*Note: This blog was written prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although much has changed regarding our sponsored children’s learning experience in the past months, our On the Road stories remain relevant in regards to our volunteer coordinator’s work and the impact of sponsorship on children in our program thanks to our sponsors. We are pleased to continue to share stories with you about our work.
The town of Whitesburg was founded in 1842 and is situated on the North Fork of the Kentucky River in Letcher County. Located in the heart of Kentucky’s Eastern Coal Region, Letcher County holds the unfortunate distinction of having the second-largest unemployment rate in Kentucky.
Coal from this region once fueled factories, powered locomotives, and heated millions of homes. However, the coal industry, which once employed the majority of the area’s workforce, has sharply declined due to automation and the increased use of other fuels. Lack of employment opportunities has resulted in widespread poverty amongst the region’s residents, which includes those families of students at our affiliated project, Whitesburg Middle School.
A lot of children in need
“This school is on the same campus as West Whitesburg Elementary School. Children in our program at the elementary school then feed into the middle school and then go on to our other affiliated project, Letcher Central High School,” explained our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube.
While Renée was visiting with our volunteer coordinator, Stephanie, at West Whitesburg Middle School in early 2020, Stephanie told Renée that the county’s public housing projects are located in Whitesburg — in fact, they are directly across the street from the school, so many of her students are living in poverty.
She says that for the students in our program currently, their sponsors are a blessing,” said Renée.
Since there are so many children in need at the school, Stephanie runs a backpack feeding program for twenty of her children who she knows don’t have enough food to eat on the weekends. She makes bags of items each Friday with Pop-Tarts, oatmeal packets, tuna, mac & cheese, Fruit Roll-ups, and peanut butter crackers — things children can easily make on their own if their parents are working or are absent.
Many more children to support
“Stephanie is working hard to provide for the children in her school. She plans on getting more students enrolled in our program because she believes strongly in the power of sponsorship. She says that for the students in our program currently, their sponsors are a blessing,” said Renée.
How do I sponsor a child in Kentucky?
You can sponsor a child in Kentucky in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.