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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”

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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

Stepping in to Help

It’s hard for people to ask for help in many situations — especially when it involves a person’s ability to care for their own family. But for families living in poverty, it is often a necessity for them, which is why our Hope In Action Fund exists to provide support when they need it the most.

Today we hear from our volunteer coordinator, Genevieve, at Sebastian Elementary School in Eastern Kentucky, about one special family that Children Incorporated was able to help through our Hope In Action Fund thanks to our donors:

“As director of The Sebastian Elementary School Family Resource Center for the past fourteen years, let me say that no program does so much to help so many as Children Incorporated. I am so thankful I work at a school Children Incorporated serves. It is a blessing, especially for the aging 61-year old grandmother struggling after surgery to raise her 6 and 7-year-old grandchildren, who attend my school. Children Incorporated stepped in and sent them money for laundry along with food boxes just to help out, blessing them with basic needs until the grandmother could get back to work. In the past, a home was devastated by fire in the dead of winter leaving  7 of our students with nothing. Again, Children Incorporated stepped in and gave them clothes, shoes, and coats.

Today, a struggling mother asked for help, as she could not provide her daughter with an Ipad for educational support. Children Incorporated gave the blessing for that to be made possible. Thank you for helping her provide that need for her child. Her daughter was so happy as she looked at the Ipad and was absolutely jumping for joy!”

Ms. Genevieve
Sebastian Family Resource Coordinator

About Sebastian Elementary School

Located in rural and mountainous eastern Kentucky, Breathitt County is one of the 100 poorest counties in the United States.  The economic prospects of Breathitt County are, at best, bleak. The coal mining industry that once dominated this area and provided employment for the majority of its population has been declining. Today, there are few job opportunities for the area: three small factories, a community college, a grocery store, a department store, a small medical center, a juvenile detention center, and the county education system.  Many families who once relied upon mining jobs for income now depend upon part-time employment at minimum wages and/or federal assistance such as welfare checks and food stamps. Tragically, drug and alcohol abuse are common, both stemming from and further contributing to these difficult socioeconomic circumstances. Children here, therefore, not only struggle with lack of basic needs, such as food, clothing, and school supplies; they are also often in dire need of encouragement and positive interaction with adults – positive role models who teach them how to maintain strong moral values and to be and have friends of good character and caliber.

For this reason, Sebastian Elementary School serves as a beacon of hope for the surrounding community. The school’s caring and dedicated staff is thrilled to partner with Children Incorporated sponsors to better equip students with the basic essentials, positive influence, and well-rounded education they need to break the cycle of poverty and rise above the difficult circumstances they face each day.

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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

The Challenges of Home Life

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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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.

Moms Helping in Our Schools

Located in rural and mountainous eastern Kentucky, Breathitt County is one of the 100 poorest counties in the United States.  The economic prospects of Breathitt County are, at best, bleak. The coal mining industry that once dominated this area and provided employment for the majority of its population has been declining.

Children here not only struggle with lack of basic needs, such as food, clothing, and school supplies, but they are also often in dire need of encouragement and positive interaction with adults.

Today, there are few job opportunities for the area: three small factories, a community college, a grocery store, a department store, a small medical center, a juvenile detention center, and the county education system. Many families who once relied upon mining jobs for income now depend upon part-time employment at minimum wages or federal assistance such as welfare checks and food stamps.

Tragically, drug and alcohol abuse are common, both stemming from and further contributing to these difficult socioeconomic circumstances. Children here, therefore, not only struggle with lack of basic needs, such as food, clothing, and school supplies, but they are also often in dire need of encouragement and positive interaction with adults. Many of them lack positive role models who can teach them how to maintain strong moral values and to be and have friends of good character and caliber.

A loving and supportive volunteer coordinator

Thankfully, children at Sebastian Elementary School have our volunteer coordinator, Genevieve, at the school’s Family Resource Center.

“Genevieve is a caring and dedicated staff member who is thrilled to partner with Children Incorporated sponsors to better equip students with the basic essentials and offer them a  positive influence,” said Renée Kube, our Director of U.S. Programs.

Renée is pictured with one of our sponsored children.

“It is always a pleasure and a treat to spend time Genevieve when I visit Breathitt County. She is another very long-serving coordinator and was the one who brought our organization to her school in 2004. She always goes above and beyond for her students.”

Parents lending a helping hand

During her most recent meeting at Sebastian Elementary School, Genevieve introduced Renée to her parent assistant, Jennifer.

“Jennifer is a wonderful help to Genevieve — and of course to our sponsorship program,” said Renée.

“She is the fourth assistant Genevieve has worked with through a program that places mothers in part-time employment at the school. Each of the previous mothers with whom Genevieve has worked has gone on to regular, full-time employment, in part thanks to the experience they got working at the Family Resource Center. Genevieve is very proud of them,” explained Renée.

“It’s an amazing program — mothers get to help children in our sponsorship program that are in need, and in exchange, can work towards helping to get their own families out of poverty. It’s a win-win situation.”

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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 Heart of Small Community

Located in rural and mountainous eastern Kentucky, Letcher County is best known for its natural beauty, as evidenced by small but growing efforts to promote the county as a tourist destination in recent years. One especially breathtaking site is the Bad Branch Falls State Nature Preserve in the town of Eolia. The park comprises over 2,600 acres of trails, waterfalls, and mountain vistas, boasting one of the highest concentrations of rare or endangered species in Kentucky.

“The school’s caring and dedicated staff are thrilled to partner with Children Incorporated sponsors to better equip students with the basic essentials and well-rounded education they need and deserve,” explained our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube.

The breathtaking beauty of this land, however, belies the hardships that its residents face each day.  As with many towns in the area, the community of Eolia traces its roots back to the coalmining industry, which sustained this once-thriving region for generations. With the decline of the mining industry, however, employment opportunities here have plummeted, and poverty rates have soared.

Many families have moved away in search of job opportunities, but a resilient few have stayed, working hard to revitalize their community despite hardship. Daily survival here is a struggle, and children feel it perhaps most keenly. In fact, the childhood poverty rate here currently hovers at a staggering 32%.

For these reasons, our affiliated project, Arlie Boggs Elementary/Middle School, not only offers hope and a sense of security to children and families in need, but in so many ways is the heart of this small, close-knit community.

Meeting Sandy

The Family Resource Center is able to offer so much support for families in need in Letcher County. 

“The school’s caring and dedicated staff are thrilled to partner with Children Incorporated sponsors to better equip students with the basic essentials and well-rounded education they need and deserve,” explained our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube.

“The coordinator, Sandy, is a dynamo of energy and enthusiasm. She is so proud of the kids. Sandy shared her two favorite school academic initiatives are essentially band and business. All students are required to learn a musical instrument starting in fifth grade. From sixth through eighth grade, the students may participate in band.”

Learning about Small Business

Another initiative that the school has implemented is the EntreEd Program. According to their website, “[a]s the future of work continues to evolve, EntreEd instills entrepreneurial mindsets in every student, every year to forge a more entrepreneurial America.”

Arlie Boggs has partnered with EntreEd thanks to an entrepreneurship grant. Business concepts are taught to children at every grade level in the school. The older students learn to develop business plans and launch their small businesses — and keep their profits. The program runs from August through October, culminating in a school fair to which their families are invited. Sandy says that examples of small businesses that students have launched included creating temporary tattoos, making cotton candy, designing custom tee shirts,  making wreaths and jewelry, and dress design.

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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.

A Large Space with Ample Supplies

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.”

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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.