Tag Archives: coal mine

Removing Barriers in Eastern Kentucky

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

“Removing barriers is what Children Incorporated does best.”

“Dear Children Incorporated,

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

Grandparents as parents

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

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

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

Readifest and Back to School bash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sandy”

***

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

Reflecting on High School at Graduation

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

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

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

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

A different graduation for Landon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Name changed to protect the child. 

ABOUT HAZARD HIGH SCHOOL

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

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

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

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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.

SPONSOR A CHILD

Back to School Bash in Letcher County

*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.

***

Letcher County is located in the southeastern corner of Kentucky and shares a border with Wise County, Virginia.

“Letcher County is very beautiful. On its eastern border runs a vast tract of the Jefferson National Forest, which is shared with Virginia,” explained our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube.

Jenkins Independent School is a long-established project with Children Incorporated, and our sponsorship programs are much needed and appreciated by the students.

“A point of pride in the county is Pine Mountain. It’s the second-highest mountain in Kentucky and is also an exceptionally long mountain whose ridge runs about 100 miles from just below the West Virginia line south through the Kentucky-Virginia border to Tennessee, including the entire length of Letcher County.”

“The county is trying hard to develop the tourist industry by promoting the scenic beauty to be enjoyed in its trails and parks. These include the Pine Mountain State Scenic Trail, Bad Branch Falls, and the Pioneer Horse Trail,” said Renée.

The need for tourists

The reason the county is working so diligently to promote tourism is due to the collapse of the coal industry. There used to be dozens of coal camps in Letcher County, each employing an average of 30 to 300 men who lived in the camps with their families. However, with the rise of automation, coal extraction and processing could be done with a significantly reduced number of workers. This was devastating for the families, and also devastating for communities that lost the tax base for their schools and community services.

“Letcher County has formally asked the U.S. government to construct a federal penitentiary on the site of an abandoned mountain top strip mine. Letcher County Judge-Executive, Jim Ward, was interviewed by NBC News about the prospective prison. He said the economic situation is desperate in Letcher County. He has talked to residents who have lost their jobs and homes. He has talked with parents who see no hope for their children to be successful if they grow up and stay in the county. He said residents are willing to try or do almost anything to save their rural way of life,” said Renée.

Running programs to help children in need

The front view of Jenkins High School

Jenkins Independent School is a long-established project with Children Incorporated, and our sponsorship program is much needed and appreciated by the students. The school serves students in seventh through twelfth grade in a  two-story building comprising twenty classrooms, two computer labs, a cafeteria, a gymnasium, an art room, a band/music room, a library, a guidance office, and four special education rooms.

Our volunteer coordinator, Angie, is an experienced coordinator who works tirelessly to bring resources for her students. She runs a Backpack Feeding Program for those who struggle to cope with food insecurity. She maintains clothing and supply closets, and she is always reaching out for more donations within the small community to further help children and their families.

Angie’s “Back to School Bash” is one of the key programs that she hosts every year, where she brings in informational booths to set-up on the school’s softball field, giving parents and children a chance to learn about any number of services the school and the community offers.

During a visit to the school last year, Renée had the chance to hear more about the programs Angie runs within the school. Then, Angie brought in a couple of students to her office for Renée to meet.

Angie’s “Back to School Bash” is one of the key programs that she hosts every year, where she brings in informational booths to set-up on the school’s softball field, giving parents and children a chance to learn about any number of services the school and the community offers.

Much-needed support for kids in need

Brian* is a sweet and rather shy seventh-grader. In school, he likes math, music, and playing baseball. Brian is not sure about his future plans, but he is interested in becoming a firefighter or maybe a construction worker.

“After he returned to class, Angie told me that Brian’s father had died unexpectedly, and his mother has struggled with raising him as a single parent. Angie was so grateful that Brian had the support of his sponsor because she knew he needed the help,” said Renée.

Next, Renée met Julia.* When Julia joined our sponsorship program in 2011, when she was in elementary school, she was matched with a sponsor who is still supporting her today. Even though Julia has moved multiple times over the years, Angie always made sure she still stayed connected with her sponsor.

“Julia told me that her sponsors feel like grandparents to her. She is grateful for their financial help, and just as appreciative for the emotional support. They sent packages, additional money gifts, and letters that are precious to Julia,” said Renée.

*Names changed to protect the children.

***

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

Special Funds Helping Special Children in Fleming-Neon

*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.

***

Located in rural and mountainous Letcher County, the community of Fleming-Neon, Kentucky, has deep roots in the coal mining industry.

The Elkhorn Coal Corporation moved into the area in 1913, establishing the mining town of Fleming and several satellite communities, including a town called Chip.

“They said that while students enrolled in our program waited to be sponsored, it meant the world to them to receive coats and warm clothes, as well as school supplies and other basic essentials,” expressed Renée.

Local tradition holds that when the train that hauled coal from the mine in Fleming made stops in nearby Chip, the conductor would holler instructions to people climbing aboard to “knee on,” and that this exclamation morphed into the town’s present name, Neon. Coal from this region once fueled factories, powered locomotives, and heated millions of homes.

However, with the sharp decline of the coal industry due to automation and the increased use of other fuels, the lack of employment opportunities has fueled widespread poverty and depopulation throughout the region.

Today, the Fleming-Neon community has a population of only about 650 people – roughly half of what it was in 1980. Moreover, the median household income here is lower than even the Letcher County average, and nearly half of this community’s population lives below the poverty line. Families here struggle to afford even basic needs.

Meeting with Candi and Anne

Our affiliated project, Fleming-Neon Middle School, serves children in grades 6th through 8th.

“Fleming-Neon Middle is the feeder school for our affiliated, Martha Jane Potter Elementary School. For our sponsors at these projects, they have the best continuity with their relationships with the kids, as they can follow them from elementary school through middle and on to Letcher County Central High School as well,” explained Renée.

Candi and Anne with one of our sponsored children at Fleming-Neon Middle School.

While recently visiting the school, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, met with the school’s guidance counselor, Candi, as well as the Family Resource Youth Services Center Coordinator, Anne, who run our sponsorship program together.

“While meeting with Candi and Anne in Candi’s office, they expressed how thankful they were for not only Hope In Action Funds that we provided to the school but for Warm Clothing Funds as well.”

“They said that while students enrolled in our program waited to be sponsored, it meant the world to them to receive coats and warm clothes, as well as school supplies and other basic essentials,” expressed Renée.

Patiently waiting for a sponsor

After their meeting concluded, Renée met with a few unsponsored children who have benefited from our special funds.

Ben* is a sixth-grader who is full of humor and has an outsized personality. He loves to wear boots and camouflage clothing. Ben and his younger sister live with their parents, both of whom are disabled and unemployed.

“Ben is utterly confident in who he is. I asked him if he has begun thinking about his interests and what he might do with his future, and he said probably a coal miner or a diesel mechanic or a Marine,” said Renée.

Next, Renée met Crista.* Crista is in sixth grade. She enjoys science and solving puzzles, and she is interested in becoming a doctor because the idea of diagnosing illness sounds interesting to her. She has two older sisters and one younger brother. Crista’s mom is a homemaker. Her father is unemployed at this time, but he gives back to the community by serving as a volunteer firefighter.

After Crista returned to class, Candi and Anne told Renée that Crista’s parents are responsible and loving but are really struggling. They feel a sponsor will be a huge help and boost in confidence for Crista.

*Names changed to protect the children.

***

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

Attending, Learning and Graduating

Students in attendance at Boyd County High School in the small rural town of Cannonsburg, Kentucky are fortunate to have their resource center volunteer, Vickie, in their lives.

Thanks in large part to Vickie’s efforts, the school has a high success rate — much higher than many other schools in Eastern Kentucky. As of last year, 93% of students at the school graduate within four years, and 65% enroll in some type of higher education.

A committed coordinator

Renee with one of our sponsored children at Boyd County High School.

Renée with one of our sponsored children at Boyd County High School

While meeting with Vickie in the Resource Center at Boyd County High School, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube noted that Vickie had a deep commitment to her students.

“Vickie is always working on new initiatives to keep high school kids attending school and learning with a focus on graduating and going on to college or trade school,” said Renée.

Renée recognized that Vickie has an extremely tough job — she explained to Renée that the economy of the region had declined over the past ten years, and it has hit families hard.

A loss of jobs

Vickie cited the steel mill as an example, which, due to imports, cut its workers from 5000 to 2500 over the last decade. Because of these job losses, the overall poverty rate in Boyd County is an astounding 20%.

“Vicki is always working on new initiatives to keep high school kids attending school and learning with a focus on graduating and going on to college or trade school,” said Renée.

In addition, 34% of households are headed by a single parent — in large part due to issues with drug abuse in the county. Because of these problems, Boyd County High School administrators have a lot to handle when it comes to supporting students. Many children lack adult supervision and the support they need at home to do well and focus on their futures after high school.

Overcoming every obstacle

Yet all of these obstacles don’t get in the way of Vickie helping kids and making sure they get the encouragement they need to succeed and to go on to higher education.

Vickie (right) is an incredibly dedicated volunteer coordinator.

According to Renée, Vickie is an incredibly dedicated Children Incorporated volunteer coordinator. She makes sure to check in with sponsored students weekly to find out precisely what they need. She also encourages them to write letters to their sponsors so they can feel connected to a caring adult in their lives.

That communication is so essential for kids because outside of the school environment, sponsors are often the only ones showing the kids they are worthwhile and capable of succeeding in life.

Excelling academically

With quite a few students raising themselves and their younger siblings because their parents are absent or unable to care for them, it isn’t surprising that they struggle to do well in school.

With so many distractions, they don’t have the time and energy to focus on their future. But thanks to Vickie and these students’ sponsors, kids at Boyd County High School not only are getting the attention they need every day, but they are excelling academically.

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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.

SPONSOR A CHILD

Pride in Her Students

For years, Catlettsburg, where our affiliated projects Catlettsburg Elementary and Ponderosa Elementary Schools are located, was known as “The Gate City” because it was here that barges were loaded with coal to be shipped down the Ohio River to other ports.

Although the children may come from strikingly different economic backgrounds, that doesn’t change how they interact with one other.

The decline of the coal industry in Kentucky and West Virginia has severely diminished the city’s economic importance, and commerce is now minimal. Today, this area of Boyd County, Kentucky suffers from high rates of both poverty and illiteracy, since a significant number of adults have never completed high school.

These social and economic problems negatively affect even the youngest members of Catlettsburg, which is why both Ponderosa and Catlettsburg Elementary serve as bright and welcoming places for children to learn and escape some of the harsh realities they face at home.

The Haves and Have Nots

The school administration posts messages of inspiration for their students.

While visiting the two schools, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, met with our volunteer coordinator, Jenny. Jenny oversees the resource centers at both schools, ensuring that children — including sponsored and unsponsored children in our program — are receiving basic needs throughout the school year.

During their meeting, Jenny explained to Renée that because Boyd County is located in a very rural and beautiful part of the country, Catlettsburg has become a popular place for middle and upper-class families to build homes. Jenny feels that because of this migration, the student population is divided more conspicuously into the “haves and have nots.”

Although the children may come from strikingly different economic backgrounds, that doesn’t change how they interact with one other.

While the administration, faculty and staff of the schools may know which families struggle and which do not, Jenny says the students are very close and treat each other with kindness and respect.

Additionally, as a tight-knit group, the children are more than willing to come together to help other students in need — even those that are far away.

Additionally, as a tight-knit group, the children are more than willing to come together to help other students in need — even those that are far away.

Rising to a challenge

Before their meeting ended, Jenny told Renée a story expressing how much pride she had in her students.

In 2018, the deadly Camp Fire burned down much of the town of Paradise, California — including a school also named Ponderosa Elementary School. Not long after the fire, the principal of Ponderosa Elementary School in Catlettsburg was informed about a nationwide fundraiser through another Ponderosa Elementary School in Oregon.

The fundraiser, deemed “Pennies for Ponderosa Initiative” requested that the eleven schools named Ponderosa Elementary School in the United States collect donations for the rebuilding of the California school.

The children at Jenny’s school stepped up to the challenge. They not only raised money to help students on the other side of the country, but also sent video messages of hope and encouragement as they and their families worked to rebuild their lives.

Whether coming from an impoverished background or not, children at Ponderosa Elementary School showed that they were willing to do anything they could to help others in need — and that is something to be proud of.

***

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