Tag Archives: coal country

Insufficient Food for Growing Kids

As the name suggests, Cannonsburg Elementary is located in the isolated and rural town of Cannonsburg, Kentucky in Boyd County. Like many of Kentucky’s Eastern Coal Field communities, Cannonsburg has suffered dramatically from the decline of the coal mining industry.

At the height of the coal operations, Boyd County was an essential and active port city for the transport of coal along the Ohio River. Today, many of its residents live in abject poverty. Illiteracy and high dropout rates are significant problems in this area.

Ruth and Renée in Cannonsburg Elementary School’s Resource Center

Fortunately for children living in Boyd County, Cannonsburg Elementary School provides them with a beautiful and bright learning space and a welcome distraction from the struggles that their families face. But even though children don’t have to think about the hardships in their lives during school hours, the reality is that they often return home to empty refrigerators and cabinets with no food on the weekends.

A lot of children in need

According to our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, Cannonsburg Elementary School serves 276 children in Pre-K through 5th grade.

Even though children don’t have to think about the hardships in their lives during school hours, the reality is that they often return home to empty refrigerators and cabinets with no food on the weekends.

On a recent visit to the school, our volunteer coordinator, Ruth, told Renée that she has over 80 of those children in attendance on her Weekend Backpack Feeding Program. Ruth is sure that without the program, these children would have little or no food to eat on Saturdays and Sundays when they are not at school where they receive free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch.

This is a harsh reality for many children in our program all over the United States. But thankfully, because of dedicated volunteer coordinators like Ruth, sponsored and unsponsored children in our program can rely on weekly food bags to take home on Friday afternoons that ensure they are being fed when not in school.

A struggling family

Ruth sends food from the food pantry home with dozens of children every weekend.

During her time at Cannonsburg Elementary School, Renée had a chance to meet two brothers who are benefiting from our sponsorship program and the Resource Center’s Weekend Backpack Feeding Program.

Carter and Josiah* are two of seven children in their family, ranging in ages from three to nineteen years old. Their parents are separated, and Carter and Josiah’s mom — who works full time at McDonald’s — is mainly raising the children alone.

Ruth describes their mother as responsible and loving to her children, but it is tough for her to provide for everything they need. The Weekend Backpack Feeding Program helps them a lot — as do Carter and Josiah’s sponsors.

Ruth also mentioned to Renée she is planning on enrolling more of their siblings in our program so they can have sponsors too that can provide for their basic needs.

*Names changed to protect the children.

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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.

Pride in Her Students

For years, Catlettsburg, where are 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.

But even though the children might 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.”

But even though the children might 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.

Wishing for Work

Knott County Central High School is located in the small town of Hindman, Kentucky and is the only high school in all of Knott County. Built in 1974, the high school has been well maintained over the years, serving 622 students in grades nine through twelve.

Administrators and teachers at Knott County Central High work hard to help encourage students to pursue higher education.

While students’ scores are above state standardized test averages, there is still concern among administrators when it comes to college and career readiness. Overall, the school is below the state average in some key measures such as access to advanced classes or availability of help to prepare students for college entrance tests.

Kids in need

On a visit to Knott County Central High School, Children Incorporated Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, met with our volunteer coordinator, Karen, to talk about the many issues that students at the school face — especially those living in poverty.

“Karen said her students have many needs. It is challenging enough to transition through puberty and adolescence to young adulthood, and the added burden of coming from impoverished households makes their situations even more difficult,” said Renée.

“Many of the teens would love after-school jobs to help their families, but there are few opportunities. There are more jobs in the city of Hazard, but it’s a half-hour away, and most of these teens don’t have cars of their own.”

“Many of the teens would love after-school jobs to help their families, but there are few opportunities. There are more jobs in the city of Hazard, but it’s a half hour away, and most of these teens don’t have cars of their own.”

-Renée Kube

Finding creative ways to shop

As they continued their conversation, Karen told Renée about how she manages the Children Incorporated program to ensure that sponsor funds are providing students with exactly what they need throughout the school year.

“A few years ago, Karen used to have the sponsored students and their families go to a few stores in Hazard that would allow them to shop and then hold the clothes for Karen to pick up later,” Renée explained.

“Last school year she tried that system twice, but it did not work well because a lot of parents don’t have transportation or the time to get to the store.”

“The following year, Karen was able to get the principal’s permission to take a school bus field trip to Walmart with students,” said Renée.

“The kids enjoyed it, and participation was very high. She now has gone back to meeting the parents and students at a local Walmart so the kids can continue to choose their clothes, shoes and school supplies that are just right for them.”

Getting to know Victoria

Renée with Victoria at Knott County High School

Renée also had a chance to meet with a special sponsored child at Knott County High during her visit. Victoria* has had the same sponsor since she was in the 5th grade. Her father is unemployed, and her mother is taking college classes in the hopes of improving their economic situation in the future.

Money for Victoria’s family has been — and still is — very tight. Karen shared with Renée that after Back-to-School time last year, the family experienced a fire and lost many items in their home. Thanks to her sponsor and additional donations from our Hope in Action Fund, Karen was able to make sure that Victoria had everything she needed to start the school year with everything she needed.

*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.

From Higher Education Program Participant to Volunteer Coordinator

Cordia Combined School is in Knott County, in the heart of the rugged wilderness of eastern Kentucky. Despite its beauty and proud history, this region suffers economic troubles that result in widespread poverty and deprivation for many families.

Industries such as coal-mining and lumber — once mainstays for employment in Knott County — have dramatically declined, increasing unemployment.

Jadea with one of our sponsored children at Cordia Combined School

Furthermore, due to this region’s remoteness, inaccessibility and small population, new job development is rare. Within the pockets of impoverished areas scattered throughout the hollows of Knott County, many complex social barriers limit the educational opportunities for its children.

However, our affiliated project, Cordia Combined School, is one of the few places in this economically-troubled region that can offer hope to children living in poverty through a well-rounded and stimulating education.

Children are not only supported by the school’s Family Resource Center, but also receive loving care from our volunteer coordinator, Jadea — who is a former sponsored child and beneficiary of our Higher Education Program.

Jadea’s story

After graduating from Morehead State University with support from Children Incorporated, Jadea returned to Knott County and got a job as a substitute teacher and teacher’s aide. Later, she applied for the position as Family Resource Youth Services Coordinator at Cordia Combined School.

Children are not only supported by the school’s Family Resource Center, but also receive loving care from our volunteer coordinator, Jadea — who is a former sponsored child and beneficiary of our Higher Education Program.

“She has been an excellent coordinator for our program. We are so proud that she benefited from the support she received from Children Incorporated and her sponsor and is now in a position to give back to children in her community,” said Renée Kube, our Director of U.S. Programs.

Special sponsored kids

On a recent trip to meet with Jadea at Cordia, Jadea introduced Renée to two special students — Jordan*, who is currently waiting for a sponsor and Alexandra, who has had a sponsor for ten years.

Jadea explained to Renée that Jordan — who is in the first grade —  is the youngest in his family. He has two older sisters. His father works on cars, but his employment is unsteady. His mother has a part-time job as a cook in the school cafeteria. Jordan’s parents’ combined pay is meager.

While they chatted, Jadea told Jordan about what our program would mean for him, and he expressed his excitement to Renée about how he would love to have a sponsor.

Renée pictured with Alexandra

After Jordan returned to class, Renée met Alexandra. Alexandra is seventeen years old and has been in the Children Incorporated program since 2009. She told Renée that over the years, support from her sponsors has helped her family a great deal.

Alexandra is the middle child of five girls. Her mom is a homemaker, and her dad drives a truck. Her parents have had a hard time providing for their daughters. Alexandra said that it was always nice knowing that because of her sponsor she wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not she would get new clothes, shoes or the school supplies she needed throughout the year.

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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.

Working with a Shoestring Budget

The small town of Grayson is located in Carter County, Kentucky and is home to Heritage Elementary School — Children Incorporated’s only affiliated project in this Appalachian county.

Missie sorts through donations in the Resource Center.

In the 19th century, Carter County was famous for its iron furnaces and thriving clay products industry. Carter Cave — now a tourist attraction — was a significant source of saltpeter during the War of 1812.

Coal from this region once fueled factories, powered locomotives and heated millions of homes. Today, however, manufacturing only accounts for 15% of the county’s employment. Moreover, the coal industry, which once employed the majority of the region’s workforce, has sharply declined due to automation and the increased use of other fuels.

A county in distress

Designated by the Appalachian Regional Commission as a distressed county, Carter County currently has an unemployment rate well above the national average and a low median household income. The lack of employment opportunities has resulted in widespread poverty, along with associated socioeconomic issues such as drug abuse, lack of education and poor health.

In an area menaced continuously by the devastating effects of poverty, Heritage Elementary School — and our volunteer coordinator, Missie — provide children with a safe and supportive place to learn and grow.

In an area menaced continuously by the devastating effects of poverty, Heritage Elementary School — and our volunteer coordinator, Missie — provide children with a safe and supportive place to learn and grow. They do this despite working with only a shoestring budget.

A dedicated coordinator

While visiting Heritage Elementary School, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, met with Missie to talk about how her efforts are helping sponsored and unsponsored kids in our program.

“Missie is well-organized when it comes to her work with the Children Incorporated sponsorship program. She hopes to enroll more children in the near future because she knows she can handle the workload,” said Renée.

Missie told Renée that she shops at various stores — sometimes having to travel as far as 30 miles — to find the best deals so she can make the most of sponsor’s donations. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have much to work with at all since she has a minimal budget with which to run the school’s Family Resource Center.

Looking for help on the outside

The Resource Center accepts donations from different partnering organizations in Carter County.

In order to help children outside of our sponsorship program, Missie raises funds and seek in-kind donations from a variety of partners in town such as local businesses. She also makes and sells t-shirts whose proceeds go to the school’s Weekend Backpack Feeding Program. Thankfully, our sponsors alleviate much of her stress. Missie loves the peace of mind that sponsorship funds give her. Thanks to our sponsors, she always knows that kids in our program will receive basic needs regularly.

Before their meeting ended, Missie mentioned to Renée that she would like to put in a request to our Hope in Action Fund. Missie wants to develop and implement a summer camp so children can get additional help with math and reading as well as participate in enrichment activities like arts and crafts. Not surprised by her dedication and willingness to go above and beyond for kids at Heritage Elementary School, Renée looks forward to receiving Missie’s request since our Hope in Action Fund was designed for situations just as this one.

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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.

How Poverty Impacts Academic Achievement

In our work at Children Incorporated, we often talk about the importance of getting an education. For children in our program, we believe education is the key to finding jobs upon graduation that will enable them to work toward breaking the cycle of poverty from which they come.

Unfortunately, statistics show that children growing up in impoverished households often perform less well academically than their peers.

The challenges of living below the poverty line

Jackie is pictured here with one of our sponsored children at Beaver Creek Elementary School.

As reported by the non-profit Operation Warm’s website, “Children living above the poverty line are entering kindergarten more prepared than those below it. High-income families are able to put more money towards their children’s cognitive development than those living in poverty.”

“Parents with low incomes, on average, have less time to read to their children, no funds for pre-school and less stable home environments. The difference in preparation tends to persist through elementary and high school.”

Beavers Are Achievers

According to our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, this achievement gap is prevalent in some of our affiliated schools in Eastern Kentucky, and specifically at Beaver Creek Elementary School in Knott County. Located in the small community of Topmost, families of children enrolled at Beaver Creek Elementary face rampant poverty. They struggle to overcome the common socioeconomic problems that plague Knott County such as adult illiteracy, school absenteeism, child obesity and substance abuse.

“There is no question that poverty can impact academic achievement in ways ranging from lack of books in the home to transportation barriers that make it difficult to travel to cultural and historic sites,” stated Renée. 

While visiting Beaver Creek Elementary School, Renée met with our volunteer coordinator Jackie, who Renée describes as incredibly devoted to helping her students.

During their meeting, Jackie explained that although the school motto is “Beavers Are Achievers” the children are struggling academically as they aim to reach their goals. The school’s test scores lag behind state averages, reaching only the 51st percentile in reading and just the 38th percentile in math in state ranking.

“There is no question that poverty can impact academic achievement in ways ranging from lack of books in the home to transportation barriers that make it difficult to travel to cultural and historic sites,” stated Renée. 

Making kids feel loved

Often times while visiting our affiliated projects, Renée visits with parents of children enrolled in our program.

Jackie told Renée that one of the biggest challenges in the community — and the county as a whole — is coping with drug addiction and the lack of treatment options for it. The fallout affects many children, resulting in them being raised by grandparents or other family members. For other children who still live at home with their parents, they are often being neglected and raising themselves.

Jackie feels fortunate that a local church brings food to the school’s Resource Center for her weekend Backpack Feeding Program. She says that the Children Incorporated sponsorship program is vital in helping with clothing, shoes and school supplies throughout the year. Jackie also values how sponsors make her students feel special and let them know that someone cares for them.

Meeting two special parents

After taking a tour of the building and grounds, Jackie was happy to show Renée the Family Resource Center where she had asked two of her parents —Raven and Scottie — to thank our organization on behalf of all the parents of sponsored children.

While meeting with Raven and Scottie, Renée could tell they were both very dedicated to and concerned for their daughters.

“Raven is a homemaker. Scottie was unemployed for a long time but has recently gotten a job at a small, local non-profit community center. The pay is meager. They told me that our sponsorship program has meant so much to their little girls, and that it warms their hearts to see the excitement their sponsors bring to their children,” said Renée.

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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.