Tag Archives: hope

Long Days and Nights for Parents in Kentucky

Kimper Elementary School, one of our many affiliated projects in Pike County, Kentucky, is proud of its reputation of academic excellence. With an attendance rate of 96 percent, this school has had a positive impact on the children and families of this struggling Appalachian community for decades. The school itself is very small, with an enrollment of about 175 students from kindergarten to the eighth grade. Our sponsorship program is making a difference there, as we help to ensure that the children receive the clothes, shoes, school supplies, and hygiene items they need on a regular basis.

So little time left for family

Kimper Elementary School students’ parents often work long hours away from home.

Recently, on her way to visit with our Volunteer Coordinator at Kimper Elementary School, Vivian, our U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, drove by a fairly large Kellogg Company factory, where well-known breakfast cereals and other convenience foods such as Corn Flakes are produced; she also passed a McCoy Elkhorn Coal Operation mine. Shelley was surprised that both seemed to be in full operation, and she was pleased to see industry in such a remote part of the county, where there would usually just be closed factories and mines.

When she arrived at the school, Shelley asked Vivian about employment options in the area. Vivian told Shelley that the McCoy Elkhorn Coal Operation mine used to be one of the better companies to work for – offering great pay, good benefits, bonuses, and pensions. Today, however, the mine operates on only a very small skeleton crew.

The Kellogg Company factory, on the other hand, employs a large number of people in Pike County – many of whom are parents of our sponsored and unsponsored children. Their shifts are long, though; employees work twelve-hour shifts either from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., or overnight from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. This leaves staff with little time to be available for their kids. The long shifts are especially difficult for single parents.

The effects of working long hours

Thankfully, these children have the Family Resource and Youth Services Center (FRYSC), Vivian, and the support of their sponsors.

Even with better-paying jobs, parents who work long shifts still have plenty to worry about when it comes to providing for their kids. If they aren’t home in the evenings, they aren’t able to help their kids with homework, or prepare nutritious meals for them. Parents that work into late afternoon can’t take their kids to and from after-school activities, either; their kids may therefore miss out on sports and other school functions.

Kellogg Company employees may not have a chance to ensure that their kids are ready for school and properly dressed, with their book bags packed for the day. They may also miss important evening meetings at school. Thankfully, however, these children have the Family Resource and Youth Services Center (FRYSC), Vivian, and the support of their sponsors. Although their parents may not have as much time to dedicate to them as they would like, these kids are still being looked after and cared for each and every 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.

Art for the Soul and the Mind

When we think about what constitutes a well-rounded education for a child, what might first pop into our heads are academic subjects like math, science, and English. The arts, though, can have just as much of a significant impact on a child’s development, character, and personality as other core subjects. This is exactly why our volunteer coordinator at our affiliated project Belfry Elementary School is working hard to bring an arts camp to children enrolled in our program.

Eugenia feels that an art camp would not only be a good way to keep kids busy so they don’t get into trouble, but art could also encourage their mental, social, and emotional development.

On a recent visit to Pike County, Kentucky, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, met with our Volunteer Coordinator Eugenia, who told Renée about her desire to create a Belfry-area summer arts camp for the students at her school and others nearby. She explained that in previous years, kids have attended a local church’s vacation Bible school during summer break. The church is no longer offering the camp, however, due to a lack of finances.

Eugenia is concerned that, without activities to keep them occupied in the summer, children won’t be safe at home alone while their parents are working. She is also worried that, without the school lunches that they usually receive during the school year, students from impoverished families will go hungry in the summer months. In addition, Eugenia feels that an art camp would not only be a good way to keep kids busy so they don’t get into trouble, but art could also encourage their mental, social, and emotional development.

Why art matters

Eugenia with one of our sponsored children

Art and creativity can benefit children in a variety of ways. Holding a paintbrush, crayon, or marker helps a child to develop their fine motor skills, as well as improves their ability to problem-solve. Drawing and painting can promote patience and determination for kids, because it gives them a task that they feel driven to complete. Since art is also a vehicle for emotion, children can work through ideas and issues when they exercise their creativity. Many children in our program have witnessed abuse or addiction, or they face depression and anxiety in their own lives or in the lives of those that surround them. Art can help them to express their feelings, which is crucial for them as they deal with past and present traumas, or other adversity in their lives.

A coordinator who goes above and beyond

Eugenia’s work goes beyond developing a summer arts program in order to support our sponsored and unsponsored children. She also ensures that the kids in her care are receiving exactly what they need in order to attend classes. She sends a letter home at the start of each school year asking parents for their kids’ clothes and shoe sizes. She also inquires as to what kinds of school supplies they would like to have. Then she shops for the students.

She also partners with a local hair salon, “Just Teasin’,” so that all the children enrolled in our program get haircuts so they may start the new school year looking their very best. During the holidays, for either Thanksgiving or Christmas, Eugenia uses sponsorship funds to provide vouchers that families can use to purchase food at a local grocery store, and have a nice meal together to celebrate.

Before her visit was over, Renée let Eugenia know that Children Incorporated could provide support for her summer arts program from our Hope In Action Fund. Just as Eugenia is passionate about using art to help kids succeed, we at Children Incorporated also feel that art and creativity are an important part of a child’s education. Through academics and art, we hope that children are able to reach their full potential. With the support of our sponsors and donors to supplement special programs, kids will have the chance to overcome the difficult obstacles they face living in poverty.

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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.

Businesses Supporting Students

Pike County Central High School is the largest of five high schools in Pike County, Kentucky, with an enrollment of approximately 720 students. On a recent trip to Pike County, our U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, met with our volunteer coordinator at the school, whose name is also Shelley. Our Volunteer Coordinator Shelley is the Youth Services Center (YSC) coordinator for the school; she describes the YSC as a safe space for all students of any economic background where they may freely come and go without judgment when they are in need of a new clothing item, shoes, school supplies, hygiene items, or a snack to eat.

Our Volunteer Coordinator Shelley explained that the children who are enrolled in our program – kids that she says are the most impoverished at the school – can visit her office for items they need without feeling embarrassed that their parents are unable to afford the school supplies they lack. Included among these necessities are book bags, notebooks, and socks.

Both businesses and our sponsorship program are helping children at Pike County Central High School.

Our Volunteer Coordinator Shelley says that with the sponsorship funds she receives every month, she especially likes to buy “school logo” clothes for her students; they help kids to feel like they fit in with the rest of their classmates. In the fall, sponsored and unsponsored children each receive a hoodie, a long-sleeved shirt, and sweatpants; and in the spring, another long-sleeved shirt and a couple of T-shirts. She supplements the clothes with hygiene items like soap and shampoo, or other special necessities, depending on what each student’s particular needs are, throughout the school year.

A unique place 

During the visit, our Volunteer Coordinator Shelley explained that her school is unique as a result of its close proximity to Pikeville, the county seat or governmental center of the county. Since the school is nearby, several Pikeville businesses support its resource center with food and clothing drives, which are a great help in keeping supplies stocked all year long. When she can, she tries to share with the other high schools in the area, like Phelps and East Ridge, which do not have as much local support due to their remote locations. Our Volunteer Coordinator Shelley is hopeful that, with the recent uptick in businesses and factories moving into the area, there is potential not only for more jobs for graduating seniors from Pike County Central High School and their parents, but also for more support for the center from local businesses.

Why small businesses help

Just like us, they, too, believe in the value of helping children succeed, and in giving them the chance that they deserve to have education, hope, and opportunity in their lives.

Businesses choose to help support kids in need for a variety of reasons. For starters, there are tax benefits for doing so. Donating to a qualified tax-exempt organization that falls under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code means that a business may deduct these contributions in its tax return. There are also marketing opportunities for businesses to advertise the philanthropic donations they make; non-profits may, in turn, publicize support as well. Additional possibilities for networking with new potential clients may present themselves, too, as a result of a business-charity partnership.

Working with charities may also offer volunteer opportunities for a business’ employees; and many companies offer matching gifts programs for employees to participate in. Despite the many benefits for businesses themselves, however, business owners oftentimes support charities simply because they want to give back to their own communities. Just like us, they, too, believe in the value of helping children succeed, and in giving them the chance that they deserve to have education, hope, and opportunity in their lives.

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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.

High Enrollment and High Hopes in Kentucky

Nestled in picturesque mountains and steeped in a rich cultural heritage, Pike County is situated in the very heart of Appalachia – an economically depressed area that stretches from the Virginias to Tennessee and Kentucky. This was once a thriving region, as a result of the success of its then bustling coal and lumber industries. In 1994, however, the Eastern Division of The Pittston Company closed its coal mines.

Today, rampant unemployment and widespread poverty paint a somber life in Pike County.

Unfortunately, rugged terrain has effectively blocked other industries from settling in this part of Kentucky. Thus, as mines closed, those who had spent their lives working underground could not find new employment opportunities above. Today, rampant unemployment and widespread poverty paint a somber life in Pike County. Their debilitating effects impact not only the adults there; hunger and cold nights in bed are the plight of too many children in this area, as their parents struggle to make ends meet.

On a recent trip to Pike County, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, and our U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, visited Valley Elementary School. There, they met with our Volunteer Coordinator Betty. Valley Elementary School has an extremely high enrollment of almost 1,000 students, from kindergarten through the eighth grade. Despite a large number of students at the school, with the help of the resource center and our program, Betty is hopeful that her efforts are making a big difference for children who are coming from impoverished households.

Betty explained to Renée and Shelley that she loves the flexibility of the Children Incorporated sponsorship program. It is very helpful to her to have the ability to purchase a wide variety of items for students, depending on their individual home situations. This way, she is able to make specific purchases in meeting the individualized needs of each child in her care. She said that our sponsored and unsponsored children are constantly in need of clothes and shoes; she also provides them with school supplies and food baskets often.

Meeting a special sponsored child

During their visit, Renée and Shelley met with a few students who are enrolled in our sponsorship program. One student in particular stood out to them: Sarah* is in the eighth grade, and she lives with her parents and two sisters. She genuinely appreciates the support she receives from her sponsor.

Sarah anxiously awaits the items that she receives regularly thanks to monthly contributions. These donations especially help her in obtaining new shoes and clothing that she otherwise would go without. Betty also purchases art supplies for Sarah using her sponsorship funds, because Sarah loves art. She told Renée and Shelley that her family cannot afford art supplies, so she is incredibly grateful that her sponsor helps to support this passion of hers.

Internet famous

Before leaving Valley Elementary School, Betty showed Renée and Shelley a video of some of the third-grade students there who have become quite well-known on social media. The children were learning about coal mining and the industry in class, and their teacher challenged them to make a video demonstrating some of what they’d learned about the subject. The video would be entered into a much-anticipated annual community event – the CEDAR, Inc. Coal Fair.

With help from local high school students, the third-graders sang to the tune of Taylor Swift’s recent hit “Shake It Off”. After three days of filming, they finished the video, called “Mine the Coal”. When the fair was over, their teacher posted the video on her personal Facebook page, where it was widely shared, and where it has now accumulated more than 215,000 views. Along with Valley Elementary being a big school, its students are also a big hit on the internet!

*Name changed for child’s protection.

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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.

Our Incredible Work in the Land of Eternal Spring

I first traveled to Guatemala in 2004. That trip was strictly for personal reasons, as I was going there to meet my Guatemalan-born daughter, who was in foster care at the time, as my family and I awaited final approval of our adoption. Even though I was quite focused on the task at hand, I couldn’t help but notice the many contrasts in the “Land of Eternal Spring”. Beautiful modern buildings stood side-by-side with tiny make-shift houses; and modern cars shared the roads with men and women in traditional Mayan attire leading oxen and goats to market. The heavily-polluted air of the mostly grey cities hung in stark opposition to the pristine air of the countrysides, where lush green vegetation grew all along the slopes and hillsides. In the midst of it all were the people: most of them honest, hard-working folks trying to get by on very small incomes. I couldn’t help but respect and admire their persistence – often in the face of great struggle – to support themselves and to create better lives for their children.

Children Incorporated changes the lives of young people all around the world, but never has the impact of our work been clearer to me than after this visit to Guatemala.

Returning to Guatemala

I returned to Guatemala on two occasions over the next decade, and I grew to have a particular fondness for the country and its people. It wasn’t until this year in July, however, that I was truly able to witness first-hand the incredible work that Children Incorporated is doing in the country. Along with my co-workers Luis Bourdet, our Director of International Programs, and Shelley Callahan, our Director of Development, we visited five of the seven Guatemalan schools where the Children Incorporated sponsorship program operates. At each school, we were welcomed with open arms and treated like royalty. As our group arrived at each center, we were surrounded by happy, smiling youngsters who were genuinely glad to have us as their guests. Our wonderful volunteer coordinators also greeted us warmly and shared many touching stories of how these children and their families depend upon assistance from our organization so that these youngsters may attend school, receive clothing and food, and have opportunities to learn skills that will help them find jobs when they reach adulthood.

While in Guatemala, I met with many of our sponsored children at our affiliated projects.

Children Incorporated changes the lives of young people all around the world, but never has the impact of our work been clearer to me than after this visit to Guatemala. There, we met a man who as a child was enrolled in our sponsorship program. As a result of the assistance he and his family received, he graduated from school, went on to attend university, and is now a teacher at one of the schools where we have sponsored children. He credits Children Incorporated with making this all possible. I also spoke with a single mother of three who had stopped by one of our program sites to collect badly-needed food items provided to her as part of our sponsorship program. As she gave me a big hug, in broken and limited English, she told me that without Children Incorporated, her family would not be able to afford enough food to eat each month. She would also be unable to afford to send her children to school. As tears rolled down her cheeks, she asked me to let “everyone in America” know what a blessing Children Incorporated is to her family, and many others like it.

An incredible appreciation

I left Guatemala with an incredible appreciation for the country and the strong, resilient people who live there. I also left with a clear understanding of what Children Incorporated means to them. Though Children Incorporated is quite small in comparison to other child assistance organizations, the scope of life-changing work that we accomplish is huge. On a daily basis – not only in Guatemala, but all around the world – we are offering people hope for their futures; an upper hand as they struggle to make ends meet, and even to survive. I hope that you will join us as we continue to positively impact the lives of children and families all around the world. Your donations make our work possible; therefore, you are the ones who are truly responsible for the opportunities we are providing. Thank you very much.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN GUATEMALA?

You can sponsor a child in Guatemala in one of three ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members; email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org; or go online to our sponsorship portal, create an account, and search for a child in Guatemala that is available for sponsorship.