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Going Above and Beyond for Kids in Need

As the largest elementary school in Knott County, Kentucky, Hindman Elementary School serves 609 students in grades Kindergarten through eight.

Shana doesn’t let any obstacle stand in her way when it comes to making sure that vulnerable, underprivileged students at her school — including those enrolled in the Children Incorporated program — get the help they need.

Not only does the school have high enrollment, but it also boasts test scores that are above the state average. According to our volunteer coordinator at the school, Shana, Hindman Elementary has a higher ratio of children who come from middle-class households compared to the rest of Knott County.

These parents have completed high school or college and now work as teachers, nurses, county administrators, or medical professionals in higher paying jobs than their peers who weren’t able to get their high school diplomas or higher education degrees. And thanks to higher pay than minimum wage jobs, they are able to provide their children with the adequate resources they need to succeed in school.

A school with kids in need

Unfortunately, even with higher percentages of students excelling, Shana says that many kids at Hindman are living in poverty. Nearly 75% of children attending Hindman receive free or reduced lunch through the National School Lunch Program.

But Shana doesn’t let any obstacle stand in her way when it comes to making sure that vulnerable, underprivileged students at her school — including those enrolled in the Children Incorporated program — get the help they need.

Meeting Jean

Thanks to Shana, children enrolled in our program at Hindman Elementary School are well cared for all year long.

On a recent visit to Knott County, Kentucky, our Director of U.S. Programs Renée Kube had the chance to see just how much Shana was willing to do for our sponsored and unsponsored kids.

“Shana is a dynamic coordinator who always goes the extra mile. Before our meeting at the school, she had arranged a visit to the home of a nice woman named Jean and her husband, John,” said Renée.

“Jean and John are the legal guardians of his six grandchildren, who are all currently sponsored through our program. When we arrived, Jean gave me a warm welcome into their trailer. She said they are retired, and starting all over again with his grandchildren was a big adjustment.”

Renée continued, “But the kids are so sweet. She is a tiny little woman with a ton of energy. She spoke of the grandchildren lovingly, telling funny stories about them — their pictures are displayed in places of pride on the television stand and the living room wall.”

“It was amazing to see firsthand how Shana’s efforts were making a huge difference for their family,” said Renée.

Visting Hindman

After their trip to Jean’s house, Shana and Renée had a chance to talk more about how Children Incorporated and the Family Resource Center are helping children and families in Knott County.

It made Renée happy to know that children at this large elementary school have a caring person like Shana who is willing to go the extra mile every day to make sure they each have their individual needs met.

Shana told Renée that the things she struggles with most are providing basic needs assistance to children and accessing adequate healthcare for them. Thankfully, because of our donors and sponsors, the children at Hindman are getting shoes, clothes and school supplies regularly.

When it comes to healthcare, Shana brings the University of Kentucky Dental Van to the school and works with the Lions Club to obtain eyeglasses.

A wonderful time

Overall, Renée was very pleased with her visit to Hindman and the time she got to spend with Shana.

It made Renée happy to know that children at this large elementary school have a caring person like Shana who is willing to go the extra mile every day to make sure they each have their individual needs met.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN KENTUCKY?

You can sponsor a child in Kentucky in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members, or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.

Wishing for Work

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

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

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

Kids in need

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

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

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

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

 

– Renée Kube

Finding creative ways to shop

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

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

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

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

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

Getting to know Victoria

Renée with Victoria at Knott County High School

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

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

*Name changed to protect the child.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN KENTUCKY?

You can sponsor a child in Kentucky in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members, or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.

Backpacks Full of Food to the Rescue

Boyd County Middle School is located in the isolated and rural town of Cannonsburg, Kentucky.

When children don’t eat enough, it can shorten their attention span, lower their IQ and keep them from performing well in school.

Like many of Kentucky’s Eastern Coal Field communities, Cannonsburg has significantly suffered from the decline of the coal mining industry. At the height of the coal operations, Boyd County was an essential and active port city for the transport of coal along the Ohio River.

Today, many of its residents live in dismal poverty. Illiteracy and high dropout rates are significant problems in the area.

Thankfully, students at Boyd County Middle School have caring teachers and staff that work hard to motivate and educate them so that they can graduate and become successful members of their community.

A newly renovated school

Not only do students at the school have a supportive group of administrators to help them, but according to our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, they also have newly renovated school buildings to enjoy.

Unfortunately, for many children living in poverty, their only meals of the day can often be those they receive at school.

On a recent visit to Boyd County Middle School, Renée marveled at the new entrance façade, energy efficient windows, improved access to the gym and a new bus loading/unloading area designed to help with traffic congestion during peak times — all updates from the last time she visited the school a few years ago.

A lack of adequate food at home

While at the school, Renée also got a chance to meet with our volunteer coordinator, Vicki. Vicki told Renée that Boyd County Middle School serves 729 students in sixth through eighth grades. Fifty-seven percent of those children come from low-income families. These children often come to school without proper clothes, shoes and school supplies. Many of them don’t have adequate food at home either.

“Vicki expressed to me that her biggest need is for more help with her Weekend Backpack Food Program, which is currently assisting over 100 children,” said Renée.

Why is backpack feeding necessary?

Sending children home on Friday afternoons with non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food ensures that they get enough food on weekends and holidays and can’t rely on a getting a nutritious meal at school.

Unfortunately, lack of food in the home for families living in poverty is an issue that many children in the United States face. According to Feeding America’s website, “Twenty-two million children receive free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program and the National School Breakfast Program. For many of these children, school meals may be the only meals they eat.”

Roughly 13 million kids in America today don’t have enough food to eat on the weekends. One in five kids in our country goes without access to affordable, nutritious food on Saturdays and Sundays. Lack of adequate food leads to health problems in addition to hunger. When children don’t eat enough, it can shorten their attention span, lower their IQ and keep them from performing well in school.

Because of these harsh realities, backpack feeding programs like Vicki’s at Boyd County Middle School are crucial for children. Sending children home on Friday afternoons with non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food ensures that they get enough food on weekends and holidays and can’t rely on a getting a nutritious meal at school.

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HOW DO I SUPPORT BACKPACK FEEDING PROGRAMS IN THE U.S.?

Our U.S. Feeding Program provides support for Back Pack Feeding Programs at our affiliated projects. To donate, call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members, or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org, or visit https://childrenincorporated.org/u-s-feeding-programs/ to make an online donation.

How Poverty Impacts Academic Achievement

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

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

The challenges of living below the poverty line

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

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

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

Beavers Are Achievers

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

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

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

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

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

Making kids feel loved

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

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

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

Meeting two special parents

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

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

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

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN KENTUCKY?

You can sponsor a child in Kentucky in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members, or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.

The Hardworking Families of Eastern Kentucky

The Commonwealth of Kentucky comprises five primary geographical regions. Children Incorporated’s outreach is in the eastern third of the state known as the Cumberland Plateau region.

Many young boys and girls of this community whose families have suffered without steady employment go without meals on the weekends or shiver in the cold at night without heat in their homes during the harsh Appalachian winter.

As a part of the Appalachian Mountain and Plateau region of the United States, the Cumberland Plateau is characterized by high elevations, mountainous terrain, ridges and deep and narrow hollows. Over the last 30 years, our U.S. Division has focused on working in this region due to its historically high poverty rate.

On a trip to visit our affiliated projects in this area of the country where we support kids, Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube and U.S. Projects Specialist Shelley Oxenham met with our volunteer coordinators and sponsored children in Knott County, Leslie County and Perry County. During their visits, they both had a chance to learn more about how these counties — and the families that reside in them — have been affected by poverty.

High unemployment for the Cumberland Plateau

The Cumberland Plateau has been home to generations of hardworking coal miners and close-knit families. With the collapse of the coal industry — due to automation, cheaper foreign markets and a decline in demand — this region’s unemployment rates have skyrocketed.

Our sponsored children in Kentucky are receiving the support and care that they need to help them so they can get an education.

Many young boys and girls of this community whose families have suffered without steady employment go without meals on the weekends or shiver in the cold at night without heat in their homes during the harsh Appalachian winter.

A history of Eastern Kentucky

Until the mid-20th century, Kentucky was considered an agricultural state — in fact, more than half the state is still farmland. Principal crops include corn, soybeans, hay and tobacco. Several of the counties in the upper portion of the Cumberland Plateau region were not historically coal-mining areas — instead, their economies revolved around agriculture, timber and fishing.

However, the coal producing counties in the lower portion of the Cumberland Plateau have suffered from the decline of the coal industry due to higher mechanization and lower demand.

Stories from their travels

Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing stories from our affiliated projects in Knott County, Leslie County and Perry County. Thanks to our sponsors and donors, Renée and Shelley found that children, although living in poverty, are receiving the support and care that they need to help them so they can get an education.

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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.

Limited Housing for Students in Hazard

Perry County Central High School is located in the city of Hazard in Perry County in the Eastern Kentucky Coalfield. Hazard, once a nineteenth-century settlement with a booming coal mining community, is nestled in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains. The geographic isolation of Perry County has led to deep-rooted preservation of this region’s rich culture; but this has also contributed to economic stagnation over the years.

Families that do not have steady or sufficient incomes often find themselves without adequate housing.

Poverty, drug abuse, and a lack of health insurance are just a few of the problems that this part of Kentucky faces, and they are due to limited employment opportunities and the dwindling coal market. Though many Hazard families struggle, life for some has started to improve, as Perry County has taken steps to incite new economic growth. Yet one major issue still plagues low-income families: a lack of availability of affordable housing.

Students without homes

sponsor a child in kentucky

Hazard has very few low-income apartments for families in the community.

Founded in 1995 as the result of the consolidation of two other local high schools, our affiliated project Perry County Central High School is a large school with an enrollment of around 900 students. 72 percent of the students there qualify for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). On a visit to the school, our U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, met with our Volunteer Coordinator Tina. Tina told Shelley that she feels she is perfect for her job because she grew up very poor in a large family with thirteen siblings. She, therefore, understands the issues that many of the families in the community are dealing with when it comes to living in poverty.

Tina explained to Shelley that at Perry County Central High School, there is not much of a middle class; as Tina described it, “There is no in-between – you either have money or you don’t.” Families that do not have steady or sufficient incomes often find themselves without adequate housing. As a result, there is a large homeless population among the students at the school.

A very long wait list

According to Tina, Hazard has very few low-income apartments for families in the community. There are about 150 of these apartments in the whole town, so the waiting list to get in is very long. This means that many families have no choice but to find temporary housing arrangements, which is not ideal for students who require stability while they’re attending school.

The students who Tina considers to be homeless are not necessarily living on the streets or in shelters; some of them are staying on couches at friends’ houses, or staying with teachers or relatives. Currently, the high school has six students who are living in a homeless shelter. Tina says that at the end of the day, even some students who do have homes to go to often beg to go home with friends or teachers, because their home life is unstable – or even unsafe.

Currently, the high school has six students who are living in a homeless shelter.

A lack of transportation

Another great area of need for the students of Perry County Central High School is transportation. Many students want to work part-time jobs. In these cases, school buses can be re-routed to drop them off at work after school – but then they have no way to get home. Students often end up walking home, which can be dangerous and exhausting for them.

Transportation is also an issue for students who want to attend the local college, Hazard Community and Technical College, to get a jump-start on higher education courses. There is a transportation service through the college that picks students up and drops them off every day, but it costs $5.00 a day – or approximately $100.00 per month. Most students cannot afford this service. Tina wishes that students who want to go to college in the area could be provided with free transportation.

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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.