Americans Helping Americans Doubles Our Efforts Amidst the Coronavirus

Americans Helping Americans Doubles Our Efforts Amidst the Coronavirus

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. 

AHA COVID19 RESPONSE MASKS

 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. 

Gardening Programs Must Go On Despite Pandemic

Gardening Programs Must Go On Despite Pandemic

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!

 

Americans Helping Americans® thanks our supporters for standing with us right now

Americans Helping Americans® thanks our supporters for standing with us right now

During this turbulent time, we want to let you know how much we truly appreciate your support of Americans Helping Americans®.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve reached out to our partner organizations and even though meeting their needs has become more challenging, many of them have actually increased their workloads to help their individual communities.

This has meant extending the hours of their food pantries, delivering food and other household goods to their neighbors (especially to the elderly and disabled), and sharing messages of hope and togetherness on social media.

As scary as this time is for all of us, and despite our worry over how families will get through this, we’re content in the knowledge that we’re all in this together and we will get through this.

Among them is one of our newest partners, 5 Loaves & 2 Fishes in Welch, West Virginia, which has extended its capacity to serve more families in their distressed community, and particularly children who are not getting free meals while schools are closed indefinitely throughout the state.

They are taking ‘call-ins’ now to adhere to strict social distancing rules. Appointments are made throughout the day for residents to arrive and get their meal boxes that have been reserved.

Americans are sticking together, and in many cases, going above and beyond the call of duty just to help.

All of us are working to ensure that the needs of Appalachian families are met, and it’s only through your continuing support that this has been made possible.

From all of us at Americans Helping Americans®, thank you for standing with us.

Congratulations to the Employees of Old Dominion Freight Lines – Helpers of the Month for March!

Congratulations to the Employees of Old Dominion Freight Lines – Helpers of the Month for March!

We would like to acknowledge the employees at Old Dominion Freight Lines (ODFL) as the recipients of the Americans Helping Americans® – Helpers of the Month award for March! Congratulations, guys!

While it may seem odd to nominate a whole group of people, believe us when we say, they have been doing incredible work for our partner Appalachian Outreach (AO) in Jefferson City, Tennessee for many years.

What stands out about this group is their willingness to help. Every February, they host Appalachian Outreach’s “Souper Bowl of Caring” and this year, they collected 3,226 pounds of food at a time when our partner’s food pantry was bare.

This year, AO has seen an increase in the number of families in need of food. Recently, a plea for the community for support was sent out, and the employees at ODFL were the first to answer the call. 

Shortly afterwards, the group delivered close to 3,600 pounds of food.

Because of their act of kindness, AO’s pantry was stocked and families were served.

Appalachian Outreach’s Executive Director Jean-Ann Washam said, “Without people like this we would not be able to serve our families that are in need. I am so thankful for their support.” 


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!

Americans Helping Americans Introduces our Garden Match Program

Americans Helping Americans Introduces our Garden Match Program

As the COVID-10 (coronavirus) pandemic continues, residents in Appalachia still need help and children still need to eat – particularly healthy foods such as vegetables and fruits that families are able to grow in their backyard or in 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 worrisome of times.

Knowing that they count on Americans Helping Americans and our loyal helpers, we will aid them to establish their gardens to help their communities.

That’s why, thanks to a supporter who wishes to remain anonymous, for the first time we are able to announce our “Garden Match” program in which every dollar contributed by people like you will be doubled by this generous donor.

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 the Homegrown program, 10 families will be able to learn how to operate a successful garden in their own backyard, benefiting the family and the neighborhood!

“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 by COVID 19 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.”

This month, participants began planting the seeds in trays at a local high school greenhouse so the seedlings will be ready for planting following the final frost of the season.

Upcoming classes focus on soil fertility, including soil tests, transplanting their seedlings from trays into bigger pots as they mature, basic gardening skills including demonstrations of the proper use of gardening tools, planting, hoeing and mulching, followed in June with learning about common gardening problems including pests, diseases and more.

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. This area is known as a “food desert” – the nearest actual grocery store is miles away and many residents don’t have access to transportation.

These projects are vital to the health and wellbeing of the residents in the communities, and they MUST go on!

And with your help, these communities will become more resilient with fresh local food, food security, with the potential to provide additional income to families and individuals.

Please, if you can, give today to our Garden Match and remember, every dollar you contribute is doubled!

Thank you, and be safe!

Introducing our newest partner: Refresh Appalachia

Introducing our newest partner: Refresh Appalachia

(Pictured: 11-year-old Ailesi, seated left, a member of Refresh Appalachia community garden planning committee, listens as various aspects and options of the proposed garden are presented.)

Among Americans Helping Americans® newest partners is Coalfield Development Corporation, which supports a family of social enterprises, including Refresh Appalachia, “that inspire the courage to grow, the creativity to transform perceived liabilities into assets, and the community needed to cultivate real opportunity in Appalachia through mentorship, education and employment.”

“Our vision is Appalachian places and people unlocking their full potential, power and purpose, Together, we are rebuilding the Appalachian economy from the ground up.”

Refresh Appalachia is its agriculture-focused social enterprise that currently works in Wayne, Mingo and Lincoln counties in southern West Virginia.

“By providing training in farm and food entrepreneurship, we aim to transform the lives of young people and those displaced from the coal mining industry,” says Refresh Appalachia director Adam Hudson. “Refresh Appalachia operates like a business but also provides goods and services in places that aren’t being served by the private sector.

“To this end, as we work to build our own thriving food and farm business, we are also focused on strengthening other farm-based businesses – and communities – throughout the region.

“We do this by providing workforce training, market access and distribution services for farmers while also increasing healthy food access by creating new market outlets serving low- and middle-income people.”

Refresh Appalachia directly employs low-wealth, low-skill individuals who receiving on-the-job training which includes six hours per week of coursework towards an Associate’s Degree at an institute of higher learning. It makes a three-year employment commitment to its employees so they have the time and support they need to obtain their degree, accumulate work experience, and move from financial vulnerability toward financial resiliency.

The community center where the Refresh Appalachia community garden will be located.

Thanks to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans® we were able to provide a $15,000 grant to its Food Access Resources & Employment (FARE) program which is working to create a community garden in the Fairfield neighborhood of Huntington, a low-wealth neighborhood with a high minority population and located in a food desert.

With the funding from Americans Helping Americans®, Refresh Appalachia will be able to plan and implement an educational community garden program at a community center and hire unemployed people from the community which will be used for nutrition education program.

Among the community members involved in the planning process for the garden is 11-year-old Aikesi, the only child from a female-led household in Fairfield.

Aikesi was studying at the community center before the start of Refresh Appalachia’s first community-based planning meeting where neighborhood residents were invited to take part in deciding what they would like to see.

Although Aikesi had not planned on attending the meeting, Aikesi was intrigued by the discussion, joined the meeting and became an active member of the decision-making team.

“Her voice is an important one, as the youth program being built in the Fairfield community is undoubtedly strengthened by the input of the children it will affect,” reported a Refresh Appalachia AmeriCorps volunteer. “The individuals living in Fairfield, including but not limited to Aikesi, will have access to food grown in their own community.”

She and her friends helped determine what lessons would be taught, what food will be grown, and even what the garden will be named, putting in a strong foundation in place to build an inclusive and lasting program to abate the issue of food insecurity in Fairfield.

“There is not an ag-based effort in play in the Fairfield community,” says Adam. “Through this community garden project, we will provide people with unemployment and other resources to improve their lives and wellbeing.”

And as Refresh Appalachia noted in its recent program update:

“Funding provided by Americans Helping Americans® is enriching the Fairfield Community by bringing the members together, young and old, to learn about food production. In an area characterized by lack of access, these skills provide an invaluable tool for conquering food insecurity in their neighborhood.”