Tag Archives: help children

A Small School with a Family Atmosphere

Jones Fork Elementary School — which began as a one-room schoolhouse and was expanded in 1964 to accommodate more children — is located in Knott County, Kentucky in the small community of Mousie.

Deb mentioned to Renée how proud she is of her students doing well in school despite their impoverished backgrounds and how willing they are to help fellow students as though they were all one big family.

The smallest school in the county, Jones Fork educates just 165 children in grades kindergarten through eight. According to our volunteer coordinator at the school, Deb, children at Jones Fork have above average test scores. Deb attributes this to what she calls a “family atmosphere” at the school. Teachers encourage children’s academic growth, and students even help each other out when they can — especially when times are tough.

Rising test scores and self-esteem

On a recent trip to Knott County, our Director of U.S. Programs Renée Kube met with Deb at the Jones Fork Elementary School’s Family Resource Center. Deb said she feels that support from our sponsors plays a big role in children getting the attention they need and making them feel like equals with their peers. She says it helps with their self-esteem and makes them want to work harder in class. In fact, test scores at the school have risen for the past few years in a row, showing the students progress.

Students at Jones Fork Elementary School support one another in a family-like manner.

As they continued to talk, Deb explained to Renée that the community around Jones Fork Elementary used to be bustling with mining jobs, but is now hurting. The population is in decline, and many families feel hopeless about the future. The poverty is harsh. The closing of the last local mine about ten years ago had a ripple effect — soon afterward both the local gas station and grocery store were forced to close. Last year students set up and ran a food pantry to help their classmates. Deb mentioned to Renée how proud she is of her students doing well in school despite their impoverished backgrounds and how willing they are to help fellow students as though they were all one big family.

Meeting Laura

Test scores at the school have risen for the past few years in a row, showing the students progress.

During her visit, Renée had the chance to meet Laura*, a young student enrolled in our program.

When she and Renée met, Laura was holding a greeting card she had just received from her sponsor. According to Deb, Laura loves being in our program. She loves her school supplies and nice clothes. She told Renée that having a sponsor is “the best!”.

Before she left, Deb told Renée that Laura is one of two girls in her family. Both parents work part-time as school bus drivers, and their wages are low. Without a sponsor, Laura would go without a lot of things she needs to keep her comfortable and doing her best in school.

*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.

Support for the Long-Term

When our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, was contacted by Deb from Carr Creek Elementary School in Knott County, Kentucky twelve years ago, Renée had no idea how much of an affect that one phone call would have on children in need.

During a recent visit to Carr Creek Elementary School, Renée got a chance to see first-hand just how proud Deb is of the partnership she has created with Children Incorporated.

Deb had heard about the Children Incorporated sponsorship program during a regional Family Resource and Youth Services Center meeting among administrators and staff. After hearing about what sponsors were doing for children living in poverty, Deb knew she needed to get in touch with Renée about the urgent needs of impoverished kids at Carr Creek.

After talking with Deb, Renée agreed to partner with her and Carr Creek Elementary School — making them our first affiliated project  in Kentucky.

More schools in need

Before Renée knew it, the word about our organization’s support at Carr Creek had reached other Resource Center coordinators in Eastern Kentucky. They each followed in Deb’s footsteps, calling to request partnering with Children Incorporated. Today, thanks to Deb’s initiative, we support thousands of children in dozens of affiliated schools in Kentucky.

Deb with one of our sponsored children

Not only was Deb the first coordinator to get in touch about our sponsorship program in Kentucky, but according to Renée, she is also the first coordinator in the county to submit a Hope in Action Fund request that was for more than just one-time aid for a particular emergency.

“Deb submitted a proposal on efforts to enrich the students’ knowledge in social studies because the results of their standardized test scores were very low,” explained Renée.

“She then designed a summer camp program with instructors that taught concepts in a fun and engaging manner. Before the program began, Deb created pre-tests for the students to take. After the program ended, the children took post-tests, and the results were good. The entire faculty of the school then built additional programs on those gains that Deb initiated.”

“Deb was very excited to present me with a quilt that sponsored students had made in her after-school program. She said it’s a small appreciation of how much our programs mean to her and the families we serve,” expressed Renée.

“We were delighted to see the success of Deb’s program. Since then we have supported many similar programs in the United States through our Hope in Action Fund. These programs are geared towards long-term projects that support children over time as opposed to just for the short-term,” said Renée.

A gift to say thank you

During a recent visit to Carr Creek Elementary School, Renée got a chance to see first-hand just how proud Deb is of the partnership she has created with Children Incorporated.

“Deb was very excited to present me with a quilt that sponsored students had made in her after-school program. She said it’s a small appreciation of how much our programs mean to her and the families we serve,” expressed Renée.

After receiving the quilt, Deb introduced Renée to a few of our sponsored kids as well as their parents.

Meeting special sponsored kids

Deb works hard to make sure sponsored and unsponsored children have school supplies all year long.

Deb invited Benjamin* to the Resource Center first. Benjamin lives with his unemployed parents and two older brothers. He loves football and roots for the local high school team. Deb told Renée that Benjamin is very appreciative of his sponsor’s help to make sure he has proper clothing and shoes.

Next, Renée met Olivia and her mother, Amanda. Olivia is a sweet little girl who lives with her mom, dad and little brother. Her father works as a heating technician, but his pay is meager. Olivia’s mom helps when she can by cleaning houses and catering for weddings. Her parents’ combined earnings are still so low that Olivia qualifies for free meals at school. Olivia told Renée that she loves writing letters to her sponsor. Amanda said that Children Incorporated is a blessing for her child, and that she’s so grateful.

After Amanda and Olivia left, Deb explained to Renée that Olivia’s parents are responsible and very loving, and that Amanda regularly volunteers at the Family Resource Center so she can give back in thanks for everything that Olivia receives from her sponsor.

Grandparents stepping up to help

Lastly, Deb introduced Renée to a family of children — Liza, Natalie, Simon and James — who are being raised by their retired grandparents. Deb explained to Renée that starting over and raising young children is not what most grandparents envisioned. Many are overwhelmed financially and emotionally.

Despite their situation, Deb is proud that these girls’ grandparents have stepped up and feels they are doing a good job. Sponsorship is really helping their family, and the girls all love having special friends that provide for them when their grandparents can’t.

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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.

Insufficient Food for Growing Kids

As the name suggests, Cannonsburg Elementary is located in the isolated and rural town of Cannonsburg, Kentucky in Boyd County. Like many of Kentucky’s Eastern Coal Field communities, Cannonsburg has suffered dramatically 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 abject poverty. Illiteracy and high dropout rates are significant problems in this area.

Ruth and Renée in Cannonsburg Elementary School’s Resource Center

Fortunately for children living in Boyd County, Cannonsburg Elementary School provides them with a beautiful and bright learning space and a welcome distraction from the struggles that their families face. But even though children don’t have to think about the hardships in their lives during school hours, the reality is that they often return home to empty refrigerators and cabinets with no food on the weekends.

A lot of children in need

According to our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, Cannonsburg Elementary School serves 276 children in Pre-K through 5th grade.

Even though children don’t have to think about the hardships in their lives during school hours, the reality is that they often return home to empty refrigerators and cabinets with no food on the weekends.

On a recent visit to the school, our volunteer coordinator, Ruth, told Renée that she has over 80 of those children in attendance on her Weekend Backpack Feeding Program. Ruth is sure that without the program, these children would have little or no food to eat on Saturdays and Sundays when they are not at school where they receive free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch.

This is a harsh reality for many children in our program all over the United States. But thankfully, because of dedicated volunteer coordinators like Ruth, sponsored and unsponsored children in our program can rely on weekly food bags to take home on Friday afternoons that ensure they are being fed when not in school.

A struggling family

Ruth sends food from the food pantry home with dozens of children every weekend.

During her time at Cannonsburg Elementary School, Renée had a chance to meet two brothers who are benefiting from our sponsorship program and the Resource Center’s Weekend Backpack Feeding Program.

Carter and Josiah* are two of seven children in their family, ranging in ages from three to nineteen years old. Their parents are separated, and Carter and Josiah’s mom — who works full time at McDonald’s — is mainly raising the children alone.

Ruth describes their mother as responsible and loving to her children, but it is tough for her to provide for everything they need. The Weekend Backpack Feeding Program helps them a lot — as do Carter and Josiah’s sponsors.

Ruth also mentioned to Renée she is planning on enrolling more of their siblings in our program so they can have sponsors too that can provide for their basic needs.

*Names changed to protect the children.

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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 Decline in Enrollment

Emmalena Elementary School is located on State Highway 550 in the western part of Knott County, Kentucky just west of the community of Clear Creek.

“The community of Clear Creek was the site of a 1970s women’s occupation and protest against strip and surface mining, especially the practice that allowed coal operators to tear up private land to reach underground minerals,” explains Renée Kube, Children Incorporated’s Director of U.S. Programs.

Renée is pictured with one of our sponsored children at Emmalena Elementary School.

“Some small, independent operators had opened mines, made quick profits, and then left, leaving the community to cope with damaged land and polluted water.”

“Today the community feels loyalty to the operators who ran good mines but still mourns the loss of good jobs while hoping and looking ahead to the future,” said Renée.

Leaving home to find work

On a trip to Knott County to visit our affiliated project Emmalena Elementary, Renée met with our volunteer coordinator at the school, Pam.

Pam told Renée that because of the mine closures, parents were forced to leave Clear Creek to find work outside of town. As a result, the school had shown a significant decline in enrollment in recent years.

Of those parents who were able to stay in Clear Creek, some found jobs in the county seat or by commuting to Hazard for work daily. Others are self-employed at a variety of work from fixing cars to cutting wood.

Unfortunately, many of these jobs are low-paying, and the community has a high poverty rate — 89% of students receive free or reduced lunch through the National School Lunch Program.

Pam feels fortunate to have other additional resources to help her find inexpensive items for the many children at her school that are living in poverty.

Shopping for kids in need

Emmalena Elementary School educates 196 children from kindergarten to eighth grade. During their meeting, Pam told Renée that she likes to take advantage of Back-to-School sales in July at stores in nearby Hazard so that she can maximize the number of clothes, shoes, book bags and school supplies she can purchase with funds provided by our sponsors.

Pam makes another big shopping trip in December for winter clothing including warm outfits, coats and snow boots for sponsored children who would otherwise go without these important items in the cold winter months.

Pam feels fortunate to have other additional resources to help her find inexpensive items for the many children at her school that are living in poverty. One such resource is the Christian Appalachian Project, a warehouse of free overstock, discontinued or imperfect merchandise offered at a low cost. She also works collaboratively with the county extension service and health department.

Thanks to their sponsors, children receive items such as clothing, school supplies and book bags.

Gratitude for our sponsors

During her visit, Pam arranged for Renée to meet a mom of two children in our program, Lydia.*  Lydia is a teacher’s aide at Emmalena Elementary School. Her husband is disabled, and they are both hard-pressed to provide for their kids.

“Lydia expressed to me how grateful she was for the help she receives from her children’s sponsors. It makes a massive difference for the whole family,” said Renée.

Renée  also meet a special boy named Michael.* Michael was enrolled in our program last May and is still unsponsored. He is in first grade and likes science.

Michael, his sister and his brother are being raised by their grandmother, who is a homemaker. She is raising them on a limited amount of public assistance that includes kinship care, which gives aid to people who are raising related children, keeping them out of the foster care system.

“Michael’s siblings are currently sponsored through our program. Michael is hoping that he will also have the opportunity to have a sponsor soon because he realizes how much it helps his grandmother and his whole family,” said Renée.

*Names changed to protect the individuals.

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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.

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

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.

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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 hard 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.