Tag Archives: coal country

Praise from a New Coordinator

It is always nice to hear from our volunteer coordinators about the impact that our sponsors have on children in our program as they are the ones that see first-hand the power of sponsorship.

“Without your help, I would not be able to help the students and their families in this program.”

We recently received a letter from a new coordinator, Anita, from Johns Creek Elementary School about her first year working to support children in our program:

“First of all, I would like to thank Children Incorporated for sponsoring children in my school. Without your help, I would not be able to [serve] the students on the limited budget I receive from my school district.

I am a new coordinator with the Family Resource Center and Children Incorporated. The former coordinator, Mr. Smith, retired February 1st, and I began on February 12th. I am new to the Family Resource Center, but not new to our school or the children and families, as I have served as the school secretary for the past twenty years.

In the last few months, I have introduced several new resources for our students and their families. I created a school supply cart, and each morning I would take it to the front lobby of the school. As the students would come into the building, they could get any school supplies from the cart that they might need. I also created a clothing closet, a hygiene closet, and a food pantry. At any time during the day, the students can come to my office to get items privately.

Staff outside of Johns Creek Elementary School ready to provide students with items to take home during the COVID-19 outbreak (photo courtesy of Facebook)

I have also started a birthday recognition program for our students. I send a card and a sweet treat to each student on their birthday. For the students sponsored by Children Incorporated, I purchase something off the child’s wish list and provide a birthday cake for the child to enjoy with their family.

After a couple of weeks of being hired as Family Resource Coordinator, I received word that some of our families of unsponsored children didn’t have the resources to provide the child a birthday cake, so I began purchasing them a cake. As word got out about the birthday cakes, I now have school staff and parents who make or purchase the cakes for all the children. I will deliver the cake to their home on their birthday or on the day the family is having a party.

The past couple of months have been difficult for our students, but they have stayed strong. They haven’t been able to attend school since March 12th. Beginning March 13th through May 15th our students participated in non-traditional days. If the student had access to the internet, they participated in online learning with their teachers and classmates. Several of our students had internet but didn’t have a reliable computer to do the work on, so we provided them a Chromebook from the school. For students who didn’t have internet, we delivered paper packets of their work and videos of the online sessions to their homes.

During this time, we have been blessed to be able to provide weekly delivery routes using our buses to deliver food and supplies to our students. We also have had Grab N’ Go Meal pickups on Thursdays at our school. We have been able to provide children 18 and under with seven breakfasts and seven lunches free of charge during this time through our School Food Service.

During this time, we have been blessed to be able to provide weekly delivery routes using our buses to deliver food and supplies to our students.

Each week, they receive a breakfast and a lunch bag. The breakfast bag usually consists of two cereal boxes, two Pop-Tarts, two chicken biscuits, a sausage biscuit, seven assorted fruits and seven assorted juices. The lunch bag usually consisted of a hamburger, a hot dog, a ham sub, a turkey sub, a chicken sandwich, a corn dog, pizza, chips, French fries, assorted veggies, assorted fruits and a gallon of milk.

With help from Children Incorporated, we have been able to provide a snack bag each week to every sponsored child in addition to the meals. The snack bags contain packs of oatmeal, boxes of cereal, beef sticks, fruit snacks, packs of macaroni and cheese, cans of soup, cans of spaghetti, sports drinks, drink mixes, and water. We also have a tote sitting outside the front entrance to our building providing food bags for any family who may need extra food.

Our last day of school for the year was Friday, May 15th and the last day we were able to use our buses for deliveries. Our School Food Service is still able to offer the same seven breakfast and lunches to any child under 18 through Grab N’ Go Meals on Thursdays from 9:30-2:00 at our school during the summer. Our school staff has stepped up and is helping me deliver meals and snack bags to any student whose family can’t come and get the meals on Thursday, and for that I am grateful!

Anita is incredibly grateful for the support of our sponsors.

To celebrate summer, I prepared each sponsored child a summer fun bag, a basket of cleaning & hygiene supplies, and a food basket and delivered those to the homes the last week of school. For the beginning of school in the fall, I have ordered each child a backpack, lunch/snack box, school supplies, school T-shirts and shoes. Without the help from your sponsors and donors, I would not be able to provide for the students and their families.”

About Johns Creek Elementary School

Nestled in the picturesque Appalachian Mountains and steeped in a rich cultural heritage, Pike County once thrived due to its coal and lumber industries. Then, in 1994, the Eastern Division of Pittston Coal Company closed its mines. Unfortunately, the mountain passes and rugged terrain have effectively blocked other types of industry from settling in this part of Kentucky. Thus, few industries and employment options remain in the area. As a result, unrelenting poverty and unemployment have taken their toll. Moreover, their debilitating effects do not only impact adults. Hunger and cold nights in bed are no strangers to many of the children of this area, as their parents struggle to make ends meet.

For this reason, Johns Creek Elementary School — the largest P-8 educational facility in the county — serves as a beacon of hope, allowing students to learn, discover and grow in a warm and caring environment that is geared towards education — the key to breaking the cycle of poverty.



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.


Removing Barriers in Eastern Kentucky

As we continue to provide support to our affiliated projects around the world amidst COVID-19, we are hearing from our volunteer coordinators about how valuable our support is at this time. Today we hear from Sandy at Bevins Elementary School in Kentucky about how donations from our donors are helping children in her community.

“Removing barriers is what Children Incorporated does best.”

“Dear Children Incorporated,

The mission of the Family Resources and Youth Services Center (FRYSC) is to remove any barriers that prevent the education and well-being of our students. Children Incorporated, along with its many sponsors, has made this job so much easier. Removing barriers is what Children Incorporated does best. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus it has been a very different semester, but with Children Incorporated’s help, we have successfully supplied resources to meet our families’ needs.

Grandparents as parents

Hand sanitizer and hygiene kits are a big help in keeping children safe and healthy.

This year, with the help of Children Incorporated Hope In Action funds, the Pike County Title I program, and a variety of different organizations, we have been able to continue to facilitate a Grandparents as Parents support group. The grandparent workshops have continued to increase in participation this year. The program has been such a wonderful success! The grandparents were given much needed educational resources, counseling, and a lot of extra support in different areas. They were served refreshments and received hygiene items, basic need supplies, and door prizes. They feel they are so much more prepared to help educate their grandchildren thanks to this wonderful program! I can’t express enough gratitude for the help. We hope to continue to provide this wonderful program for our grandparents who have been placed in the role of parenting their grandchildren.

Thanks again to the Children Incorporated Hope In Action program and help from other community partners, we were able to facilitate our first Annual Community Baby Shower, hosted by the Belfry area FRYSC. There were different agencies on hand to give new expecting parents resources and information to help better prepare them for their new baby. Food was served, and door prizes and baby supplies were given to the expecting parents in attendance. This was a wonderful resource for the families, and we had good attendance.

Readifest and Back to School bash

Another wonderful program that wouldn’t be possible without Children Incorporated is our annual Readifest also known as our Back to School Bash. Children Incorporated has always helped with this project. Students every year are given school supplies, hygiene products, and have access to a host of different organizations that will help them to be better prepared for the new upcoming school year. Many students would not have the much-needed resources to exceed in school without this program.

This year, due to the COVID-19 virus, we were given additional Hope In Action funds to help purchase hygiene products and items to help protect our families and students.

This year, we were so pleased to once again receive Hope In Action Funds to facilitate a wonderful reading program during Read Across America Week. Well-known author Leigh Anne Florence and her dogs, Chloe and Woody, were able to visit our school. Many families have little or no resources to provide adequate reading materials for the students. Parents sometimes feel discouraged by the lack of self-confidence and motivational skills needed to help their children succeed. Through this program, parents and children were brought together to read and share an evening of fun-filled opportunities to become more engaged in their children’s academic needs. Writing classes were provided to third through fifth graders. These classes will play an important role in encouraging and preparing them for state assessment testing and real-world connections.

This year, due to the COVID-19 virus, we were given additional Hope In Action funds to help purchase hygiene products and items to help protect our families and students. With the funds, Bevins Elementary School FRYSC has purchased hand sanitizer and COVID-19 safety prevention kits. The kits include safety instruction for proper prevention techniques and face masks as well.

Throughout the year, many of our students would not have many of the resources that they need to be successful in school if it wasn’t for Children Incorporated. Thanks to your sponsors, these students can excel in their education along with their classmates.

It has been a joy to work another school year with Children Incorporated with your amazing staff and wonderful supporters.

Thank you all and I look forward to working with you again this next school year!




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.


Reflecting on High School at Graduation

As you know, COVID-19 has disrupted family events worldwide, from births and weddings, and sadly to funerals.

School closures have also disrupted activities for the Class of 2020. The high school students in our program were looking forward to attending senior prom, having their friends sign their yearbooks, saying goodbye to their teachers, and finally getting to walking across a stage in an auditorium packed with family and getting a handshake from the principal and their high school diploma.

“Your support has helped me in so many ways — with clothes, books, school trips, and presents for my birthday and Christmas.”

Needless to say, they are tremendously disappointed, but they are also keeping things in perspective. In many cases, coping with poverty and extra responsibilities has made many of them mature beyond their years, and they have been looking at all their ways their glasses are half full, not half empty.

A different graduation for Landon

Meet Landon.*  Landon is in 12th grade. He attends Hazard High School in Kentucky. Landon lives with his single mother, a brother, and two sisters. The mom has a low-wage job and has really struggled. Our sponsorship program has meant the world to her, and both she and Landon are very grateful.

Landon has benefited greatly from his sponsor during his high school years.

Since the students were sheltering at home through the end of this school year, our volunteer coordinator, Helen, telephoned the students and dictated letters for their sponsors. Landon said:

“Dear Sponsor, I want to thank you for all the support you have given me. I am excited to be graduating from high school, even though it’s not how I thought it would be. After graduation, I will be moving to Louisville, Kentucky. I want to be an airplane mechanic, and there is a college program with UPS to help pay the tuition. After I finish, I will be working for UPS and will have a good job.

Your support has helped me in so many ways — with clothes, books, school trips, and presents for my birthday and Christmas.

I will miss my school, principal, teachers, and Ms. Helen so much. All of you helped me to learn and to succeed.

Again, thank you. What you did was important to me, and I love you.”

*Name changed to protect the child. 


Nestled along the Kentucky River’s North Fork amid the majestic Appalachian mountains of eastern Kentucky, the town of Hazard (with a population of a little less than 5,000) serves as the county seat of Perry County. Both town and county are named in honor of American naval hero Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry. Until the arrival of the railroad in 1912, the town’s idyllic yet remote and forbidding setting had long isolated it from the outside world. With this change, the town enjoyed an economic boom, which, unfortunately, the Great Depression expunged just as quickly.

“I will miss my school, principal, teachers, and Ms. Helen so much. ALL of you helped me to learn and to succeed.”

Moreover, since the decline of the coal industry in the early 1900s, unemployment in the area has skyrocketed, contributing to a rapid increase in drug use, crime, and alcoholism. Many residents here have no choice but to rely upon government assistance to meet day-to-day needs. Indeed, in July 1999, Hazard was the first stop on President Bill Clinton’s tour of poverty-stricken communities that had failed to share in the economic boom of the 1990s. Amid this crippling poverty, however, Hazard High School serves as a beacon of hope. With ten percent of its student population struggling daily with homelessness, the school offers students a safe haven, a welcome escape from the despair of poverty, complete with warm meals, a caring staff, and a well-rounded education — the key to breaking the chain of poverty and the opportunity to rise above the difficult circumstances from which they come.



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.


The Challenges of Home Life

Nestled in the picturesque Appalachian Mountains and steeped in a rich cultural heritage lies Wolfe County, Kentucky.

As is the case for many areas of Appalachia, Wolfe County’s natural beauty belies the abject poverty in which many of its residents live. Wolfe County carries the unfortunate distinction of being one of Kentucky’s most impoverished regions.

As is the case for many areas of Appalachia, Wolfe County’s natural beauty belies the abject poverty in which many of its residents live.

At one time, logging, tourism for nearby mineral springs, and factories employed the majority of this area’s residents. Over time, these industries vanished, leaving ghost towns, unemployment, and high poverty rates in their wake. High dropout rates and adult illiteracy only serve to fuel the cycle of poverty.

“Today, leaders and residents in Wolfe County are working hard to reimagine new opportunities to rebuild the local economy,” explains our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube.

“One area being explored is tourism. Wolfe County is home to the outstanding Red River Gorge, a canyon system in the Red River. The gorge lies within the Daniel Boone National Forest, and it has been designated a National Historic Landmark and a National Archeological District. There are many high sandstone cliffs, rock shelters, waterfalls, and natural bridges. There is a gorge that is a popular place for rock climbers. A few small businesses have sprung up to support tourists, ranging from those selling supplies to an outstanding pizza restaurant.”

A long way to go

Regardless of the efforts, the county still has a long way to go for real economic development. Since the collapse of the coal industry, many of its families struggle with poverty, hopelessness, and addiction. Sadly, as always, the children are the most vulnerable — including those at our affiliated projects, Wolfe County Middle School and High Schools.

Per the Annie E. Casey Kids Count Data Center, the county’s average child poverty rate for 2014-2018 was 38%. From 2012 to 2016, it was a wretched 55%. The improvement is not because of the county’s ability to address poverty, but because so many families have moved out in hopes of better opportunities.

Working to support kids in need

Fortunately, the Family Resource Youth Services Center at Wolfe County Middle and High Schools can help children and their families to succeed in school by minimizing or removing non-cognitive barriers to their learning.

Kids in Wolfe County are fortunate to have a volunteer coordinator like Connie to look out for their well-being.

The resource center’s offerings range from Born Learning (for infants and preschoolers) to Back to School Bashes and Ready Fests, to Red Ribbon Week (drug awareness and prevention), to recognizing and responding to violence, and to bringing partners and resources to address the children’s well-being and success.

Children Incorporated is proud to be able to partner with the Family Resource Center in Wolfe County Middle and High School. It is in these places that we hope to help children develop resilience, to graduate from high school, and eventually to break the cycle of poverty by having work that will support themselves and their own families someday,” said Renée.

Getting to meet with Connie

Wolfe County Middle and High School are side-by-side schools, and the Youth Services Centers are both run by our volunteer coordinator, Connie. The total enrollment at the middle and high school is about 600 students. Children Incorporated U.S. Programs Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, visited with Connie recently to find out more how our program is supporting her work.

“I met with Connie at the high school during my last visit to Wolfe County. Connie says she likes our sponsorship program because it helps her kids with clothing, which is very important to middle and high school kids,” expressed Shelley.

“She takes her high school students on a bus to Lexington to shop at Kohls, where the kids can pick out clothes and shoes.  She says it’s an enjoyable experience for them, and she is grateful that she can be so flexible with the program.”

Connie also told Shelley that transportation is a significant barrier for her students; many of them rely on the school bus system to get to and from school. Because of this, these students are unable to participate in any after-school programs, tutoring programs, or extracurricular activities because they do not have a way to get home.

Beyond transportation concerns, the biggest challenge for students at the middle and high school is the home life.

Fortunately, the school has been awarded a grant for the 21st Century after-school program, and part of the grant money will be put towards bus transportation for the students. Per the 21st Century website: “21st Century Community Learning Centers provide essential support to students who are often underserved and offer creative, engaging learning opportunities to kids of all ages and backgrounds.”

An even bigger concern

Beyond transportation concerns, the biggest challenge for students at the middle and high school is the home life. They come to school, and their minds are elsewhere because they are worried about where they will sleep from day to day or worrying about mom or dad being on drugs.

Often there is not enough food in the house, and they come to school hungry and tired after the weekend. Many of the students are living with grandparents or other relatives. A growing number of students are moving into the area because they are in foster care.

These students have grown up in volatile environments and bring a lot of challenges with them to school each day. Often these students act out in school, which can be difficult for the teachers and other students.

Even with all the issues these children face, the high school’s graduation rate is very high, and that is thanks to a dedicated and caring staff and administration at the high school.

If a student is failing several classes, they can take online courses or attend one on one classes at an extension campus to graduate.

“Connie is hoping that with the new after-school program, the graduation rate will be even better. After graduation, some students will attend college while others attend technical college or transition to work,” said Shelley.


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.

Caring for a Generation of Students

Marie Roberts Elementary School is located in the small community of Lost Creek, Kentucky, in Breathitt County.

In a part of the country where 48.3% of children are living in poverty, the Family Resource Center at the school, and our volunteer coordinator, Jackie, are able to offer children the critical support they need to survive in difficult circumstances.

“Jackie is the original coordinator who brought our sponsorship program to the school many years ago. She has been a loving and stable presence for easily a generation of students,” explained Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube.

“With her students, Jackie is very warm, and they feel comforted and loved in her presence.”

Good news for children in need

While visiting with Jackie at Marie Roberts, Renée had a chance to hear more about how Jackie, and our sponsors, are helping some of the most vulnerable kids in Lost Creek.

“Jackie said her job is about removing as many barriers as she can to her students’ academic potential and well-being. The barriers are all related, in one way or another, to the high child poverty rate,” said Renée.

“Jackie shared with me information from studies that show when children grow up in impoverished households, they tend to have worse health than children in better economic situations. Their education is also negatively impacted. Poverty can even affect their income attainment into adulthood as well.”

An exterior photo of Marie Roberts Elementary School

But it wasn’t all bad news that Jackie had for Renée. During their meeting, they discussed the heartening news that recent research has supported the theory that positive sustained relationships with caring adults can buffer childhood trauma and the toxic stress they feel from growing up in a difficult environment.

“Not only are school staff like Jackie able to be that caring adult for children, so are Children Incorporated sponsor[s]. Having someone in their lives who cares for them and provides some financial support, but also some emotional support through correspondence – often over a period of years – is powerful,” said Renée.

Helping kids with their stress

Related to the trauma and stress many of the children endure, Jackie shared the school is now very fortunate to have two counselors from Mountain Comprehensive Care Centers which is part of the Kentucky Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental, and Intellectual Disabilities. They began working at Marie Roberts Elementary during the 2018-2019 School Year and have had a huge impact on the children. They provide assessment, counseling, and referrals in a convenient and familiar location — the school. This also helps with access barriers, as so many families lack reliable transportation.

Before she left, Renée and Jackie discussed the Family Resource Center’s needs, and right away Jackie said shoes.

“She explained that the kids grow so quickly, and shoes are so expensive. Many families can afford only the cheapest flip flops or slides from the Dollar Store, and Jackie is always looking for deals on name-brand, sturdy shoes,” said Renée.

“Thankfully, our sponsors and our Shoes and Socks Fund have also been able to provide funds for Jackie to purchase quality shoes for kids that will last.”


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.

Fighting Against Hunger During COVID-19

 Amidst school closures across the U.S. this past spring, our concern turned to how to best help children who are already living in vulnerable situations. 

Our volunteer coordinators are making sure children continue to receive food during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Many children in our program rely on school lunches and on our Backpack Feeding Program to ensure they are receiving adequate meals throughout the day and on the weekends. Without the support they receive at school, they risk facing hunger at home. Thankfully, because of our donors and sponsors, just like you, and the hard work of our volunteer coordinators in the U.S., students continued to receive food even though school was out. Thank you for all that you do to help children in need! 


What is our COVID-19 Response Fund?

Since many children  — both in the United States and abroad — rely upon free or reduced-price school meals during the week, one of the greatest challenges they face during these school closures is access to adequate food.

Also, many of the children in our program live in group homes and have nowhere to go during this time of crisis. In these cases, in addition to food, cleaning supplies and other hygiene-related items are in demand to help keep children healthy and safe.

Donations to our COVID-19 Response Fund will be used to provide food and emergency supplies to the children in our program who are in immediate need.


Responding to COVID-19 in the United States

Our International Response to the COVID-19 Crisis

Emerging on the Other Side