Among Americans Helping Americans® newest partners is Sprouting Hope, located in Marion, Virginia in the rural southwest region of the state.
Sprouting Hope’s mission is to feed the community by growing and sharing healthy produce, with the vision of everyone having access to healthy food.
“With a focus on serving and empowering low-income individuals, we not only give a fish, but also teach how to fish by making the program accessible for participants to work and learn in the garden,” states the organization.
Everything grown is distributed to volunteers, food pantries, soup kitchens and a local free clinic. In addition, Sprouting Hope offers youth education and therapeutic gardening programs for people in the mental health community.
It’s 13,800 square foot garden serves more than 300 families with approximately three tons of fresh produce annually.
Sprouting Hope is located in Smyth County, which as a population of less than 6,000 and a median household income of $38,900, much lower than the statewide average of $68,114. Indeed, the services of Sprouting Hope are much needed.
Fresh produce provided to households by Sprouting Hope is key to healthier diets, particularly for growing children in a county where 55 percent of them qualify for free and reduced-price meals and one-third are expected to develop Type 2 diabetes in their lifetime and are at risk becoming seriously obese.
Low-income rural Appalachian communities are at an even greater risk than the general population, so access to nutritious food is vital to their health.
With funding from Americans Helping Americans, Sprouting Hope will be able to restart their Homegrown project which allows applicants to participate in a multi-year education course teaching them how to start a farm in their own backyard.
In the first year, they will learn the basics of farming including proper ways to ward off insect pests and diseases and learn more about the options and benefits of organic gardening. In the second year of the curriculum, participants will be instructed on how to qualify for food certifications and sell their produce at local farmers markets.
Fresh food and self-sustainability will work wonders for this community and this project can be emulated across America.
(Pictured: Rosy Moore, second from left, and Aimee Mutter, left, with McDowell County Career and Technology Center students, from left, Christina, Seth, Amanda and Adam)
For nearly 10 years, Rosy Moore has been helping high school students in West Virginia get off to a good start as they enter adulthood through her role as a tutor at the McDowell County Career and Technology Center (CTC).
Rosy specializes in tutoring students in math and reading, enabling them to successfully apply for classes at the CTC where they can take courses in fields such as business, finance and information technology, health sciences, technology engineering and design, trade and industrial education, and more.
Rosy and AmeriCorps member Aimee Mutter help students who may have fallen behind their peers over the years and who just need that little hand up. They provide them with the encouragement they need to say “I can do it.”
Rosy assists wit the NOTCI (National Occupational Competency Testing Institute) exams which measure what a student knows coming into vocational school, as well as what they have learned throughout the year in their particular program.
“In working with their teachers, along with the tutoring program, I am proud to say that testing went smoothly, and there were some very high scores from many of the students,” she reported.
And, thanks to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans® who provide the funding to help operate the program, “We have helped the students to be where they need to be. I am very excited about all of our accomplishments.”
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 ….
In many respects Juan was a typical middle school boy, but he also suffered from isolation. He had no friends and was shy because he could not speak clearly with his classmates.
“He often felt alone and afraid, so he mostly kept to himself,” we were told by Mary Mauricio, founder and director of our longtime partner in Gainesville, Georgia, L.A.M.P. Ministries, which operates an afterschool program designed exactly for children and youth like Juan.
But all it took for Juan to come out of his shell and not feel so self-conscious was a few days of attending LAMP’s program and reassurances from Mary.
“Being a part of the afterschool program has helped him overcome his fears,” she reported. “He is thriving in school and by the end of the school year, he made several friends and is now very outgoing.”
In fact, Juan now acts as a mentor and role model for his peers and looks forward to coming to the LAMP program after school every day.
And Mary tells us his biggest “concern” today with the school year coming to a close is if LAMP is going to have a summer program he can attend.
“Thanks to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans® for making a big difference in the life of this bright, confident young man, and the lives of so many other young men and women.”
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.
Jimmy has now spent the last two West Virginia winters living in his truck, even though he owns what is technically a “house” in the tiny community of Shaft Holler.
But if our partner Big Creek People in Action (BCPIA) co-executive director Marsha Timpson who serves the community there has anything to say about it, he has spent the last of his winters of surviving the frigid nights in his truck.
“We are doing our best to make sure he won’t spend third,” said Marsha, noting that Jimmy has diabetes, high blood pressure, and other ailments. “He is in a wheelchair and I can’t believe he made it through this harsh winter in that truck.”
In March, students from the University of Richmond descended on McDowell County and spent several days working on making his home habitable, as well as starting construction of a handicap ramp which will allow him to enter and exit his home with ease.
Although the house itself needs “A LOT OF WORK,” Marsha decided that the first priority was to get the handicap ramp constructed for Jimmy “because if we get it up then we can rig up the front room and kitchen for him. It won’t be much for a while – but it is better than sitting in the truck day and night. I know that has to be hard on his legs and circulation.”
The Richmond students got a good start on the ramp but didn’t have enough time to finish it. In May, a group of students from Centre College in Kentucky will be there to continue working on Jimmy’s ramp.
This project is just one of many that we at Americans Helping Americans® support with financial grants enabling Marsha to purchase the much-needed lumber and other building materials and supplies necessary to do the work on homes such as Jimmy’s throughout the county.
But without our loyal and generous supporters who make that possible, Jimmy and so many others we have helped for the past many years and will be helping this year and for years to come, he might well be still living in that old truck.