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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

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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.

Dressing the Part of a Professional

Buckhorn School is located in Perry County in the Eastern Kentucky Coal Field. This region is known for its lumber and coal industries, which sustained the people of this beautiful, very rural and isolated part of Appalachia for generations.  Unfortunately, however, those industries are now waning, and there are few businesses in the area today. High unemployment and transportation problems are also major setbacks for most residents.

Just as Judy does, the school administration recognizes the importance of preparing kids with the tools they need to succeed, too.

Founded in 1902, Buckhorn School has a dedicated staff of teachers and administrators that have worked hard to create a nurturing environment where every student has the opportunity to obtain a quality education. This is especially valuable for students whose families are living in poverty.

As the only kindergarten through twelfth-grade school in Perry County, Buckhorn School has an enrollment of approximately 200 students. Our sponsorship program helps to provide children there with basic needs throughout the year. For many of Buckhorn’s high school students, support from sponsors means that they are receiving quality professional clothing and shoes that they may use for future job interviews.

Shopping for themselves

sponsoring a child changes their life.

Judy, who is pictured here with Shelley Oxenham, encourages her students to do their best.

While visiting Buckhorn School, our U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, met with Judy, the school’s Family Resource and Youth Services Center (FRYSC) Coordinator and Children Incorporated Volunteer Coordinator. Judy has worked at the school in various positions for twenty years, and she has been the FRYSC Coordinator there since October of 2017.

During their meeting, Judy explained to Shelley that the Children Incorporated program has allowed her to purchase clothes and shoes for sponsored children, which has been especially helpful for her high school students, who otherwise might never have new outfits to wear. Since they are among the older students in our sponsorship program, instead of shopping for them, Judy meets the high school-aged sponsored kids at a local clothing store and lets them pick out their own clothes and shoes. While shopping, Judy encourages them to choose items that they may wear not only to school, but also to professional settings when they are seeking employment opportunities after they graduate.

“Professional Day” for students

Judy explained to Shelley that she feels that preparing seniors for obtaining employment after graduation is about more than just wearing the right clothes. Just as Judy does, the school administration recognizes the importance of preparing kids with the tools they need to succeed, too. Every year, the school hosts a “Professional Day” where seniors are asked to wear their most professional outfit to school, and they are given tips on how to dress appropriately in their business attire. The seniors also receive help creating their resumes, they learn how to search for jobs online, and they carry out practice interviews so that they may feel more confident in pursuing employment on their own.

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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.

When Community Matters Most

It is an unfortunate reality that, when it comes to our affiliated projects around the world, including in urban and rural areas in the United States, we often hear from our volunteer coordinators that there just aren’t enough funds provided to them to help every child in need. Sometimes the reason is that a school’s budget has been cut, or the number of children in attendance is growing faster than the administration can keep up with; or maybe a significant donor is no longer able to fund certain programs, and no new donor has replaced them. Whatever the reason, a lack of funding means that children living in poverty suffer without basic resources, and they are at risk of falling behind in school.

Because funding isn’t always secure for the schools, community centers, and orphanages with which we partner, our volunteer coordinators are endlessly grateful for our sponsors and donors, who help the kids in their care that are enrolled in our program.

Because funding isn’t always secure for the schools, community centers, and orphanages with which we partner, our volunteer coordinators are endlessly grateful for our sponsors and donors, who help the kids in their care that are enrolled in our program. Donations from Children Incorporated don’t always cover the needs of every child at a project, however; and in many cases, our coordinators seek help from the surrounding community in order to ensure that kids living in poverty are getting what they need. One such volunteer coordinator who did just that is Deloris at Mullins Elementary School in Pike County, Kentucky.

Rebuilding her center

Sponsor a child in Kentucky.

Deloris shows Renée and Shelley her supply closet, which is full, thanks to a local church.

Mullins Elementary School is a spacious and well-equipped newer school located just outside the Pikeville city limits. Deloris originally worked in the school’s front office; then she was transferred to the family resource center when our last volunteer coordinator there, Tammy, retired a few years ago. On a trip to visit the school, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, and our U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, met with Deloris, who explained that when she took over in her new position, she felt like she was starting from square one.

The center had been completely cleaned out after Tammy’s departure, and Deloris found that she had almost no budget to work with and no supplies to distribute to kids who were going to school without proper clothes or any school supplies at all. She told Shelley and Renée that it has been a big task for her to rebuild the center from the ground up. She has had to work hard to figure out how to provide for the students at the school, as well as for their families, who she knows all too well are struggling to make a living in this impoverished region of the United States.

Getting the supplies she needs

In order to obtain the food and school supplies she needed, she reached out to a church in the community to make food baskets during Thanksgiving and Christmas for families who would otherwise go without holiday meals. The church also held a school supplies drive that enabled Deloris to stock a closet in her center. Thankfully, when it comes to the donations that sponsored children are receiving from their sponsors, Deloris has had the funds in place to shop for children enrolled in our program so that they receive new clothes, shoes, and school supplies, as well as hygiene items on a monthly basis.

Before their visit ended, Shelley and Renée discussed how Deloris could identify more children to enroll in our sponsorship program so that we could hopefully link them with sponsors, too. Deloris was excited to work towards getting more children sponsored, with the hope that with additional sponsorships paired with continued help from the community, she could ensure that all the kids at Mullins Elementary School are receiving the consistent support they so desperately need.

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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.

Home Is Where the Heart Is

Since I first started visiting our affiliated projects in Eastern Kentucky in April of 2015, I have been reporting on the burden of poverty that our sponsored children and their families face every day. With a lack of jobs and scarcity of resources for people in need in this region of the United States, I often get asked when I return home: Why don’t people in need just move somewhere else?

It is a question that I had not been able to answer on my own, because quite honestly, I didn’t know how to answer it. When your situation seems bleak, and there are few opportunities for a better future for you and your children, why not leave and start over in a new place?

Feeding kids hundreds of miles away

Boxes of food line the walls of the resource center.

I decided to talk to our Volunteer Coordinator, Barbara Hall, at Blaine Elementary School in Lawrence County about this issue. I knew Barbara would be able to shine some light on the subject; she has been working in the school system for 23 years, and has been a resource coordinator since 2000. Currently, Barbara plays an integral role in ensuring that students are fed every day, in addition to her many other responsibilities.

200 children attend Blaine Elementary School in Blaine, Kentucky, and 85 to 95 percent of those kids are receiving reduced price or free lunches. There are currently 79 children receiving food to take home on the weekends through the school’s backpack feeding program. Barbara explained that without the help of a church in Alabama that supports her school, she wouldn’t be able to help all these children.

The church not only raises money to provide food for the students, but they also do all the shopping – and they even drive eight hours to Blaine Elementary School once a month to distribute the food. Barbara is incredibly grateful for this support; she said that there are very few businesses in Blaine to sponsor food and clothing drives for poor families. Without this church, she doesn’t know how she would ever help so many children who would otherwise not be able to eat on the weekends.

The children most in need of sponsors are the ones that come to school dirty, with worn out clothes and old shoes, and providing them with new items is something they really value.

 

Through Barbara’s story, it was apparent that she knows very well the hardships that families living in poverty face here – especially the children in our program. She said that the children most in need of sponsors are the ones that come to school dirty, with worn out clothes and old shoes, and that providing them with new items is something they really value.

When I asked her the tough question about why families have stayed in Eastern Kentucky long after the coal mines closed, businesses started to move out, and stores closed down, she said that in actuality, many families have left to look for jobs elsewhere. But a lot of people haven’t moved away, and it was for more reasons than I could have come up with on my own.

The many reasons not to move

For many families, the simple answer is that they have nowhere else to go. They have no relatives outside of Eastern Kentucky, and everyone they know lives near them. Another reason families don’t move is because they are comfortable where they are and with their current surroundings, and the idea of making a big change in life is overwhelming, because it is easier to stay in an already familiar place. And even though they may not have much beyond a small piece of land and an old trailer in which to live, these families, despite being poor, have a great deal of pride in what little they have. It was something with which I could empathize greatly, as I, too, am proud of my home.

Our Volunteer Coordinator, Barbara, and U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham at Blaine Elemenatry School

Another reason many families don’t move is because moving is too expensive. Jobs aren’t guaranteed anywhere, and neither is housing. I had heard the day before from our coordinators LuAnn Kelly and Anne Preece, who also work in Lawrence County, that many parents travel as far as South Carolina and North Carolina to work, and return home only on the weekends. Others drive a few hours each day to commute to jobs within the state. Those who don’t drive out of the county for work have settled for jobs that would typically be for high school students, like at fast food restaurants, to support their families.

It all started to make more sense. Why would you move your kids away from grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins, and have them change schools, when you can’t be sure the next place would even offer anything better?

Come to find out, the answer to my question was complex; not only did it have many practical implications, but it had a lot of heart to it, too. Whether living in poverty or not, moving isn’t easy, and it’s not something that just anyone can do. Even if resources are scarce, some families in Lawrence County can count on the support of coordinators like Barbara, and programs like our sponsorship program and the backpack feeding program.

Beyond that, Kentucky is home for these families, no matter what changes around them. Whether businesses move in or out of the county, and as industry comes and goes – it doesn’t make Kentucky any less of a home and a place to be proud of for its residents.

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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, or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.