For many Appalachian parents, being able to support the educational efforts of their children can be challenging.
Now, with the coronavirus pandemic continuing to plague the communities you help us serve, the topic that is on most parents’ minds is what they’re going to do when school is in session.
Thanks to supporters like you, we’re helping to give these children options. From providing school supplies to helping create online opportunities so that teens are safe, we believe in the youth of Appalachia and their educational endeavors.
Along with providing teens in Beattyville, Kentucky with Coronavirus Learning Pods, we also want to make sure elementary school children will be able to continue their studies even if they have computers at home, but not internet access.
That’s why Americans Helping Americans® is providing 200 flash drives to them.
This is part of the digital divide, or simply, families who have access to computers and broadband internet at home and those that do not. Many school children in Appalachia live with no computer and broadband internet access at home. That means that low-income students without computers cannot do their homework. They cannot conduct research for school projects. They cannot email their teachers if they have a question or need guidance. They cannot do their assignments when school isn’t in session.
For years, we’ve worked with our partner, Lee County Family Resource Center (LCFRC), in Beattyville to provide a computer to needy children at Beattyville Elementary School.
With the flash drives, students will be able to receive their assignments from their teachers, complete their classwork and upload it onto the flash drive and return the flash drive to their teachers.
With your help, we can help hundreds of children in Beattyville are able to adapt to the educational challenges facing the community.
We would like to acknowledge Linda Smith as the recipient of the Americans Helping Americans® – Helper of the Month award for April! Congratulations, Linda!
We heard about Linda from our partner, Sherry Lanham of the Lee County Family Resource Center in Lee County, Kentucky. According to Sherry, “Linda, her husband Bob and their son Josh own the local newspaper–Three Forks Tradition but they are the backbone of our community, especially Linda.” Sherry told us that this month, she has worked so hard to organize events to keep the Lee County community in good spirits while the COVID-19 virus has many people “down and out.”
As a show of support for the high school’s seniors who may not have a graduation ceremony this year, Linda was instrumental in raising money to buy signs with all of their names and placed them in the center of town and around the high school.
She is also working with the school to provide a gift for seniors every Friday, ranging from a pizza lunch to gift cards. The seniors pull up in their car and are handed a special gift from the community. This past Saturday she helped organize an antique car parade that drove all over the community and around the nursing home to help lift the spirits of those who cannot leave their residence.
For over 25 years, she has been the chairperson of Lee County’s local “Woolly Worm Festival” that is held each October. Despite the fact that these are uncertain times, she is already working on the upcoming festival. Linda always gives the Lee County Family Resource Center free coverage when they do a school activity or one sponsored by Americans Helping Americans.
This year, Lee County will celebrate their 150th anniversary and she has worked hard to start this event since January. Sherry says, “She had plans for monthly activities but those are on hold at this time.”
In March, just prior to Kentucky’s shutdown, the resource center held a community event to celebrate some of their residents, churches and other community members who had lived in the town for a long time. Linda managed to get plaques, flowers, cakes and have the entire event organized and ready.
Linda truly embodies the spirit of a hometown hero. She and her husband both have numerous health problems but that doesn’t stop her from attending every community event, working hard and making sure those who need help in the community get what they need.
In addition to serving as Woolly Worm Chair, she serves on Lee County’s Friends helping Friends committee, Museum Committee, Natural Bridge State Park council, July 4th Committee, Trick or Treat on Main Committee, Tree of Love at Christmas, works with the local volunteer firefighters to raise money for their needs, and still finds time to help anyone who asks her for a minute.
Sherry concluded by saying, “She truly deserves to be recognized for all her efforts in our community.”
The Helper of the Month Award is designed to show the amazing, wonderful, hard-working, and dedicated people in the Appalachian communities we serve every day. Each month, we’ll be sharing these stories with you in the hopes that you’ll walk away as inspired as we are to do good things in your community!
At Americans Helping Americans, our partners throughout Appalachia strive to project what the most pressing needs will be for those most in need in their communities in terms of food, basic needs, education and more, for the year ahead.
But no one could have anticipated the hardships that would be imposed on those families and seniors already struggling to get by in these times of the coronavirus pandemic.
Our grassroots partners have limited means, few staff, and we’re already stretched to their limits in operating their programs, and we understand that even the best-laid plans can go awry.
Within the past week, we have been hearing from many of them as they have been forced to cancel well-established programs for the foreseeable future as other dire needs have emerged.
In these extraordinary times, they must adapt, and we are giving them the flexibility to use their grant funding to adjust the services they offer to put these resources to best use.
For our partner in Beattyville, Kentucky, Cumberland Mountain Outreach, which has for many years operated a popular free summer camp for children and youth, the tough, but necessary, decision to cancel camp this summer had to be made.
Among the benefits of the summer camp program for the older youth is its Teens in a Leadership program in which the youth who had attended the camp for several years as children are put into mentorship roles providing the younger children a positive role model to look up to.
Instead, this year, these promising teens will be contributing to their community through service projects, such as delivering food boxes door-to-door to senior citizens and the disabled this summer.
When a partner inquired as to whether we had much-in-demand face masks, it turned out that we had a few thousand on hand which we could provide them.
While non-perishable food boxes will always be in demand, we are also receiving numerous requests from our partners for soap and other personal hygiene items, as well as disposable diapers. So, we have adjusted our focus as well and will soon be shipping thousands of bars of soap, diapers and other items in the knowledge that sadly, this is likely just the beginning of a long, difficult summer.
None of what we do, and a lot of what our partners do, would be possible without the generosity of Americans Helping Americans whose support we, and our partners and their clients, rely on month after month, year after year.
These are uncharted waters, but with your help, we are helping thousands of our fellow Americans steer their way through the storm and make it the calmer waters we have faith are coming in the months to follow.
Despite the concern about the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, people in Appalachia still have to eat — particularly healthy foods such as vegetables and fruits they are able to grow in their own backyard or neighborhood community gardens.
Among our newest partners are Sprouting Hope in Marion, Virginia, and Refresh Appalachia in Huntington, West Virginia, which are soldiering on as best they can even in these most disturbing of times.
And as they are, so are we at Americans Helping Americans in the knowledge that they are counting on us to continue our financial support to assist them in helping those in their communities with establishing their gardens as the growing season is just getting ready to begin.
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 Sprouting Hope on its website.
Program coordinator Mandy Hart reported this week that the organization’s operations have not been affected yet, although they are taking precautions including putting its Homegrowers course online making it available to residents in the community.
“The Homegrown program will continue,” says Mandy. “We just have to get a bit more creative.”
In Huntington, Refresh Appalachia, with support from Americans Helping Americans, is working to create a garden on an unused tract at a community center in a low-income public housing community located in what is known as a “food desert” where the nearest actual grocery store is miles away.
These projects are vital to the health and wellbeing of the residents in the communities, and they MUST go on!
Throughout Appalachia, our fellow citizens in distressed communities struggle to get by even when times are good — and with the current coronavirus pandemic things are certainly far from good.
Among the things these people count on the partners of Americans Helping Americans for are supplemental food to get through the month, relieving them of the stress of having to choose between paying rent, purchasing their prescription medicines, keeping their lights on, or putting food on the table.
For example, in Gainesville, Georgia, Mary Mauricio, executive director of our longtime partner there, LAMP Ministries just reported that instead of having her clients come to their office to pick up food boxes as they had in the past, Mary and her team of volunteers are out and about delivering food boxes to grateful families in the lowest income neighborhoods in the community.
In Cleveland, Georgia, our partner Caring Hands Ministries is doing the same for their most vulnerable elderly clients, providing food, and perhaps equally important, a lifeline to the outside world where Caring Hands volunteers are the only people they can count on in time of need or even emergencies.
And in Welch, West Virginia, one of our newest partners, 5 Loaves & 2 Fishes has expanded its operations with longer hours and its volunteers are bringing the food boxes to the clients’ cars, rather than have them come into the building. With support from Americans Helping Americans these families are able to receive fresh meats, in addition to non-perishable food items and fresh produce.
We commend our partners for their selfless service in these stressful times of great need, and thank our supporters for making this all possible.