We know there are hundreds of thousands of kids in Appalachia who are bright and eager to learn. But too often they become discouraged by parents, many who are high school dropouts themselves and never earned a GED, who don’t encourage them to work hard and succeed in the classroom.They don’t take the time to read to their children at a young age, and never help them with their homework even if they could. And they don’t commend their children for bringing home good grades…and don’t admonish them to try harder when they bring home D’s and F’s on their report card.In the classroom, with as many as 30 or more other classmates, no matter how dedicated their teacher is, it’s impossible for students who are struggling to get the individualized attention they need to understand what’s in their textbooks and on the chalkboard.That’s where we come in.
Working with our partners who offer afterschool programs, such as Big Creek People in Action in McDowell County, West Virginia, the lives of many children are transformed where they receive the one-on-one tutoring they need to help them keep up with their classmates.On elementary school girl, Brittany, told us how she was doing well in all her classes, except math – and how to divide fractions (something that likely challenges many adults as well).However, when she informed her tutor at BCPIA it was a concept she just couldn’t comprehend, she received the individualized attention she needed and within a couple of hours she had mastered it and was solving problems with ease.
“Now I fly right through it,” Brittany told us.
Who knows what would’ve happened if she had fallen behind in school, and then in class after class, grade after grade, year after year she continued to fall further and further behind until she simply gave up, becoming a teenage high school dropout with no hope for anything better than a minimum wage job at best in her future.But thanks to our supporters, Brittany, who is now in high school, and many others just like her received the encouragement they need to not give up and drop out and are told “Good job!” when they proudly show off their report cards with all A’s.We had the opportunity to meet Brittany a few years ago during a visit to BCPIA who told us about her 11-hour days – leaving home at 8 a.m. to catch the school bus, in class until around 4 p.m. when she would go to the BCPIA afterschool program and not getting home until about 7 p.m., making for a very long day for her and many others just like her.“Yeah, but it’s amazing,” she commented.
She also told us how much she enjoys the afterschool program at BCPIA where she and her classmates not only receive tutoring, snacks and a hot meal and even have fun doing their homework together.
This past fall we were thrilled to hear from BCPIA co-executive director Marsha Timpson how well Brittany and her younger brother David are doing. Marsha was hosting a baby shower for Mary, one of the women who works in the afterschool program, “when I overheard a comment that went straight to my heart.” Mary had invited Brittany to come to the baby shower, and as she was handing the presents to her a lady made a comment to Brittany about how helpful she was.“Brittany thanked them and went on to say how much she loved Mary AND Big Creek People in Action,” Marsha said. “She said both her and her brother loved it here and all of the people here.“The lady asked her why she loved it so much and Brittany became very quiet for a moment (very unusual occurrence – ha!) and finally answered and said, ‘I would have to say because we were always made to feel very welcome here.’”
Marsha said she thought about Brittany’s answer that night and it made her heart warm.“How wonderful that we do that and how wonderful that those children feel that way,” she said. “I cannot think of a better thing we could do for those children.
“Feeding them is fantastic, listening to them is fantastic, helping them with their homework is fantastic – but making them feel welcome while doing those things is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!!!!!!“The feeling of WELCOME encompasses so many things: you feel safe, you feel comfortable, you feel liked and most of all – you feel wanted,” Marsha added. “I hope we make every single one of those young’uns feel that way because they are super special to us.”
These children are also “super special” to us as well and thanks to our supporters we are proud to be a partner instilling a love of education to all the young children who are fortunate enough to be able to attend BCPIA’s afterschool program yearning to learn and succeed in school, and in life.
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.
We have long been proud of our enduring partnership with the non-profit grassroots organization, Of One Accord in Rogersville where it serves the neediest in the rural impoverished east Tennessee counties of Hawkins and Hancock.
We especially value the strong bond and friendship we have developed over many years with Of One Accord’s founder and director, Rev. Sheldon Livesay. We are especially pleased to announce today that Of One Accord was selected for a Governor’s Volunteer Stars award.
Of One Accord was presented the award “for outstanding community service in the best interests and highest traditions of the State of Tennessee.”
The state began taking nominations for the three most outstanding non-profits to represent the three regions of the state – western, middle and eastern. Of One Accord was chosen among the nominations from Chattanooga to Bristol as “the most outstanding non-profit in East Tennessee,” noted its hometown newspaper, The Rogersville Review.
Speaking of the award recipients, Volunteer Tennessee executive director Jim Snell stated, “They are the backbone of our great state, and by giving of their time and talents to fulfill needs that would otherwise go unmet, they truly embody the spirit of giving.”
Thanks to our loyal supporters, we are able to assist Of One Accord in its mission to feed hundreds of school children each weekday during summer break who would otherwise go hungry through the operation of its “Lunch Box” bus provide hundreds of children with backpacks full of school supplies and seniors living on meager fixed incomes with much-needed prescription eyeglasses, and much more.
Congratulations to Sheldon and all those staff members and volunteers who work day in and day out to make the lives of those down in their luck in their communities much brighter!
The awards were presented on March 12 by Miss Tennessee 2017 Caty Davis.
(Photo courtesy of Sheldon Livesay)