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An Overwhelming Positive Change

Today, we want to share a letter of hope and inspiration from one of our many incredible volunteer coordinators from around the world. If there was ever any doubt of the power of sponsorship, Teresa, at Floyd Central High School in Kentucky, confirms with a sweet letter just how much sponsors mean to children in our program:

If there was ever any doubt of the power of sponsorship, Teresa, at Floyd Central High School in Kentucky, confirms with a sweet letter just how much sponsors mean to children in our program.

“Dear Children Incorporated Staff and Sponsors,

First of all, I want to say thank you for everything that your organization does for our students. Your sponsorship program has been such a blessing. I am not a big fan of shopping; however, I love seeing the students’ faces when they are given new clothes and shoes. They especially enjoy receiving items for their birthdays and Christmas. Because of their sponsors’ generosity, all of my Children Incorporated-enrolled kids receive new clothing and shoes at back-to-school, Christmas, and springtime. In addition, each receives a Thanksgiving and Christmas food basket.

Our school was also fortunate to receive two grants from your Hope In Action Fund. I collaborated with the other schools in our county, as well as local partners, such as our Health Department and Extension Office, for these initiatives. The first was a New/Expectant Parents Fair. Each participant received a bag filled with important information, as well as a new book for the baby, diapers, wipes, and more.

Teresa sent photos of packed supplies waiting to go out to students, thanks to a donation from our Hope In Action Fund.

To encourage participation, there were also door prizes, such as baby monitors, car seats, play yards, and developmental toys. These babies will be our kindergarteners in just a few short years. The second initiative was a Family Fun Night. Our schools’ coordinators shopped for and provided good old fashioned board games (like Hi Ho Cherry-O, Jenga, Monopoly, UNO, etc.), pizza kits, and snacks to promote family bonding and less screen time. Both initiatives were handled via socially distanced “Drive Thru & Pick Ups” during the pandemic.

Finally, I would like to show how the sponsors are making such a huge difference in the lives of our students by sharing a story. I have one young man about whom I was approached by two of his teachers. They had concerns in regards to his appearance and hygiene. They said something had been off with him since we returned to school.

“Our principal spoke of this young man and what an amazing difference she has seen in just a short amount of time. None of this would have been possible without the generosity of his sponsor.”

I met with this young man, and of course he said everything was fine. He kept his head down for most of our meeting. I noticed this young man had severe acne, and I was sure this was a part of his low self-esteem. I tried to make contact with his mom via phone and then again on a home visit, but with no luck. This student missed an excessive amount of school. Then I noticed the student seemed to be making a connection with our new JROTC officer, so the officer and I worked together, coming up with a plan to help this young man and to gain his trust.

With the generosity of his sponsor, I was able to purchase him new clothing, shoes, hygiene items – and now acne medicine, too. Slowly, this young man started coming around and being more involved with school and the JROTC program. There has been just an overwhelming positive change in this student’s life. He had never participated in anything and never had many friends. This year he came to and even danced at the Military Ball. At our end of the year staff dinner, our principal spoke of this young man and what an amazing difference she has seen in just a short amount of time. None of this would have been possible without the generosity of his sponsor.

With sincere thanks,

Teresa”

***

How do I sponsor a child in Kentucky?

You can sponsor a child in Kentucky 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 sponsorship portal, create an account, and search for a child in Kentucky that is available for sponsorship.

SPONSOR A CHILD

Thanksgiving Meals for Kids and Their Families

Thanksgiving is a special time of year for many families in the United States, but for those living in poverty, the expense of purchasing food for the holiday can be something they just can’t afford.

Thankfully, for many of our sponsored children, we were able to provide funding from our Hope In Action Fund and our U.S. Feeding Program Fund to purchase meals to send home before Thanksgiving break.

Thankfully, for many of our sponsored children, we were able to provide funding from our Hope In Action Fund and our U.S. Feeding Program Fund to purchase meals to send home before Thanksgiving break. At the request of our volunteer coordinator at John M. Stumbo Elementary School, kids in our program received Thanksgiving meals including turkeys –totaling nearly $1800 in special food items. At Sparta Elementary School in North Carolina, our volunteer coordinator, Mandy, wrote:

“All of our Children Incorporated sponsored students are receiving a Holiday Meal Bag before the weekend. Each bag includes a country ham, a 10-lb bag of dried pinto beans, biscuit mix, cobbler mix, jam or jelly, fresh fruit – and a little bit of candy.  We are scheduling pick-ups now, and our parents and guardians have repeatedly expressed their gratitude to their children’s sponsors. Best wishes for a blessed, safe, and very Happy Thanksgiving to everyone at Children Incorporated from all of us at Sparta Elementary School!”

From all of us at Children Incorporated, thanks to all of our sponsors and donors who helped make Thanksgiving a special holiday for children in need this year!

Pictured is a sponsored child in New Mexico receiving a Thanksgiving food box, thanks to his sponsor. Our amazing coordinator made home deliveries, as this project is still on fully remote instruction.

About John M. Stumbo

Nestled in eastern Kentucky’s coalfields region, Floyd County has one of the state’s highest populations – but also the state’s highest unemployment rate. Though situated on the beautiful Cumberland Plateau, where coal mining used to thrive and where rich coal veins still exist, the war on coal has devastated the local economy, causing many jobs and families to leave the area. Those who remain here face limited job opportunities, rampant poverty, and the devastating effects of the region’s drug epidemic. The small, close-knit community of Grethel is no exception to this grievous reality. In fact, it is estimated that a staggering 90% of area students have lost at least one family member to addiction.

For this reason, John M. Stumbo Elementary School serves as a safe haven where students not only receive a well-rounded education, but also encouragement from caring staff and the only warm, nutritious meals they may receive each day.

About Sparta Elementary

Just south of the Virginia-North Carolina state border, Alleghany County is nestled amid idyllic mountains, only a few miles from the only roadway to be designated part of a U.S. national park –  the Blue Ridge Parkway. Thousands of tourists pass through Alleghany County each year to glimpse its spectacular vistas. Despite Alleghany County’s natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, the vast majority of its residents live well below the federal poverty line. Many local industries have closed in the past decade, and with a general lack of new employment opportunities, unemployment is escalating in Alleghany County.

This overwhelming poverty has debilitating effects on children of the region, affecting their self-esteem, health, and overall wellbeing. For this reason, Sparta Elementary School serves as a beacon of hope to its surrounding community. Students know Sparta Elementary as a place where they can count on receiving a hot meal, as well as respect, care, and a quality education — the key to breaking the cycle of poverty.

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How do I sponsor a child in the United States?  

You can sponsor a child in the United States 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 sponsorship portal, create an account, and search for a child in the United States that is available for sponsorship.

SPONSOR A CHILD

Sweet Dreams for Kids in Kentucky

Our affiliated project, Morgan County Middle School, is located in West Liberty, Kentucky, and serves 464 students in 6th through 8th grade — many of whom come from low-income households.

The school’s Family Resource Youth Services Center is run by Children Incorporated’s volunteer coordinator, Kim.

“Kim runs a lot of important programs for our kids, and she can always use help with them. Her favorites are the 8th grade career mentoring program, the weekend feeding program, and the Sweet Dreams bed program,” said Renée.

“Kim was previously at one of the elementary schools, Morgan Central, for many years, but she moved up to the middle school after its coordinator retired. Kim said it was a smooth transition, as many of the kids were her former elementary students,” explained our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube.

“However, the move did refine her awareness and sensitivity to this age group — middle school children are coping with the physical and emotional challenges of puberty, and many of them are also enduring poverty and family stress. These challenges make the Family Resource Center more important than ever.”

“When I last visited with Kim in late 2019, she told me that, due to the county’s high poverty rate, they were awarded district-wide free lunch. This has made it so much less embarrassing for the kids who don’t have lunch money. Now everyone is on the same level. Her school is also one of three schools in the county that is serving an early supper on select days, which really helps families in the community as well,” said Renée.

Kim’s Programs

Kim is pictured with one of the students in our sponsorship program at Morgan County Middle School.

“Kim runs a lot of important programs for our kids, and she can always use help with them. Her favorites are the 8th grade career mentoring program, the weekend feeding program, and the Sweet Dreams bed program. She is most proud of and excited about the Sweet Dreams bed program,” exclaimed Renée.

“Kim said all Morgan County Public Schools are eligible to participate in the Build A Bed Program operated by Morehead State University. However, only 200 beds are made per year, and with so many counties and schools eligible, not all children in need can be helped.”

“So, she and the other coordinators in Morgan County started their own program. The Eastern Kentucky Correctional Center is located in West Liberty. The prison builds the beds for free for the students at the school, and the school coordinators appeal to local businesses to buy the mattresses for the kids, some of which she has been able to secure. Kim said more assistance is always needed to purchase mattresses, sheets, blankets, pillows, and comforters,” said Renée.

Because of our Beds and Linens Fund, and thanks to our sponsors, Children Incorporated has been able to help Kim and our sponsored children with those new items so that students from the middle school can sleep comfortably at home and be prepared for school each day rested and ready to learn!”

***

How do I sponsor a child in Kentucky?

You can sponsor a child in Kentucky 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 sponsorship portal, create an account, and search for a child in Kentucky that is available for sponsorship.

SPONSOR A CHILD

Favorite Moments From Our Volunteer Coordinators

At the end of each school year, we receive letters from our volunteer coordinators who share stories of the impact that our sponsors have on the children in our program. Thanks to your support, especially through the COVID-19 pandemic, children in the United States, and around the world, have continued to receive basic needs that have given their families much-needed relief during difficult times. As a way to say ‘thank you’, we would like to share some of these special notes from our coordinators in the U.S.

As a way to say ‘thank you’, we would like to share some of these special notes from our coordinators in the U.S.

A note from Karen

I would like to thank you for all the help you give Knott County Central through Children Incorporated. Thank you for getting our students sponsors. I would also like to thank our sponsors for their monthly sponsorship contributions. It gives our students so much throughout the year. Allowing them to buy clothes and shoes like the other students helps them with their self-esteem and their idea of “fitting in.” It helps these students tremendously and gives them a more positive attitude.

I have several students in single parent households. In one family, the mother is raising three children. The three children would not have clothes to wear if it was not for their sponsorship from Children Incorporated. Their Christmas presents, which were new clothes, were from Children Incorporated. Mom went shopping for them, took their clothes, and wrapped them for their Christmas presents. One of these students is a senior this year, and when he received his birthday money and graduation money, he spent it on fishing supplies. This kid loves to fish. He was so excited to be able to buy a fishing pole so he could go fishing. The little things mean so much to these students.

I have another student who was living with his mom. Most of his clothes also came from his sponsorship money. He is a boot kid — he LOVES his boots. He always wanted to save his money up to buy boots. He just recently moved in with a friend and had no clothes. Thankfully, he had his sponsorship money to buy some. Without his sponsorship funds, I do not know what the student would had done for clothes and shoes.

Thanks to their sponsors, children in Arizona are receiving school supplies ahead of the new school year in the late summer of 2021.

I also have several grandparents raising their grandchildren. I have one grandmother raising three grandchildren. She tells me all the time that she does not know what she would do without the help of Children Incorporated. She will call and ask when they need a pair of shoes or clothes. She is always so thankful for all the help that she receives. The students are always so appreciative, always thanking me when they go shopping. When one of the boys was a freshman he would hardly speak to me or look me in the eye. When his sponsor came and saw him, he was shy at first, but after the visit, they started writing to each other. He has come out of his shell. His sponsorship has really changed him. Now he comes in my office and talks forever. Shows me his boots or tennis shoes. He looks forward to his sponsor’s letters and cards. Grandma loves the positive male influence that the sponsor has on her grandson. The boy now wants to join the military. We all know that all it takes is that one special person to change a kid’s life!

Karen, Knott County Central Youth Service Center

Without his sponsorship funds, I do not know what the student would have done for clothes and shoes.

Hearing from Lynn in Letcher County

As the 2020-2021 school year is nearing its end, I can’t help but wonder what the summer and the beginning of a new school year will look like for our students. I’m sure countless other educators and community partners wonder the same.  However, it has been a year filled with countless blessings for my students and families.

During this “pandemic year” my office has been filled with Christmas gifts, food assistance, hygiene assistance, shoes, coats, school supplies, and so much more for our students and families that have been made possible by Children Incorporated sponsors. Even during this difficult time, when it would have been so easy to get caught up in other overwhelming problems and situations, Children Incorporated sponsors supported and continued to provide assistance for our students and families.

Several families come to mind. For example, an aunt, the primary caregiver to her middle school granddaughters, an elementary school niece, and nephew. The family struggles with transportation, health, as well as other family beyond her control. Another example is a great grandfather who has sole custody of his great granddaughter. He is also taking care of his wife and great-grandmother, who is dealing with Alzheimer’s. He tries very hard to keep up with his granddaughter’s virtual learning experience as well as keep involved in her volleyball and softball events and practices while dealing with other family members’ issues. Actually, I have several grandparents who are in the same situations. Currently, my families are shopping at a local business to purchase spring/summer clothing and shoes for the Children Incorporated sponsored children. The students enjoy shopping for themselves (with guidance and restrictions) because most of them have never had the means or the opportunity to go on a shopping spree!

Please extend my sincere, heartfelt gratitude and thankfulness to all the sponsors who have been so thoughtful and generous. I saw and continue to see so many smiles and hear so many thank you responses. Needless to say, so many students need to be made to feel special, and caregivers too. This sponsorship provides each student and caregiver unexplainable encouragement and support.

Thank you so much for your help to remove barriers for my LMS students and families.

Lynn, Letcher Middle School

Thanks from Jenny

Although things aren’t quite back to “normal” at Catlettsburg & Ponderosa Elementary Schools, the staff, students, and families are grateful to be back in the building and around people again! As we “round the corner” and summer approaches quickly, we look BACK at fond memories and FORWARD to new beginnings!

Our Family Resource Center currently has all but one enrolled student matched with a Children Incorporated sponsor at this time. A huge SHOUT OUT to the hard-working Children Incorporated staff for working so diligently to assure that enrolled kids are matched in a timely fashion with a sponsor. We cannot express how very grateful we are for all of the kindness your agency shows to our students and their families.

Our goal for the 2021-2022 school year is to enroll 25 students and hopefully have them matched with sponsors at the beginning of the school year. We have reached out to families with younger siblings who already have children enrolled as well as to families who have never been enrolled through the program.

Even though we were unable to allow families to participate in our “Parent/Child Shopping Days” at Walmart this school year, we worked very closely with the families to ensure the kids received clothing, basic needs items, and school-related supplies that they would like and use. The families have been wonderful in sending pictures quickly, progress reports, “Thank You” letters, and friendly letters.  I haven’t had to call or send a text to anyone to remind them that those were due to their sponsor.

Needless to say, so many students need to be made to feel special, and caregivers too. This sponsorship provides each student and caregiver unexplainable encouragement and support.

The Family Resource Center recently did a spring/summer shop to close out the school year.  Items such as shorts, tank tops, swimsuits, flip flops, and tennis shoes were purchased for students to enjoy outside “Summer Time” fun with their families. Dedra, the mother of Jacari & Jamir (Catlettsburg enrollees) said, “I don’t know what I would do without the boys’  sponsors. Boys grow so fast, and it’s very hard for me to afford new clothing and school supplies for them.” Samantha, mother of Brantley (Ponderosa enrollee) is “very thankful for all of the help [she receives] from Children Incorporated.” She says, “As a mother of five children, all school-age, it’s almost impossible to keep them all in clothes they like and will wear. COVID-19 has slowed down my husband’s work and we really appreciate the extra support.”

Our special needs student’s mother at Catlettsburg had this to say about Children Incorporated and how beneficial it has been to her daughter Aniya: “Aniya loves coloring & drawing pictures for her sponsor. This program has given her the opportunity to participate in activities like all the other kids, even with her disability. She has also taken a growth spurt and now wears women’s sizes which are more expensive for her father and I. Thank you Children Incorporated for your help!”

Our Backpack Feeding Program allows our coordinators to send food home on the weekend with kids in our program.

Along with the basic needs funds, birthday gifts, and holiday gifts, the FRC was once again the recipient of a “Hope In Action” grant for our BOOKS 4 HOME literacy program. Through the assistance we received, we were able to purchase 3  brand new books for every student at the Early Childhood Academy, Catlettsburg Elementary, and Ponderosa Elementary. Due to COVID restrictions, we were unable to let the students come into the FRC and hand-select their own books. However, thanks to our #1 VOLUNTEER, Ms. Sherry, we were able to do a “book bundle” for over 800 students. Sherry worked tirelessly to bundle all of the books together, while our AmeriCorps member, Briley, chose three age-appropriate books for each student.  Girl bundles were secured with a pink ribbon, boy bundles with a blue one.  The teachers at all three schools report that their students “loved receiving their new books” and felt like it was Christmas! Mrs. Wallace, a 3rd grade teacher at Ponderosa, personally walked her students down to the FRC so they could hand me a “Thank You” letter for their new books; it made my day.  Another 4th grade teacher at Ponderosa stated that her students “bartered and traded” the books amongst themselves as soon as they got them. Everyone was very pleased with the ones they got.

In closing, I would like to once again express to each and every Children Incorporated employee how EXTREMELY BLESSED we feel to be in partnership with you. You are truly making a difference in a child’s life.

With love,
Jenny
Catlettsburg and Ponderosa Elementary Schools

With Gratitude from Owingsville Elementary

Owingsville Elementary Family Resource Center wants to take this opportunity to thank you so much for allowing our students to be a part of Children Incorporated. Our students have benefited greatly from the sponsorship program.  We currently have 24 students enrolled in the program. We appreciate all the work Children Incorporated does for these children in need.

We started the school year with all students participating virtually. Our principal, Dr. Bailey, started his third year here at OES. Melania Allen was hired as the FRC clerk, but I only have her 60 days for the year. Due to the limited funding, she is also the clerk for the Bath County Middle School YSC and Crossroads FRC. We came back to school in a hybrid mode for a few weeks and then had to have the entire district go back to virtual. February 1st, we started back to hybrid mode and then we were out about 2 full weeks due to snow and ice. In March, we brought all students that wanted to attend back to 4 days a week with Wednesday being a virtual day. That is also how we ended the school year on May 19th.

You are truly making a difference in a child’s life.

OES was at 71% free lunch for the past year, and we had an enrollment of 516 for preschool – 5th grade. We have many students in need, and we are blessed to have the Children Incorporated program at OES. In July and August, I went shopping for Children Incorporated students for back to school items and fall clothing and shoes. In November, I went shopping for Christmas items and winter clothing. At the end of April, I worked on the Children Incorporated shopping list for spring/summer needs and shopped for those and handed them out before school was out for the summer.

The OES FRC was very grateful to receive the Hope In Action grant. We were able to purchase clothes and shoes, hygiene and cleaning items, school supplies and food. Having this grant allowed us to serve even more students and helped us set up a closet to have those items on hand when someone was in need.

Our sponsors have changed the lives of thousands of children during the 2020-2021 school year and for that we are so grateful!

Our center provided a Backpack Program, where we send home food on the weekends. This school year the backpack program took on many forms. We started with all food bags being sent to families on the meal delivery buses. When we came back to school in the hybrid plan, we sent some on the buses and some home with the child if they attended school. We also made it available for pickup by parents. Near the end of the school year, we were down to just 2 being sent home on the meal delivery and the rest at school. Summer feeding is currently available and the Backpack Program will resume in August, however, we are always available to provide emergency food.

We appreciate all of the Children Incorporated sponsors and staff!  We have so many sponsors that send additional funds, cards for holidays and special occasions, send gift cards for me to purchase birthday cakes, send gift cards for special occasion dinners (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter) and ones that call me just to get a quick update on the child’s needs.  The extra funds provided especially helped one family of 6. To be home all day, every day with 4 growing boys was a challenge for the grandmother, but the sponsor’s help with extra money for food and birthdays made a difference! I appreciate all the time, care, concern and effort that goes into this program. I thank you all for allowing OES FRC to be a part of Children Incorporated. It is a true blessing to our school and families.

Sincerely,
Michele, Owingsville Elementary School

Appreciation from Sandy

I want to thank you and Children Incorporated for all that you do for me and children here at Beaver Creek Elementary. There is no way that I could help these students in need without the support of Children Incorporated. Having sponsorships for these students helps the families tremendously. When I meet the parents at Walmart, they show much gratitude for being able to get clothing and shoes for their children. They tell me how thankful and appreciative they are to have their children sponsored.

We appreciate all the work Children Incorporated does for these children in need.

When our county was hit with flooding early this year, I was worried as to how I could help these families when I don’t have a lot of resources to work with; Children Incorporated was there to assist. One family was totally devastated by the flooding. They lost everything they had and had to relocate. I met with this family at Walmart to get things they were in need of, which was practically everything. When the shopping was done, as we were checking out, the mom became emotional and said “Thank you so much! I don’t know what we would’ve have done without your help.” The little girl without saying a word came from behind her mom and walked up and hugged me and said thank you as well. That was heartwarming to know we helped this family in such a difficult time.

So again, thank you and Children Incorporated for your hard work and supporting the children here at Beaver Creek Elementary. Together we can make a difference for our children and their families. We truly appreciate all that you do!!!

Sincerely,
Sandy

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How do I sponsor a child in the United States?

You can sponsor a child in the United States 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 sponsorship portal, create an account, and search for a child in the United States that is available for sponsorship.

SPONSOR A CHILD

 

A Large Space with Ample Supplies

* Note: This blog was written prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although much has changed regarding our sponsored children’s learning experience in the past months, our On the Road stories remain relevant in regards to our volunteer coordinator’s work and the impact of sponsorship on children in our program thanks to our sponsors. We are pleased to continue to share stories with you about our work.

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Blackey, Kentucky is proud of its distinction as a place where part of the movie, Coal Miner’s Daughter, was filmed. Once a bustling mining town with its own coal company, Blackey was devastated by floods and fires in the late 1920s. Even more tragically, during the Great Depression, the little community’s bank failed, and Blackey never regained its glory years.

“Michele has taken maximum advantage of her space. Every square inch is packed with materials and supplies for children — including those in our sponsorship program.” 

Lots of basic needs items for kids

Letcher Elementary School serves children from kindergarten through fifth grade. The school feeds into another Children Incorporated affiliated project, Letcher Middle School, which is attached to one end of the elementary school. Although the schools are on the same campus, they operate separately.

“Our volunteer coordinator and the school’s Family Resource Center Coordinator, Michele, is fortunate to have a large physical resource center, which is not usually the case in schools in Kentucky,” explains Renée Kube, our Director of U.S. Programs.

We are grateful for our sponsors who make it possible for us to support children at Letcher Elementary School.

“Michele has taken maximum advantage of her space. Every square inch is packed with materials and supplies for children — including those in our sponsorship program.” 

A community with a big heart

During a visit to the school, Michele told Renée that Letcher Elementary and Middle Schools are fortunate to be located in Blackey, which is a small town with a big heart. The community members are very driven to help each other, and the city administrators offer many public places for residents to learn.

“Blackey has a tiny public library in town and a community center that is open to adults and children. The community center offers workshops in practical things like sewing and also activities like painting and handicrafts,” said Renée.

“It is wonderful that the community has a gathering place where people can come together to have fun and support one another emotionally and physically.”

***

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.

SPONSOR A CHILD

The Challenges of Home Life

* Note: This blog was written prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although much has changed regarding our sponsored children’s learning experience in the past months, our On the Road stories remain relevant in regards to our volunteer coordinator’s work and the impact of sponsorship on children in our program thanks to our sponsors. We are pleased to continue to share stories with you about our work.

***

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.

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