Tag Archives: back to school

Pride in Her Students

For years, Catlettsburg, where our affiliated projects Catlettsburg Elementary and Ponderosa Elementary Schools are located, was known as “The Gate City” because it was here that barges were loaded with coal to be shipped down the Ohio River to other ports.

Although the children may come from strikingly different economic backgrounds, that doesn’t change how they interact with one other.

The decline of the coal industry in Kentucky and West Virginia has severely diminished the city’s economic importance, and commerce is now minimal. Today, this area of Boyd County, Kentucky suffers from high rates of both poverty and illiteracy, since a significant number of adults have never completed high school.

These social and economic problems negatively affect even the youngest members of Catlettsburg, which is why both Ponderosa and Catlettsburg Elementary serve as bright and welcoming places for children to learn and escape some of the harsh realities they face at home.

The Haves and Have Nots

While visiting the two schools, our Director of U.S. Programs Renée Kube, met with our volunteer coordinator Jenny. Jenny oversees the resource centers at both schools, ensuring that children — including sponsored and unsponsored children in our program — are receiving basic needs throughout the school year.

During their meeting, Jenny explained to Renée that because Boyd County is located in a very rural and beautiful part of the country, Catlettsburg has become a popular place for middle and upper-class families to build homes. Jenny feels that because of this migration, the student population is divided more conspicuously into the “haves and have nots.”

Although the children may come from strikingly different economic backgrounds, that doesn’t change how they interact with one other.

While the administration, faculty and staff of the schools may know which families struggle and which do not, Jenny says the students are very close and treat each other with kindness and respect.

Additionally, as a tight-knit group, the children are more than willing to come together to help other students in need — even those that are far away.

Additionally, as a tight-knit group, the children are more than willing to come together to help other students in need — even those that are far away.

Rising to a challenge

Before their meeting ended, Jenny told Renée a story expressing how much pride she had in her students.

In 2018, the deadly Camp Fire burned down much of the town of Paradise, California — including a school also named Ponderosa Elementary School. Not long after the fire, the principal of Ponderosa Elementary School in Catlettsburg was informed about a nationwide fundraiser through another Ponderosa Elementary School in Oregon.

The fundraiser, deemed “Pennies for Ponderosa Initiative” requested that the eleven schools named Ponderosa Elementary School in the United States collect donations for the rebuilding of the California school.

The children at Jenny’s school stepped up to the challenge. They not only raised money to help students on the other side of the country, but also sent video messages of hope and encouragement as they and their families worked to rebuild their lives.

Whether coming from an impoverished background or not, children at Ponderosa Elementary School showed that they were willing to do anything they could to help others in need — and that is something to be proud of.

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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 sponsorship@children-inc.org.

Two Schools, One Volunteer Coordinator

Fairview Independent School comprises two campuses, Fairview Elementary and Fairview High Schools, located just a few blocks apart from each other in the small community of Westwood, Kentucky.

Like many communities in Eastern Kentucky, Westwood has suffered significantly from the decline of the coal and steel mining industries that used to dominate this area.

At one point, Armco Steel employed the majority of the Westwood workforce and made it a prosperous town. Today, only 1300 employees remain at Armco, and poverty, high dropout rates and unemployment are now serious problems.

A beacon of hope for kids

Fairview Elementary School

Fairview Independent School serves as a welcome escape from poverty for this rural community. Many children from Westwood’s impoverished families look forward to school, where they receive a well-rounded education, two nutritious meals and the attention of a dedicated and caring staff including our volunteer coordinator Ashley and her assistant Katrina.

Ashley and Katrina equally share the responsibilities of making sure that sponsored and unsponsored kids in our program are receiving the support they need from their sponsors.

“Ashley and Katrina work at both schools to support a lot of children. With a total enrollment of almost 800 students, they have a large caseload and are great at handling their jobs,” stated Renée.

According to our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, who recently visited the schools, Ashley and Katrina are different in appearance and manner, but work exceptionally well together and have a mutually agreeable and cooperative relationship.

“Ashley and Katrina work at both schools to support a lot of children. With a total enrollment of almost 800 students, they have a large caseload and are great at handling their jobs,” stated Renée.

“They are constantly seeking resources to assist the children and their families, and both told me that Children Incorporated is vital in what they do.”

Finding resources in the community

During their meeting, Ashley explained to Renée about how she and Katrina operate a Weekend Snack Bag Program during the school year and offer food boxes in June and July for families in need during summer break.

Thanks to donations to the Family Resource Center, Ashley and Katrina can provide clothes to children all year long.

They also receive assistance from two community churches and a local hospital.

Ashley and Katrina expressed that they usually do well with food provisions throughout the year thanks to help from the community, but if they run low, they won’t hesitate to reach out to Children Incorporated for emergency aid through our Hope In Action Program.

Meeting Cassandra

Renée had a chance to visit both the Fairview High and the Fairview Elementary Schools during her trip. It was apparent to her that the children were significantly affected by Ashley and Katrina’s dedication to the students. Additionally, the support children in our program were receiving from their sponsors was making a huge difference in the lives of these vulnerable kids.

Before leaving the elementary school, Ashley and Katrina introduced Renée to Cassandra*. Cassandra is one of three children in her family. Their single mother who works for low-wages at a restaurant is raising them. She often struggles to pay the bills. Ashley told Renée that Cassandra’s sponsor keeps clothes on her back and shoes on her feet.

*Name changed to protect the child.

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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 sponsorship@children-inc.org.

A Conversation with Mary Wilson

My mother’s sister operated a record store in our small hometown of Reidsville, North Carolina. During my childhood in the 1960s, I spent a great deal of time there. While other little boys were outside climbing trees, swinging bats and getting into mischief, I was inside spinning records. Music was everything to me, and while I was a huge Beatlemaniac, my favorite music of all was that of The Supremes — Diana Ross, Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson.

The Supremes’ classic 1964 album, “Where Did Our Love Go,” was actually the first long-playing record I ever owned, and as I listened to it over and over and over again, I grew to deeply love The Supremes. Though Diana Ross sang most of the lead vocals and was the most visible of the ladies, my favorite Supreme was always Mary Wilson.

“I am coming to see that Children Incorporated is a loving organization.”

– Mary Wilson

In 2016, in my role as President and Chief Executive Officer of Children Incorporated, I decided to write to Ms. Wilson to ask her to support our work. Over the years, I had read about her charitable giving, and I knew that she had been appointed a United States Culture Connect Ambassador by former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Ms. Wilson had traveled all around the globe promoting peace initiatives, and her work to remove remaining landmines from war-torn countries inspired me.

With these things in mind, I sent her a lengthy letter filling her in on the incredible and life-changing work of Children Incorporated. Ms. Wilson responded a few months later and said that she would love to help out as her busy scheduled allowed. We corresponded back and forth a number of times over the following year until late 2017, when Ms. Wilson decided to sponsor a little girl through our organization.

A CONVERSATION WITH MS. WILSON

Mrs. Wilson’s third book, “Supreme Glamour”, was published in September 2019.

A few months back, Ms. Wilson was scheduled to be in Detroit to attend an event. She contacted me before that visit to ask if she could meet the child she was then sponsoring in the Detroit area. The Children Incorporated staff and I were pleased to make Ms. Wilson’s wish to meet the child become a reality.

I met Ms. Wilson in Detroit and escorted her to a struggling school in the heart of the motor city. There, she interacted warmly with her sponsored child and members of the highly-dedicated school staff. I watched as Ms. Wilson encouraged the little girl to take her education seriously and to always strive for more. The big smile on the girl’s face said it all. She had connected with her sponsor, the Supreme Ms. Mary Wilson — and Ms. Wilson with her.

Following the visit, Ms. Wilson asked me if I could take her to her favorite coffee shop before she had to return to her hotel and prepare for an afternoon radio interview. I was honored to do so as I was in the presence of not only a loving and kind person, but also Motown Royalty! During our time together, we discussed many things — her long career, her history of supporting charitable causes, her children and mine — and I had the chance to share more details about Children Incorporated with her. I will never forget my magical day with Ms. Wilson.

The following are some of the highlights from our conversation:

Ron: Ms. Wilson, you have supported a number of charities over the years. How did you first get involved in doing charitable work? What led you to want to support these types of groups?

Ms. Wilson: After having traveled the world in the ‘60s, I had seen a lot of third world countries where poverty was just too much to bear. It was easy to see that here in America we have it pretty good — even with all of our problems. I guess the reason I chose to sponsor a child is because I had so many things going on, including my career and my own big family. I even adopted my little cousin, Willie. Sponsorship was a way that I could give back and be a part of a child’s life. I could see that there were so many children who were not getting the love and care they needed. I decided to sponsor a child in the Philippines, and that lasted until she graduated from high school.

Ron: You’re still fairly new to Children Incorporated. What are your first impressions of our organization? Why did you agree to support our work?

Ms. Wilson: I am coming to see that Children Incorporated is a loving organization. I saw that very early on when you made a great effort to arrange our meeting today. You are very passionate, Ron, about your work, and you reached out to help me become acquainted with the Children Incorporated sponsorship program on several occasions. So far, I have only met a few of the others who are part of the team — like the women who serve as your volunteers at the school. But everyone seems to be very passionate about the work. It is not just about getting a paycheck. You all seem to have a real passion for helping children.

Ron: That’s true, and I think that is what makes Children Incorporated so special.  The work is personal. Our goal is always to improve the lives of children, and I know that is also a passion of yours.

Ms. Wilson: I always look for organizations that help children. You’re right — that is a passion of mine.

Ron: A few years back, former Secretary of State Colin Powell recognized you as a Cultural Ambassador for the United States. I’m sure that was an incredible honor.

Ms. Wilson currently sponsors a child in our program from Richmond, Virginia.

Ms. Wilson: Yes! What an honor it was for me to become a Cultural Ambassador for the United States! Through another organization that I was supporting, I met a woman named Patricia Harris in Washington, D.C. Ms. Harris suggested to Secretary of State Powell that I become part of his program under President George W. Bush — and that is how I was appointed one of the Cultural Ambassadors. Then I traveled around the world, working as an ambassador for peace. It was an incredible honor and a wonderful experience!

Ron: You’ve had a very long and fruitful career. Looking back, what — off the top of your head — are a few of the highlights or things that were especially meaningful to you?

Ms. Wilson: I am a truly blessed person. Coming from very humble beginnings and truly living the “American Dream” of becoming a star has been most gratifying. The Supremes did some great things in our career. Being on the Ed Sullivan Show fifteen times was one of them. We also gave command performances for the royal family in Great Britain. Along the way, we were inducted into various halls of fame. And of course, having all those number-one records around the world was one the biggest thrills of all! Oh, and there is also a star on Hollywood Boulevard.

Ron: Two years back, you had a top-twenty hit, “Time to Move On,” on the Billboard Dance chart. It must have been very affirming to see yourself on the charts after so many years.

Ms. Wilson: The music industry has changed so much over the years. I am one of the lucky ones to still be performing after fifty years. Getting a record onto the charts today is not easy. The charts today are made up of a very young generation of singers. Even though we were also young people when we were having our hits, there were a lot of different styles of music out back then. More people got a chance to have hits. It isn’t that way now. Digital downloads and music subscriptions have also taken a big toll on how people share their music. I was very lucky to get a top-twenty hit, and I hope to follow it up with another one. I’ve been in the studio doing some recording, and will hopefully have some product out soon.

“After having traveled the world in the ‘60s, I had seen a lot of third world countries where poverty was just too much to bare. It was easy to see that here in America we have it pretty good — even with all of our problems.”

Ron: You have worked tirelessly to keep The Supremes’ legacy alive. You’ve helped with archival record releases, and I understand you are now working on a new book about the group.

Ms. Wilson: Yes, some have said that I have been the keeper of The Supremes’ legacy — but I also want people to know that I do not live in the past. I have many new projects going on. Presently, I am working on another book that will come out soon. I want to thank all of the fans who have stood by our music throughout the years. They must know how very much they are appreciated by me, and I am sure by Diane (Diana Ross) as well. Flo (Florence Ballard) would feel the same gratitude if she were still alive.

Ron: You’ve said many times that people should dare to dream — that dreams do come true — and you’ve certainly seen some of your dreams become reality. Are there other things you still wish to accomplish — dreams you have yet to see realized?

Ms. Wilson: There are a couple of issues that I am very passionate about. I, as well as many others in the music industry, have worked on the CLASSICS (Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, & Important Contributions to Society) Act bill. This deals with records made prior to 1972. Artists who recorded their hits prior to then haven’t gotten paid when their records are played on the air. This is so unfair. Much of the greatest music was recorded in the years prior to 1972, and those songs are still played on the radio all the time, yet the artists weren’t being paid.  The bill was finally signed into law in October 2018. I am also continuing to work on the Truth in Music Advertising bill. This one deals with the fact that there are many bogus groups on the road now, claiming to be originals when, in fact, none of the members are original. People go to see a group they loved in the 1960s or 1970s, for example, yet what they get is not the original group. I have been working on this for many years, and I recently addressed Congress about this very important matter.

Ron: Ms. Wilson, do you have any final words of encouragement for your sponsored child?

Ms. Wilson: Again, I just wish her happiness. I want her to have hope, and I want her to dream of possibilities. I want her to know that there are good people in this world who care about others and are willing to help out when help is needed. Children Incorporated is like that, and I am very proud to be part of this organization!

Footnote:  Ms. Wilson currently sponsors a little girl from Richmond, Virginia.  Her third book, “Supreme Glamour” was published in September 2019, the same month that she debuted as a contestant on the ABC television series, “Dancing With The Stars.”  At 75 years young, Mary Wilson continues to tour and perform to fans around the world. She is an inspiration to many who have followed her career for the going on six decades.

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Making Memories with Back to School Shopping

According to the National Retail Federation, last year’s back to school shopping reached $27 million. It is the second largest shopping season for retailers, after the winter holidays. In fact, the beginning of a new school year is a little like Christmas; the children are excited, and everything is shiny and new. But just like during the holiday season, many families wince at the economic pinch they feel as fall approaches, having to stock up on school supplies for their children at the close of summer break.

Receiving new school supplies at the beginning of the school year helps sponsored children feel ready to learn!

The Pride of Having New Shoes

Most of us have fond memories of back to school shopping – the happiness of opening a new box of crayons, with their bright colors, waxy smell, and perfect pointy tips; the fun of choosing spiral-bound notebooks with your favorite movie or television characters; the pride of having new shoes. However, for impoverished parents and guardians, these are memories they can’t afford to make with their children.

Over the years, as I have traveled to our affiliated schools in the United States and talked with our dedicated volunteer coordinators, I have often heard that back to school time is difficult, and often very stressful for the families in the communities we serve.

Our Back to School Fund helps kids, especially those still waiting hopefully for sponsors of their own, to experience the happiness of getting the things they need to have a great start to the school year.

When a summer electric bill is due or food stamps have run out, or the old car needs a repair so you can get to your part time job at the mini mart on time, getting your child new clothing and supplies for school is something that gets moved to the back of the line. And if there is a big brother or sister who needs new clothes and supplies as well, then the cost has doubled. These items may be essential for kids, but they can also be impossible for parents to afford.

We know that receiving a new outfit and school supplies provides concrete benefits above and beyond confidence and self-esteem – these items help kids stay on track to attend school regularly and to keep up with their classmates. Giving them the tools to learn sets them up for success for the entire school year.

Our Back to School Fund helps our coordinators stock cabinets full of supplies for children for when they return to school from summer break.

Wanting to Fit In

In addition to poverty, many of the children we serve are also dealing with some kind of trauma. The family situation may be chaotic and unhappy. Yet, while coping with poverty and instability, the children in our program want to look and feel just like any other kid. They want to fit in. Imagine the joy on a little girl’s face when she receives a new backpack emblazoned with Disney princesses, when she has never had a new book bag to start school; for once, she feels “normal”.

In the midst of their struggles, Children Incorporated and our caring sponsors and donors serve as a safety net. Our Back to School Fund helps kids, especially those still waiting hopefully for sponsors of their own, to experience the happiness of getting the things they need to have a great start to the school year. Your contributions will bring happiness, hope, and success to many children in need.

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HOW DO I DONATE TO THE BACK TO SCHOOL FUND?

You can donate to the Back to School Fund in one of two ways – call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members, or go online to our donation portal, create an account, and donate to the Back to School Fund.

Top 10 Most Popular On the Road Stories of 2016

It’s been an amazing year. Thanks to your support, we’ve been able to feed and clothe children all over the globe, and provide them with supplies for the school year. Your donations also made it possible for us to send holiday gifts this season to tens of thousands of children whose stockings would have otherwise been empty.

DSCF9626It has also been our pleasure to report on our projects around the world, from rural Morgan County, Kentucky to the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, to help illustrate the impact your donations make on the lives of the children we serve. Check out the most popular On the Road stories of 2016:

  1. The Ministering Angels of Casa Hogar Ines: Shelley and Luis meet Sister Flor, who oversees Casa Hogar Santa Ines, a group home for more than thirty girls who have nowhere else to go. See how your contributions help provide school supplies, clothes, shoes, and so much more.

 

  1. Inside that Backpack Lies Choice, Agency, Style and Self-Worth: Few things come to you brand new when you are living below the poverty line. Imagine that for the first time in your life, you get to choose what you want.

 

  1. Two Wheels and the Wind in Your Hair: Shelley C. and Shelley O. surprise Kentucky children with new bikes.

 

  1. Touchdown in La Paz: Can three new bridges and new cable cars lead families out of poverty? What do the efforts to modernize in La Paz mean to its poorest citizens?

 

  1. Bolivia: Visions of Hope from 30,000 Feet: Luis and Shelley return home. They reflect on their trip to Bolivia, and think about what’s in store for the future.

 

  1. Audacity and Hope in Kenya: After a series of bleak visits in the city slums, Shelley finds creativity and tenacity fueling hope and feeding children.

 

  1. Africa: The Impact of Compassion: Shelley considers her site visits in Africa, and the impact of compassion, in this special edition.

 

  1. From Kentucky to Kenya: The Universal Truth of Children: Shelley reflects on recent site visits to Bolivia and Kentucky, and examines some of the parallels that exist between the two.

 

  1. Back to School: Supplying Children with Education: ‘Tis the season of new backpacks, binders, and pencils. But for the fifteen million children living in poverty in the United States, these essential items are out of reach.

 

  1. The Hidden Face of Americana: Back from Bolivia, Shelley takes us to Eastern Kentucky, where the collapse of the coal mining industry has left many families struggling to make ends meet. More than sixteen million children live in poverty in the United States. Meet some of them, and see how your contributions are making a difference.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD THROUGH CHILDREN INCORPORATED?

You can sponsor a child with Children Incorporated in one of three ways – call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members, email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org, or go online to our donation portal, create an account, and search for a child that is available for sponsorship.