Tag Archives: coal country

Art for the Soul and the Mind

When we think about what constitutes a well-rounded education for a child, what might first pop into our heads are academic subjects like math, science, and English. The arts, though, can have just as much of a significant impact on a child’s development, character, and personality as other core subjects. This is exactly why our volunteer coordinator at our affiliated project Belfry Elementary School is working hard to bring an arts camp to children enrolled in our program.

Eugenia feels that an art camp would not only be a good way to keep kids busy so they don’t get into trouble, but art could also encourage their mental, social, and emotional development.

On a recent visit to Pike County, Kentucky, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, met with our Volunteer Coordinator Eugenia, who told Renée about her desire to create a Belfry-area summer arts camp for the students at her school and others nearby. She explained that in previous years, kids have attended a local church’s vacation Bible school during summer break. The church is no longer offering the camp, however, due to a lack of finances.

Eugenia is concerned that, without activities to keep them occupied in the summer, children won’t be safe at home alone while their parents are working. She is also worried that, without the school lunches that they usually receive during the school year, students from impoverished families will go hungry in the summer months. In addition, Eugenia feels that an art camp would not only be a good way to keep kids busy so they don’t get into trouble, but art could also encourage their mental, social, and emotional development.

Why art matters

Eugenia with one of our sponsored children

Art and creativity can benefit children in a variety of ways. Holding a paintbrush, crayon, or marker helps a child to develop their fine motor skills, as well as improves their ability to problem-solve. Drawing and painting can promote patience and determination for kids, because it gives them a task that they feel driven to complete. Since art is also a vehicle for emotion, children can work through ideas and issues when they exercise their creativity. Many children in our program have witnessed abuse or addiction, or they face depression and anxiety in their own lives or in the lives of those that surround them. Art can help them to express their feelings, which is crucial for them as they deal with past and present traumas, or other adversity in their lives.

A coordinator who goes above and beyond

Eugenia’s work goes beyond developing a summer arts program in order to support our sponsored and unsponsored children. She also ensures that the kids in her care are receiving exactly what they need in order to attend classes. She sends a letter home at the start of each school year asking parents for their kids’ clothes and shoe sizes. She also inquires as to what kinds of school supplies they would like to have. Then she shops for the students.

She also partners with a local hair salon, “Just Teasin’,” so that all the children enrolled in our program get haircuts so they may start the new school year looking their very best. During the holidays, for either Thanksgiving or Christmas, Eugenia uses sponsorship funds to provide vouchers that families can use to purchase food at a local grocery store, and have a nice meal together to celebrate.

Before her visit was over, Renée let Eugenia know that Children Incorporated could provide support for her summer arts program from our Hope In Action Fund. Just as Eugenia is passionate about using art to help kids succeed, we at Children Incorporated also feel that art and creativity are an important part of a child’s education. Through academics and art, we hope that children are able to reach their full potential. With the support of our sponsors and donors to supplement special programs, kids will have the chance to overcome the difficult obstacles they face living in poverty.

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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.

Businesses Supporting Students

Pike County Central High School is the largest of five high schools in Pike County, Kentucky, with an enrollment of approximately 720 students. On a recent trip to Pike County, our U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, met with our volunteer coordinator at the school, whose name is also Shelley. Our Volunteer Coordinator Shelley is the Youth Services Center (YSC) coordinator for the school; she describes the YSC as a safe space for all students of any economic background where they may freely come and go without judgment when they are in need of a new clothing item, shoes, school supplies, hygiene items, or a snack to eat.

Our Volunteer Coordinator Shelley explained that the children who are enrolled in our program – kids that she says are the most impoverished at the school – can visit her office for items they need without feeling embarrassed that their parents are unable to afford the school supplies they lack. Included among these necessities are book bags, notebooks, and socks.

Both businesses and our sponsorship program are helping children at Pike County Central High School.

Our Volunteer Coordinator Shelley says that with the sponsorship funds she receives every month, she especially likes to buy “school logo” clothes for her students; they help kids to feel like they fit in with the rest of their classmates. In the fall, sponsored and unsponsored children each receive a hoodie, a long-sleeved shirt, and sweatpants; and in the spring, another long-sleeved shirt and a couple of T-shirts. She supplements the clothes with hygiene items like soap and shampoo, or other special necessities, depending on what each student’s particular needs are, throughout the school year.

A unique place 

During the visit, our Volunteer Coordinator Shelley explained that her school is unique as a result of its close proximity to Pikeville, the county seat or governmental center of the county. Since the school is nearby, several Pikeville businesses support its resource center with food and clothing drives, which are a great help in keeping supplies stocked all year long. When she can, she tries to share with the other high schools in the area, like Phelps and East Ridge, which do not have as much local support due to their remote locations. Our Volunteer Coordinator Shelley is hopeful that, with the recent uptick in businesses and factories moving into the area, there is potential not only for more jobs for graduating seniors from Pike County Central High School and their parents, but also for more support for the center from local businesses.

Why small businesses help

Just like us, they, too, believe in the value of helping children succeed, and in giving them the chance that they deserve to have education, hope, and opportunity in their lives.

Businesses choose to help support kids in need for a variety of reasons. For starters, there are tax benefits for doing so. Donating to a qualified tax-exempt organization that falls under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code means that a business may deduct these contributions in its tax return. There are also marketing opportunities for businesses to advertise the philanthropic donations they make; non-profits may, in turn, publicize support as well. Additional possibilities for networking with new potential clients may present themselves, too, as a result of a business-charity partnership.

Working with charities may also offer volunteer opportunities for a business’ employees; and many companies offer matching gifts programs for employees to participate in. Despite the many benefits for businesses themselves, however, business owners oftentimes support charities simply because they want to give back to their own communities. Just like us, they, too, believe in the value of helping children succeed, and in giving them the chance that they deserve to have education, hope, and opportunity in their lives.

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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.

Grandparents As Parents

Bevins Elementary School lies in the easternmost region of Kentucky, in beautiful Pike County. This area was once a prosperous and thriving one, when its coal and timber industries were booming. The mountain passes and rugged terrain, while suitable for mining and logging, have effectively blocked other types of industries from settling in this part of the state. Thus, as mines closed, those who had spent their lives working underground could not find new employment opportunities above.

Thankfully for the students of Bevins Elementary School, the faculty there not only strive to provide a safe learning environment, but they also work to support grandparents who have found themselves raising kids again – but as seniors this time.

Today, poverty plagues this region, and adults are not the only ones experiencing the debilitating impact of its effects. Thankfully for the students of Bevins Elementary School, the faculty there not only strive to provide a safe learning environment, but they also work to support grandparents who have found themselves raising kids again – but as seniors this time.

A passionate coordinator

On a recent trip to Eastern Kentucky, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, visited with the Family Resource and Youth Services Center (FRYSC) coordinator at Bevins Elementary School, Sandy, who is also our Volunteer Coordinator. The school is located in a very small community called Sidney, west of Belfry. With an enrollment of only 227 children, the school is one of the smallest schools in the Belfry district.

Upon meeting Sandy, Renée observed that she takes a great deal of pride in her job. Her excellent work is demonstrated in her dedication to further aiding the children she serves through our programs. In fact, last year, Sandy was nominated by her principal as a contender for the Kentucky Association of School Administrators’ annual Fred Award. The award – inspired by Fred Shea, the postman who is the subject of Mark Sanborn’s national bestseller, The Fred Factor – recognizes non-administrative staff, students, and volunteers statewide whose daily efforts are deemed extraordinary and integral to a positive learning atmosphere in their school communities.

We support children in need in Eastern Kentucky.

Renée pictured with one of our sponsored children at Bevins Elementary School

Sandy is impassioned by FRYSC’s work to remove the “non-cognitive barriers” to children’s success in school by providing them with clothes, shoes, school supplies, and hygiene items throughout the academic year. She also works closely with the other coordinators in the middle and high schools in the Belfry district to collaborate on outreach efforts between older and younger siblings in the same families.

This is in order to ensure that all children are receiving the basic needs that are so important to their academic success. When it comes to working with our sponsored and unsponsored children, Sandy explained to Renée, her primary focus is always to obtain clothing and shoes, as well as school supplies. Sandy considers each child’s individualized personal needs upon selecting her purchases.

Training for grandparents

As Sandy discussed how she would like to see the resource center develop, Renée learned about a county program to be launched by FRYSC coordinators this school year called Grandparents As Parents (GAP) – a program for which financial assistance is greatly needed. There is a high percentage of grandparents and great-grandparents raising children in Pike County, sometimes due to parents passing, and other times because parents are incapable of caring for their own children as a result of problems with drug abuse. Many require support with regard to issues such as recognizing the signs of bullying; training on how to monitor kids’ social media use; and how to utilize technology for themselves for job training, and to check online for academic performance and behavior notes for the children in their care. The workshops will also touch on budgeting, and proper sleep and nutrition; and attendees will be provided with literature for reference.

After listening to Sandy speak so passionately about helping these grandparents – many of whom are living in poverty, and never expected to be raising their grandchildren – Renée informed Sandy that Children Incorporated would be happy to provide funding for this special program through our Hope In Action Fund. This fund is maintained for instances just as this. Now Sandy can rest assured that grandparents in her community will receive the support they need to raise their grandchildren to be the most successful students they can be.

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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.

25 Years in Pike County

Recently, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, and our U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, visited one of our longest-standing and most stable partnerships – the Family Resource and Youth Services Center (FRYSC) of Pike County in Kentucky. Children Incorporated began our outreach in Kentucky not long after the founding of our organization in 1964. At that time, our program was in only one county in the state: Menifee. Unfortunately, when our volunteer coordinator in Menifee County retired a few years later, no one was able to step in and take her place; so that project site was reluctantly closed.

In order to continue helping children in need in the Appalachian Region of the United States, one of our staff members at the time, Dorothy Carver, went to our founder, Mrs. Jeanne Clarke Wood, with an interesting proposal: her husband was relocating for work from Richmond, Virginia, where our headquarters was located at the time, to North Carolina. Mrs. Carver offered to reinstate our Appalachian Division with a focus in western North Carolina, where extreme poverty was rampant. Mrs. Wood agreed; once Mrs. Carver relocated to North Carolina, she began traveling regularly, steadily expanding our sponsorship program in the state.

Today, Children Incorporated is affiliated with all seventeen public schools in Pike County, which is the easternmost and largest county in North Carolina.

A Breakfast for Champions

In 1990, when Mrs. Carver retired, our Appalachian Division consisted of 32 projects in western North Carolina. Her assistant, Irene LeCroy, took her place as the new Appalachian Division Director. Mrs. LeCroy worked hard to continue to expand our work with impoverished children and their families. She wanted Children Incorporated to acquire affiliations in Kentucky, as well as move into West Virginia. It was she who first learned of Kentucky’s newly-developed Family Resource and Youth Services Center. Thanks to Mrs. LeCroy, our first re-affiliations since the early 1970s were in Pike County, Kentucky. The first was Kimper Elementary School in March of 1993 – and more and more were added over the years.

Today, Children Incorporated is affiliated with all seventeen public schools in Pike County, which is the easternmost and largest county in Kentucky, encompassing 788 square miles. It has a rugged mountainous terrain, with narrow river valleys and great scenic beauty. However, the continuing decline of the coal industry has yielded high rates of unemployment; underemployment; and rural out-migration, in which families are forced to leave their homes in search of steady work elsewhere. The county’s child poverty rate is 29 percent – and twelve percent of those kids live in deep poverty, in which their families’ incomes are less than half the poverty threshold.

We are incredibly grateful for our coordinators in Pike County, who work hard every day to ensure children’s needs are met.

Since this year marks Children Incorporated’s 25th anniversary of our work in Pike County, Renée and Shelley decided to start their week-long trip of visits to our affiliated schools in the area with a breakfast meeting to acknowledge the FRYSC coordinators, who also serve as our volunteer coordinators. Renée and Shelley invited all seventeen coordinators, as well as Mr. Robert Osborne, who is the Director of Federal Programs for the Pike County Board of Education, and who supervises our coordinators there.

Renée and Shelley hosted a fun breakfast, getting all the coordinators together to reminisce about how Children Incorporated sponsors and donors have facilitated their work helping kids in Eastern Kentucky over the years. Renée and Shelley also made it a point to express their gratitude to the coordinators for dedicating so much time and effort to ensuring that their students benefit fully from their sponsors’ crucial support.

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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.

Growing Up Too Fast

Bath County, Kentucky is known historically for the mineral and medicinal springs from which its name was derived. Unlike many other counties in Eastern Kentucky, Bath County is not a coal-producing area, and the main cash crop there used to be tobacco. This crop provided small farmers with a decent living with the help of the federal Tobacco Price Support Program, in which the government purchased surplus tobacco from farmers to ensure a yearly income for them.

Children are in need of food on the weekends.

A photo of the food pantry at Bath County High School

When the Tobacco Price Support Program ended in 2004, small farmers were no longer secure supporting their families by farming tobacco, so they began to seek out other work opportunities. As a result, most tobacco farmers in the county switched to raising cattle, which does not require nearly as many laborers as tobacco farming does, so many jobs were still lost.

Unfortunately, the loss of farming jobs in Bath County isn’t the only thing that negatively affected the local economy there. Most of Cave Run Lake, built by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1973, is located in Bath County – another potential source of income for families could come from tourist dollars generated by use of the lake; but all of the boat ramps, marinas, small restaurants, and gas stations around it are nestled on either the Rowan County side or on the Menifee County side. A path that was bulldozed on the Bath County side of the lake shows the start of construction; but many years after it was first blazed, subsequent work has yet to be done – and even Bath County residents have to leave the county to access the lake.

When parents aren’t being parents

On a recent trip to Bath County, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, visited the only high school in the county, Bath County High School. Sitting on a large complex, the school has 589 students in grades nine through twelve. 74 percent of those students qualify for free breakfast and lunch every day, which is a reflection of great poverty in the county. One in five Bath County citizens are living in poverty; and 29 percent of the children there are living below the poverty line.

“Sponsors give these teens hope and a window into a bigger world,” said Cindy. “The clothing and shoes received through sponsorship funds give these kids a sense of dignity and pride. “

When Renée arrived at the school, she met Cindy, our Volunteer Coordinator, in the school’s Resource Center, along with Cindy’s assistant, Sandy. Both Cindy and Sandy work very hard to help the children in their care to get basic needs, as many of them come from neglectful households. Cindy told Renée that she thinks the children are having to grow up too fast – some of them have to fend for themselves completely.

Their parents or guardians are absent from their lives in different ways – sometimes physically, sometimes mentally or emotionally. In some cases, they are away from the home a lot, working minimal-income jobs; in some instances, they are disabled and unable to do much to support their children. Some caretakers, tragically, due to a serious drug problem in Bath County, aren’t looking after their kids as a result of their addictions. Last year alone, there were fourteen overdoses of parents of Bath County High School students.

According to Cindy, many of these families can’t even begin to imagine another way of life for themselves, and they teach their children to think no other life is possible for them, either. This fostering of this negative mentality is one of the many reasons why Cindy and Sandy value the Children Incorporated program as much as they do. “Sponsors give these teens hope and a window into a bigger world,” said Cindy. “The clothing and shoes received through sponsorship funds give these kids a sense of dignity and pride. Being sponsored is encouraging for the students to stay in school and achieve their diplomas.”

It is important for these impoverished kids that Cindy and Sandy see the value in our program, and what sponsorship does for those children. When teens live in poverty, but are expected to get their schoolwork done and take care of themselves with little to no support from family, it is invaluable for them to have sponsors. It helps them to not feel alone, and to receive the positive motivation they need to keep working hard, so that they can have better lives once they graduate.

Going above and beyond for kids

Sponsorship helps children in Kentucky.

Renée and Cindy in the Resource Center

Cindy and Sandy do more than just help kids in our program receive basic needs – they also do a lot to prepare them for being on their own, as many of them practically already are. There is a washer and dryer in the Resource Center for the students to use to wash their own clothes, because many of their parents don’t do it for them. There is also a shower for the kids to use to clean up when they don’t have a usable shower at home.

Cindy also takes the students that she feels need extra attention on field trips, because she knows that many of them never leave their homes other than to go to school. She takes groups to a ropes course at Morehead State University for team building. She also takes some to a cosmetologist for haircuts and conversations about appearing professional for job interviews. She takes some teens to a restaurant – for some students, for the first time in their lives – where they can practice table manners.

It’s hard to think about what these children have to endure while they are still so young, with little to no guidance at home. Even before they graduate, some Bath County High School students are kicked out of their homes when they turn eighteen years old, because at that age, their parents stop receiving welfare checks with which to support them.

Now homeless, those kids go to school hungry and desperate. Thankfully, however, each school year, Cindy and Sandy help these scared and overwhelmed teens move into tiny public housing apartments, and they teach them to apply for welfare in their own names, so that they may receive that assistance until they graduate from high school; and our sponsors are there to provide additional support for these kids who are forced to grow up too fast when they really need it the most.

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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.

New Schools and More Kids in Need

After two days of visiting our affiliated schools in Lawrence County, Kentucky, U.S. Projects Specialist Shelley Oxenham and I traveled about an hour south to Floyd County to meet with a new Volunteer Coordinator, Scott Shannon, as well as to visit with a long-term coordinator, Sharon Collins, who had recently been transferred to a new school. Although Scott was brand new to the Children Incorporated program and Sharon was not, since they were both new to their respective schools this year, each of them was meeting the children for the first time, many of whom they found would greatly benefit from having a sponsor.

With newly enrolled children, new sponsors are needed.

Scott is the Resource Center Coordinator for both James A. Duff Elementary School and Allen Central Middle School, which share the same building. The elementary school classrooms are on the first floor of the building, and the middle school classrooms are on the second floor. Scott just started his position at the beginning of July. He has had a busy school year starting his new position – as a former football coach in the school system, not only is he learning the ropes as a coordinator, but he is also meeting the more than 600 children that attend the two schools for the first time.

Scott talked to Shelley and me about how many of the children who attend the schools come from families with financial problems, and how many of them are living with their grandparents, because their parents aren’t able to support them. A long-time resident of the area, Scott has seen a lot of people struggle to find work because many businesses in town have closed over the years.

Sometimes new shoes are not enough

When the school year started just a few weeks prior, Scott told us that he had given a lot of clothes away to children – more than he had ever anticipated. He was surprised by just how many kids came the first week of school in old, dirty clothes, wearing shoes with holes and broken flip-flops. He is just getting to know many of them, and is already sending food home with seventeen children on the weekends, because he worries they won’t eat otherwise. Scott says his greatest need right now is for more clothes for the kids, especially bigger clothes for the middle school-aged kids.

Before we left, Scott introduced us to six siblings who all attend the schools – four of the children are currently sponsored through our program, but two, Mark* and James*, are still waiting to be sponsored. Scott said that this family really needs additional support beyond what the Resource Center can provide; he already gave each of the kids new shoes at the beginning of the school year, thanks to a shoe drive held by community members.

He was surprised by just how many kids came the first week of school in old, dirty clothes, wearing shoes with holes and broken flip-flops.

Scott would love to see all of the kids have sponsors because he knows how much it would help them in getting school supplies year-round, and holiday gifts and coats in the winter.

No money to help kids

After leaving James A. Duff Elementary School and Allen Central Middle School, we visited with one of our long-term coordinators, Sharon, at May Valley Elementary School. Sharon was our coordinator at a high school in Kentucky for many years, until she was transferred to the elementary school in May. Although she is an experienced coordinator, like Scott, she is only getting to know the children at her new school.

Sharon told us that when she arrived at the school, she was given very little money to purchase items for the Resource Center, and what she was given had to last the whole year. Once her funds – which were to supply everything from clothes to food, to shoes, to school supplies – ran out, she would have to rely on donations from the community and support from our sponsorship program to get the children the help they need.

She said that the elementary school serves three housing projects in the county, and that even though she gets help from a great partnering organization in town that has a clothing closet and provides book bags at the beginning of the school year and blankets at Christmas, there are just so many more kids that she knows need assistance.

Our coordinators would love to see more of their students get sponsored.

Siblings with a lot of love

Sharon has enrolled eleven children in our program so far, but she wants to add close to twenty more kids – an ambitious and admirable goal. She first started by enrolling a family of five children – three boys and two girls – who all attend May Valley, and whose parents are struggling to support them. Sharon told us that one of the girls broke her glasses months ago, but her parents don’t have the money to replace them – and the girl is still in need of new ones now.

Like the family we met with Scott, these children are also very close in age to one another. But unlike that same family, all five of the children at Sharon’s school are currently waiting for sponsors.

Sharon took us around the school to pull the kids out of their classrooms so we could meet with all the siblings in the Resource Center. We stopped by the youngest boy’s classroom first, and when we told him we were going to get his brothers and sisters, he became incredibly animated. Even though he had seen them just a few hours before, he was so excited to get to see them in the middle of the school day.

As we continued down the hallways, and each child joined us, I could tell that this is a close-knit group of siblings who really watches out for one another. They held hands as they walked, and the older ones stopped to tie the younger ones’ shoes. It was sweet to see them together, and I was glad to know they had one another. Although they were lacking many things they needed, it was apparent they were not lacking in love for one another.

*Names changed for children’s protection.

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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.