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An Overwhelming Positive Change

Today, we want to share a letter of hope and inspiration from one of our many incredible volunteer coordinators from around the world. If there was ever any doubt of the power of sponsorship, Teresa, at Floyd Central High School in Kentucky, confirms with a sweet letter just how much sponsors mean to children in our program:

If there was ever any doubt of the power of sponsorship, Teresa, at Floyd Central High School in Kentucky, confirms with a sweet letter just how much sponsors mean to children in our program.

“Dear Children Incorporated Staff and Sponsors,

First of all, I want to say thank you for everything that your organization does for our students. Your sponsorship program has been such a blessing. I am not a big fan of shopping; however, I love seeing the students’ faces when they are given new clothes and shoes. They especially enjoy receiving items for their birthdays and Christmas. Because of their sponsors’ generosity, all of my Children Incorporated-enrolled kids receive new clothing and shoes at back-to-school, Christmas, and springtime. In addition, each receives a Thanksgiving and Christmas food basket.

Our school was also fortunate to receive two grants from your Hope In Action Fund. I collaborated with the other schools in our county, as well as local partners, such as our Health Department and Extension Office, for these initiatives. The first was a New/Expectant Parents Fair. Each participant received a bag filled with important information, as well as a new book for the baby, diapers, wipes, and more.

Teresa sent photos of packed supplies waiting to go out to students, thanks to a donation from our Hope In Action Fund.

To encourage participation, there were also door prizes, such as baby monitors, car seats, play yards, and developmental toys. These babies will be our kindergarteners in just a few short years. The second initiative was a Family Fun Night. Our schools’ coordinators shopped for and provided good old fashioned board games (like Hi Ho Cherry-O, Jenga, Monopoly, UNO, etc.), pizza kits, and snacks to promote family bonding and less screen time. Both initiatives were handled via socially distanced “Drive Thru & Pick Ups” during the pandemic.

Finally, I would like to show how the sponsors are making such a huge difference in the lives of our students by sharing a story. I have one young man about whom I was approached by two of his teachers. They had concerns in regards to his appearance and hygiene. They said something had been off with him since we returned to school.

“Our principal spoke of this young man and what an amazing difference she has seen in just a short amount of time. None of this would have been possible without the generosity of his sponsor.”

I met with this young man, and of course he said everything was fine. He kept his head down for most of our meeting. I noticed this young man had severe acne, and I was sure this was a part of his low self-esteem. I tried to make contact with his mom via phone and then again on a home visit, but with no luck. This student missed an excessive amount of school. Then I noticed the student seemed to be making a connection with our new JROTC officer, so the officer and I worked together, coming up with a plan to help this young man and to gain his trust.

With the generosity of his sponsor, I was able to purchase him new clothing, shoes, hygiene items – and now acne medicine, too. Slowly, this young man started coming around and being more involved with school and the JROTC program. There has been just an overwhelming positive change in this student’s life. He had never participated in anything and never had many friends. This year he came to and even danced at the Military Ball. At our end of the year staff dinner, our principal spoke of this young man and what an amazing difference she has seen in just a short amount of time. None of this would have been possible without the generosity of his sponsor.

With sincere thanks,

Teresa”

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How do I sponsor a child in Kentucky?

You can sponsor a child in Kentucky 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 Kentucky that is available for sponsorship.

SPONSOR A CHILD

Working Against Generational Poverty

Often called the Bluegrass County of the Mountains, Morgan County is situated amid Kentucky’s picturesque, mountainous Eastern Coal Fields region. The county itself was first settled by Scotch and Irish immigrants during the eighteenth century and derives its name from an homage to Revolutionary War hero General Daniel Morgan.

“The East Valley community is generally more in need than other communities in the area, as many families are struggling with generational poverty that they just can’t get out of.”

Despite its natural beauty and rich history, Morgan County suffers the socioeconomic issues associated with the widespread, debilitating poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment so tragically typical of Appalachia. There are few economic opportunities in the small rural town of Crockett today, where our affiliated project, East Valley Elementary School, is located. Thankfully, students and their parents can rely on the dedicated staff at the school that serves children in this area, offering them a safe environment and the chance to obtain a well-rounded education — which can provide them a path out of the poverty that their families have faced for decades.

A community in need

East Valley Elementary School educates around 144 children in grades Pre-K through 5th grade — many of whom come from impoverished households.

“The school is located in an older building but is very well maintained. The Family Resource Center Coordinator, Angela, who is also our volunteer coordinator, is very experienced at her job,” explains Children Incorporated’s Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube.

“On my last visit to the school, in late 2019, Angie told me that the East Valley community is generally more in need than other communities in the area, as many families are struggling with generational poverty that they just can’t get out of.”

An article published by the North Carolina Community Action Association defines generational poverty and describes it effects:

Parents were poor, their kids are now poor, and their grandkids kids will grow up poor. Like genetics, families in this situation seem to pass down poverty from one generation to the next. These families tend to be stuck in the cycle of poverty which means they and their children will continue to live in poverty until an external influence can help them escape. 

Thanks to Angie, children in our program received much-needed resources throughout the year.

Generational poverty only requires that a family lives in poverty for at least two generations. Generational poverty persists mostly because of internal psychological factors, although financial issues are the external force that create these psychological barriers. It’s a combination of hopelessness, scarcity mindset and toxic stress.

Almost all of the psychological issues with generational poverty are centered around finances. Many parents work multiple jobs just to make ends meet. This lack of a fundamental resource — money — creates a “scarcity mindset”. The people trapped in poverty struggle to think of the future because they are so focused on surviving for the next few days or weeks. In this mindset, neither adult nor child are thinking about college, careers or higher achievements. Even if they are, they often feel that these dreams are unattainable to them, and their lot in life is to just try to survive. 

Living in constant worry about money can also cause toxic stress which can damage the learning, behavior and health of people living with it. For children, the effects span their lifespan.”

Keeping kids interested in learning

According to Angie, many parents of her students place a low value on education, because they are preoccupied with trying to survive day-to-day, and don’t often have time to consider much for the future — both because they never imagine one for themselves and because they can’t imagine offering a different future for their children.

Living in constant worry about money can also cause toxic stress which can damage the learning, behavior and health of people living with it. For children, the effects span their lifespan.”

“Angie is incredibly grateful for our sponsorship program because it gives her the chance to offer children food, clothing and school supplies which will hopefully keep students in school and interested in learning — and it gives her access to them so she can encourage them to stay in school and consider higher education,” said Renée.

“Fortunately for Angie, the loving teachers at East Valley Elementary School keep a close eye on the children and serve as Angie’s ‘eyes and ears.’ Some report the kids come to school on Monday mornings dirty and ravenously hungry — when she hears this, she makes sure to focus on those children who are really struggling so they know they cared for and that someone is looking out for them.”

***

How do I sponsor a child in Kentucky?

You can sponsor a child in Kentucky 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 Kentucky that is available for sponsorship.

SPONSOR A CHILD

Improving Nutrition in Morgan County

Often called the Bluegrass County of the Mountains, Morgan County is situated amid Kentucky’s picturesque, mountainous Eastern Coal Fields region. The county itself was first settled by Scotch and Irish immigrants during the eighteenth century and derives its name from an homage to Revolutionary War hero General Daniel Morgan.

Despite its natural beauty and rich history, Morgan County suffers the socioeconomic issues associated with the widespread, debilitating poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment so tragically typical of Appalachia. There are few economic opportunities in the rural, small farming town of West Liberty today, and as a result, families who once relied upon farming and selling tobacco are now forced to find other means of employment to support themselves.

For students in this area, Morgan Central Elementary School serves as a beacon of hope, offering children a safe environment, a caring staff, and the chance to obtain a well-rounded education — things that we consider essential for success.

The idea is to improve students’ nutrition by exposing them to and encouraging them to eat a fresh fruit or vegetable snack at least three days each week,” said Renée.

Stretching her budget

“This school has around 300 children in grades Pre-K through 5th — our sponsorship program is run by our volunteer coordinator, Brittany,” explained Renée Kube, our Director of U.S. Programs.

“During my last visit to the school in 2019, Brittany told me that she prefers to shop for the children at the local Walmart because she can really stretch out her budget that way. She added that the kids are not picky or particular about designer brands and are happy to receive sturdy, decent, school clothes which Walmart can offer at a low price.”

A variety of fresh food

“Brittany was very excited to tell me about a grant the school had been awarded through the United States Department of Agriculture. The grant is called the FFVP, which stands for the ‘Fresh Fruits & Vegetables Program.’ The idea is to improve students’ nutrition by exposing them to and encouraging them to eat a fresh fruit or vegetable snack at least three days each week,” said Renée.

Our volunteer coordinoator, Brittany (left), is pictured with one of our sponsored children and Morgan Central Elementary School’s guidance counselor

“Because so many of the children have been minimally exposed to fresh fruit at home, often times they have never tried some of the fruits or vegetables offered. They are encouraged to try it, but students may choose not to partake if they don’t like what’s being served. The school is allowed to buy the produce at local grocery stores, or even to buy from farmers’ markets, if any exist in the area, which also helps small business.”

Going above and beyond to feed kids

Brittany explained that this program has been so helpful because food insecurity is a big problem in the county. To help even more, she has been running the ‘Pack A Snack’ food bag program every Friday. She uses large Ziploc bags and stuffs them with granola bars, ramen noodles, packaged peanut butter crackers, and micro-wavable mac and cheese. Brittany said her main food partner is Lacey Creek Church of Christ, but she would love to have more funds so that she could put more food in the bags,” said Renée.

“I was delighted to tell her about our U.S. Feeding Program that helps our affiliated projects with programs just like this, and that I would be happy for her to apply for additional assistance to ensure students are getting food to take home on the weekends in addition to what they are already receiving at school.”

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How do I sponsor a child in Kentucky?

You can sponsor a child in Kentucky 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 Kentucky that is available for sponsorship.

SPONSOR A CHILD

Sweet Dreams for Kids in Kentucky

Our affiliated project, Morgan County Middle School, is located in West Liberty, Kentucky, and serves 464 students in 6th through 8th grade — many of whom come from low-income households.

The school’s Family Resource Youth Services Center is run by Children Incorporated’s volunteer coordinator, Kim.

“Kim runs a lot of important programs for our kids, and she can always use help with them. Her favorites are the 8th grade career mentoring program, the weekend feeding program, and the Sweet Dreams bed program,” said Renée.

“Kim was previously at one of the elementary schools, Morgan Central, for many years, but she moved up to the middle school after its coordinator retired. Kim said it was a smooth transition, as many of the kids were her former elementary students,” explained our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube.

“However, the move did refine her awareness and sensitivity to this age group — middle school children are coping with the physical and emotional challenges of puberty, and many of them are also enduring poverty and family stress. These challenges make the Family Resource Center more important than ever.”

“When I last visited with Kim in late 2019, she told me that, due to the county’s high poverty rate, they were awarded district-wide free lunch. This has made it so much less embarrassing for the kids who don’t have lunch money. Now everyone is on the same level. Her school is also one of three schools in the county that is serving an early supper on select days, which really helps families in the community as well,” said Renée.

Kim’s Programs

Kim is pictured with one of the students in our sponsorship program at Morgan County Middle School.

“Kim runs a lot of important programs for our kids, and she can always use help with them. Her favorites are the 8th grade career mentoring program, the weekend feeding program, and the Sweet Dreams bed program. She is most proud of and excited about the Sweet Dreams bed program,” exclaimed Renée.

“Kim said all Morgan County Public Schools are eligible to participate in the Build A Bed Program operated by Morehead State University. However, only 200 beds are made per year, and with so many counties and schools eligible, not all children in need can be helped.”

“So, she and the other coordinators in Morgan County started their own program. The Eastern Kentucky Correctional Center is located in West Liberty. The prison builds the beds for free for the students at the school, and the school coordinators appeal to local businesses to buy the mattresses for the kids, some of which she has been able to secure. Kim said more assistance is always needed to purchase mattresses, sheets, blankets, pillows, and comforters,” said Renée.

Because of our Beds and Linens Fund, and thanks to our sponsors, Children Incorporated has been able to help Kim and our sponsored children with those new items so that students from the middle school can sleep comfortably at home and be prepared for school each day rested and ready to learn!”

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How do I sponsor a child in Kentucky?

You can sponsor a child in Kentucky 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 Kentucky that is available for sponsorship.

SPONSOR A CHILD

A Host of Programs for Kids in Need

Morgan County is located in the northeastern part of Kentucky amongst a terrain of rolling hillsides, with no true mountains. The Licking River, the main waterway in the county, runs through its eponymous valley, which houses the county seat, West Liberty. It is a truly beautiful county, although not an area of our country without its problems.

Children Incorporated is remembered fondly to the community of Morgan County for raising over $10,000 in disaster relief funds in 2012 from our sponsors and donors.

Morgan County was never a very active coal mining area, although it was — and continues to be — impacted by the decline of the coal mining industry across eastern Kentucky. Historically, most of the county’s coal mining camps were opened between 1907 and 1909, and most closed in the 1920s as larger, more lucrative coal deposits were discovered elsewhere. The last camp, in Cannel City, closed and laid off its 250 employees in 1933. Back then, that meant that miners who chose to reside in Morgan County would commute, usually by train, to more southern counties that had bigger operations and were more profitable for their owners.

Present-day Morgan County

Today, Morgan County’s economy is primarily farming — cattle and burley tobacco, as well as sorghum, a cereal grain that is primarily used as livestock feed, which is also turned into ethanol. Kentucky leads the nation in sweet sorghum production, with the plant being boiled down to become sorghum molasses.

Each September, Morgan County hosts a Sorghum Festival in West Liberty. Highlights of the weekend include the Morgan County Sorghum Bowl, which is a football game featuring Morgan County High School and a neighboring rival, and the crowing of the Sorghum Queen during halftime. The weekend also includes a busy arts and crafts fair, which includes demonstrations of the sorghum being boiled down into syrup.

A History of Helping in Morgan County

In 2012, devastating tornadoes swept through eastern Kentucky. Morgan County was one of the hardest hit, with a tornado causing a great deal of damage in West Liberty. Among other businesses destroyed by the tornado, the Morgan County Tree Nursery was lost. By 2014 it was rebuilt and had seedlings in production. Today, the county’s tree seedling operations help fuel the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s $12 billion-dollar timber industry.

Children Incorporated is remembered fondly to the community of Morgan County for raising over $10,000 in disaster relief funds in 2012 from our sponsors and donors. The first of this aid was personally delivered to Morgan County by our President and CEO, Ron Carter, during a visit to our affiliated projects after the tornado.

Morgan County High School

Our volunteer coordinator Alicia, is pictured with one of our sponsored children at Morgan County High School.

Morgan County High school educates about 611 teenagers — 71% which come from low income families.  In addition to the federal free breakfast and lunch program, the high school is one of three in the county to offer an early free supper on select days. Kids may stay after school from 3:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. and report to the cafeteria.

“During my last visit to the school in 2019, I was so pleased to see that there was a new building in place since the last time I had been in Morgan County in 2017,” explained our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube.

“The building was completed in the fall of 2018, with the students moving in after fall break. Over the summer of 2019, the old school building was demolished, and a parking lot was built in its place. The area looks totally different than my last visit — even the huge gym, which was housed in a separate building, is being refaced to match the look of the new building.”

A proud coordinator

“Over the years, our volunteer coordinator at Morgan High, Alicia, has really built up the programs that the Family Resource Center offers to students — from offering school supplies and clothes to students to offering support for parents — Alicia works so hard to ensure that kids and their families are getting the resources they need,” said Renée.

“Over the years, our volunteer coordinator at Morgan High, Alicia, has really built up the programs that the Family Resource Center offers to students.”

“One of the programs she is most proud of is the weekend feeding program. Because Alicia understands that receiving food to take home can be embarrassing for her students, she runs the program with a great deal of sensitivity, filling book bags that look just like all the other book bags in the school so kids don’t feel singled out or look different from their peers.”

“During my visit, Alicia said one of the biggest problems in the county is drugs. People get hooked for a variety of reasons, and they degenerate into thinking only of their next fix. She wants the students at her school to avoid the trap of hopelessness, and to see that their futures can be different and better,” explained Renée.

“In helping them, Alicia tries to get her students to take advantage of a great after-school program at the Area Technology Center in town, where trades such as welding or mechanics are taught so high school age students can see that they have career options once they graduate and don’t fall into the same despair as many adults around them have.”

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How do I sponsor a child in the United states?

You can sponsor a child in the United States 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 that is available for sponsorship.

SPONSOR A CHILD

The Challenges of Home Life

* Note: This blog was written prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although much has changed regarding our sponsored children’s learning experience in the past months, our On the Road stories remain relevant in regards to our volunteer coordinator’s work and the impact of sponsorship on children in our program thanks to our sponsors. We are pleased to continue to share stories with you about our work.

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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.

SPONSOR A CHILD