“Everything is free” at Americans Helping Americans® partner Appalachian Outreach’s “Back-to-School Bash” in Jefferson City, Tennessee.
“This is a fun community event to help kick off the school year,” explained Appalachian Outreach Executive Director Jean-Ann Washam. “All school-age children in Jefferson and Grainger counties can attend and receive a new backpack full of school supplies.”
In addition to the school supplies, there were plenty of fun activities for the children including moon bounces, face painting, games, and plenty of treats such as popcorn, cotton candy and snow cones.
For the parents, who were relieved of the burden of trying to figure out how they were going to pay for their children’s school supplies, several local assistance agencies set up informational tables to inform them of what services might be available to them.
The children were so excited and happy to receive their new school supplies, including first-grader Emma, who upon receiving hers, exclaimed “I can’t wait to start school!”
Kate, a mother of four, commented, “With four kids it is very hard to afford all the school supplies they need. This event is a big help to my family.”
“Thank you for all you do to support Appalachian Outreach and this event,” said Jean-Ann. “Without Americans Helping Americans® many families in our area would struggle to provide needed school supplies for their children.”
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.
My granddad has always been my superhero.
I’ve always been inspired by his experiences; growing up during the depression, serving in the Air Force during WWII, meeting presidents, working at the White House, getting a PhD, and starting Americans Helping Americans. Over the years, we would have family dinners, and granddad would share riveting, inspiring, and sometimes even sad stories of the folks he met in community after community throughout Appalachia. He was so committed to always making their lives a bit better, with a hand-up.
A few weeks ago, he ‘passed the torch’ of leading Americans Helping Americans to me…challenging me to help as many as I could in the years to come. I’m so honored, and humbled, and hope to be a superhero to as many as he has.
And, just maybe, I can feel that AHA superpower just a little.
Last week, I was lucky enough to ride on the Lunch Box Bus in Rodgesville, TN to help bring lunch to the hundreds that don’t have school lunch during the summer days. I sat on the school bus seat and asked the children being served lunch who their personal superhero was. A chorus of “Wonder Woman,” “Superman,” and “Captain America” filled the school bus!
But then one small, seven-year-old girl, quietly said, “Whoever brings me food for the day.”
I was crushed. I sat next to her and talked to her more but before I knew it, time was up. She finished eating and she hopped off the bus. The bus driver told me that she ate lunch on the bus everyday and each time she got off she would say, “Thanks for the food.” She got half way down the street and we were wondering if she was going to say it this time. We waited and waited, wondering if this would be the 1st time she didn’t say thanks. Then we heard her voice from down the street as she yelled for all to hear:
“THANKS FOR THE FOOD!”
I felt like a hero! Not just to her but to all the children we served lunch to that day. An immense feeling of pride swept over me. A feeling that can only be replicated from knowing I did a good deed. So shout out to all the amazing people out there who know exactly what I’m talking about. Shout out to my granddad!
And if you would like to be a hero to a child, a gift to Americans Helping Americans will go far!
We can all be superheroes, just like granddad.
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:
For the first time in 65 years of married life, after coming home from the hospital himself, Mr. Jones was scared his wife would also return from the hospital to a cold home.
He had been out for three hours driving from one church to another determined to find someone who would help him pay his electric bill before the disconnect date on his notice. He didn’t know where to go for this was the first time in his eighty-four-year-old life that he had been in this situation.
He had been in the hospital for three weeks recently and his wife was actually in the hospital at the present time. The expense of medication upon his release from the hospital was more than his monthly social security income. He had a disconnect notice from both the electric and water companies in the mail that the neighbor had piled on the kitchen table. His wife was due to be released to come home with home health care within the next week. He knew this could not happen if the utilities were disconnected.
The office worker at one of the churches that he visited told him to our partner, Come-Unity Cooperative Care. “They are your best chance for help,” she told him. They were able to pay all his bill except for the $100 that he was given by the church.
Moments like this would not be possible without the support we receive from our supporters.