide fractions (something that likely challenges many adults as well).However, when she informed her tutor at BCPIA it was a concept she just couldn’t comprehend, she received the individualized attention she needed and within a couple of hours she had mastered it and was solving problems with ease.
“Now I fly right through it,” Brittany told us.

Who knows what would’ve happened if she had fallen behind in school, and then in class after class, grade after grade, year after year she continued to fall further and further behind until she simply gave up, becoming a teenage high school dropout with no hope for anything better than a minimum wage job at best in her future.But thanks to our supporters, Brittany, who is now in high school, and many others just like her received the encouragement they need to not give up and drop out and are told “Good job!” when they proudly show off their report cards with all A’s.We had the opportunity to meet Brittany a few years ago during a visit to BCPIA who told us about her 11-hour days – leaving home at 8 a.m. to catch the school bus, in class until around 4 p.m. when she would go to the BCPIA afterschool program and not getting home until about 7 p.m., making for a very long day for her and many others just like her.“Yeah, but it’s amazing,” she commented.

She also told us how much she enjoys the afterschool program at BCPIA where she and her classmates not only receive tutoring, snacks and a hot meal and even have fun doing their homework together.

This past fall we were thrilled to hear from BCPIA co-executive director Marsha Timpson how well Brittany and her younger brother David are doing. Marsha was hosting a baby shower for Mary, one of the women who works in the afterschool program, “when I overheard a comment that went straight to my heart.” Mary had invited Brittany to come to the baby shower, and as she was handing the presents to her a lady made a comment to Brittany about how helpful she was.“Brittany thanked them and went on to say how much she loved Mary AND Big Creek People in Action,” Marsha said. “She said both her and her brother loved it here and all of the people here.“The lady asked her why she loved it so much and Brittany became very quiet for a moment (very unusual occurrence – ha!) and finally answered and said, ‘I would have to say because we were always made to feel very welcome here.’”

Marsha said she thought about Brittany’s answer that night and it made her heart warm.“How wonderful that we do that and how wonderful that those children feel that way,” she said. “I cannot think of a better thing we could do for those children.
“Feeding them is fantastic, listening to them is fantastic, helping them with their homework is fantastic – but making them feel welcome while doing those things is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!!!!!!“The feeling of WELCOME encompasses so many things: you feel safe, you feel comfortable, you feel liked and most of all – you feel wanted,” Marsha added. “I hope we make every single one of those young’uns feel that way because they are super special to us.”

These children are also “super special” to us as well and thanks to our supporters we are proud to be a partner instilling a love of education to all the young children who are fortunate enough to be able to attend BCPIA’s afterschool program yearning to learn and succeed in school, and in life.