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.
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:
The distribution of winter coats at the headquarters of our partnerCome-Unity Cooperative Care (CCC) in Laurel County, Kentucky was orderly and efficient.
That’s not an easy thing to accomplish when there are 276 coats to be distributed to children in need.
First off, before any of their clients arrived, staff and volunteers arranged the coats by size on a rack and then posted a notice that the coats were available. As clients’ requests came in, they were each registered by name, address, age, sex and size, and each child was able to try one of for size to ensure the right fit.
Just as we count on our supporters to help us fulfill the need for thousands of coats throughout Appalachia, those in this rural region of Kentucky rely on Americans Helping Americans® to provide these coats to CCC for distribution in its service area.
“Our community knows that our agency is a place of help for them when they have nowhere else to turn,” stated CCC executive director Linda Lipps.
Among those with “nowhere else to turn” was Rose who took in three of her grandchildren into her home “and they did not have coats to wear.
“CCC gave us all nice new coats,” Rose told us. “The kids are so proud to wear these pretty coats. I thank you for providing them for us.
“There was no possible way that I could have bought coats for them.”
In Beattyville, Kentucky Sherry Lanham, director of the Lee County Family Resource Center, stated it matter-of-factly, “The coats provided by Americans Helping Americans® made sure all the children were warm throughout the winter.”
Lee County has among the highest poverty rates in the country, and the need for coats is great there as many families struggle just to put food on the table, much less new coats for their children.
“Many of our families are single-parent families with one income and they are often overlooked – and the children suffer,” says Sherry. “Through this program, all children were able to come and get coats without the stigma of being ‘poor.’
“They know that we are here to help and they can come to us without fear of being made fun of or being labeled as a ‘poor’ family,” she added. “Many of our parents are from the generation that finds it difficult to ask for help and they are often embarrassed to ask for help for themselves…but they will ask for help for their children.”
Thanks to our supporters, we are able to be there to assist Sherry in her mission to ensure that they can provide EVERY SINGLE CHILD they serve with a winter coat so that not one of them has to be turned away and told the heartbreaking words that the very last coat was just given out.
Sherry recounted “one of my favorite quotes” was from a little third-grade girl as she tried on her brand new coat, after always only getting worn out hand-me-downs from her older siblings, or used coats from the local thrift shop.
“I have my very own new coat for the first time ever!” she exclaimed with glee.
And this from Sherry to our supporters expressing her gratitude on behalf of the children and families she serves for the coats:
“Americans Helping Americans® has gone beyond our wildest dreams in the way they have helped our community.
“We are so very grateful for all that Americans Helping Americans® has done for our families and our children. You have truly made a lasting impact on our families and our school.
“Without the help that we received from Americans Helping Americans® many of our children would not have had appropriate coats for the winter.
“It is wonderful to have your support.”
Nearly one in four residents of the small town of Lonaconing, located in the Appalachian region of Maryland, live in poverty, about 10 percent higher than the natural average of 14 percent.
Many of these children’s parents struggle to just make sure there is plenty of food in the house for the family and juggle paying bills while getting by paycheck-to-paycheck on minimum-wage jobs.
Purchasing backpacks filled with all the items on their teacher’s school supply list is simply not something they can budget for, even when they know back-to-school season is quickly arriving when there’s no money to add to their household budget – especially when there are several school-age children in the family.
However, this August, thanks to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans®, we were able to provide 250 backpacks filled with school supplies to students at George’s Creek Elementary School.
For the children, the fear of shame and embarrassment of they may have had of entering their first class on the first day of school was eliminated. And for their parents, the stress of worrying about how to pay for such supplies was eliminated.
George’s Creek principal reported that most of the backpacks were given out during the school’s “Meet the Teacher night.
“Parents were appreciative and some even said they came just to get the bags,” she told us. “They didn’t have any money to purchase them.”
And she added,
“The students were proud to wear them.”
“Thank you so much.”
On the first day of school when many teachers ask their students “What did you do this summer?”, thanks to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans® nearly 200 low-income children in West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee will have quite a tale to tell.
Instead of spending their summer “vacation” whiling away the hours alone and isolated far from their friends in their rural homes, these boys and girls enjoyed fun and games, field trips, developed new friendships and even learned a bit, most likely without even realizing it.
For example, in War, West Virginia dozens of children attended Big Creek People in Action’s Super WHY literacy camps where some preschoolers who didn’t know the alphabet could sing their ABCs at the top of their lungs by the end of the week.
At ABLE Families camps, dozens of more children in Kermit, West Virginia took part in a variety of enriching activities including water safety, cooking, ecology, books, music, drama and more all designed to keep them “thinking, exercising and eating well.”
“There are no other summer camps provided in our area,” reported ABLE Families Executive Director Marlene Spaulding. “The camps we provide give the children an opportunity to broaden their vision to a brighter future.”
That’s what our mission is all about and we are grateful to our supporters and our partners to giving these children hope and a path towards that brighter future.