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.
In Cleveland, Georgia, there is an 18-year-old woman, who we’ll call Samantha, who was working a dead-end, minimum-wage job with no hopes of advancement.
Among the missions of Americans Helping Americans is enabling people, such as Samantha, through vocational assistance programs and small financial grants, generally no more than $100, to give them that little extra “hand up” to get them over the hurdle.
Our partner there, Caring Hands Ministries, helped her find a better job…but much more than that – an opportunity that provided Samantha with the first step in the career field of her choice.
Her new employer is paying for her to earn her certified nursing assistant license, but she had just one hurdle still to overcome — the job required that in order to begin working, she would have to buy her own nurses scrubs and a new pair of nice tennis shoes.
“Thanks to this grant, we were able to purchase her three sets of scrubs and a pair of shoes to help her jump-start her new career,” reported Caring Hands, which added that among the many benefits of the Americans Helping Americans vocational training grant program is that it gives the grassroots non-profit organization the ability to help people obtain the training or items needed to find employment.
“This young lady is working hard and studying for her exam to become a CNA. Once she earns her CNA license she will get a raise at work.”
Today, Samantha has realized her dream of beginning a career in nursing, with likely many more to come as she advances in her new profession, all thanks to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans.