Tag Archives: kentucky

Going Above and Beyond for Kids in Need

Summers can be rather boring for children. While kids usually love the thought of being out of school and free from homework assignments, they often have a difficult time staying occupied and active. One woman from Warfield, Kentucky found a way to change that this summer. Denise Stepp, who serves jointly as the coordinator for the Warfield Elementary School Family Resource Center and as a volunteer coordinator for Children Incorporated’s child sponsorship program, established a gardening program at her school. As a result, not only do the children keep busy and have fun, but Denise has also provided a service to many families in the community.

Denise, who loves gardening, decided to share her green thumb skills with the students that she serves. She went to the school principal and asked for permission to begin a food-to-table gardening program that the students, out on their summer break, would oversee. He gave his blessing for a large plot of land behind the school, and he wrote a grant for a small greenhouse and gardening supplies. Denise rounded up the children and got them excited about planting, caring for, and harvesting the food they would grow. Children Incorporated then provided funds so that Denise could purchase a compost barrel in order to help the children learn how compost enriches garden soil.

Denise has been volunteering for Children Incorporated for over twenty years, and during this time, she has worked constantly to remove barriers between home and school by providing various resources and services.

Denise’s summer gardening camp ran every Tuesday and Thursday throughout the summer, and she and her helpers worked with the kids on gardening techniques. Funds from Children Incorporated allowed Denise to buy supplies such as canning jars and freezer bags to preserve the garden food. The children have loved participating in the summer gardening camp! They have taken part in many hands-on learning activities, from baking muffins with zucchini they themselves have grown to making sauerkraut from their cabbage harvest – and they’ve taken jars and bags full of freshly-picked vegetables home to be shared with their families.

A long-time volunteer

Denise has been volunteering for Children Incorporated for over twenty years, and during this time, she has worked constantly to remove barriers between home and school by providing various resources and services. The Warfield community was once a coal-producing area; however, as a result of a decline in the coal business, there is now a high unemployment there. The community now has a 93 percent poverty rate. There are a lot of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren, and there are many single-parent families. The children endure great poverty, and some come from rather unstable homes. Denise cares deeply about the students she serves, and she goes the extra mile to show them love and support. Her job does not end at 3:00 p.m. with the close of the school day. She takes the job home with her; it is consistently on her mind.

Denise doesn’t just talk the talk – she walks the walk. Thanks to the child sponsorship program at the school and additional contributions from Children Incorporated, Denise is able to ensure that many children receive basic needs that support their well-being and health, such as clothing and shoes, and also school supplies, books, and backpacks. Under her guidance, the school system also held a summer feeding program, which transported breakfasts and lunches to 600 children Monday through Friday all summer long.

As the new school year begins, corn and potatoes will be harvested from the summer garden, and used to prepare food for the students and families on Kentucky Heritage Day. On October 13 of this year, Denise will host a pig roast, and the children will experience the rewards of their hard work by enjoying foods prepared with vegetables they’ve grown. . The school garden has given the children responsibility and a sense of ownership of their school. They take pride in the building, and vandalism is at an all-time low. They are also learning to eat more vegetables in order to be healthy and fight obesity. Much of this is due to the dedication and love displayed by Denise Stepp.

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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.

Helping Kayla to See

When I met Kayla* while traveling last year with Children Incorporated’s U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, it was the beginning of a new school year for her. Almost right away, I noticed that she had an issue with her eyes: one of them was slightly crossed, its pupil leaning in towards her nose. When I asked our Volunteer Coordinator, Sharon, at May Valley Elementary School where Kayla attends, in Floyd County, Kentucky, if Kayla had ever had an eye exam, she told me that Kayla had worn glasses the previous year. Over the summer, however, the glasses broke, and Kayla’s family didn’t have enough money to replace them; Kayla has four siblings – two brothers and two sisters – who are also in elementary school, and Kayla’s family struggles to get by, with two parents holding low-paying jobs.

The gift of sight

Sharon mentioned to us that she was very worried about the fact that Kayla still didn’t have glasses once school started again, because she was getting headaches from trying to read the blackboard, which was keeping her from being able to concentrate in school. Sharon feared that the situation would cause Kayla to fall behind her classmates, and she knew that Kayla already faced a lot of obstacles in life coming from a family that lives in poverty. Shelley told Sharon to send a request for money from our Hope In Action Fund to get Kayla a new pair of glasses as soon as possible.

A few weeks later, Children Incorporated sent Sharon the funds to pay for an eye exam for Kayla, as well as to pay for a new pair of glasses. Now, Kayla’s health and learning are no longer affected by her eye issue, and her vision has improved. Sharon reports that Kayla has less difficulty keeping up in class now – and she even sent us a picture of a smiling Kayla to show us just how happy she is with her new glasses.

*Name changed for child’s protection.

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HOW DO I DONATE TO THE HOPE IN ACTION FUND?

You can donate to our Hope In Action Fund 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 and make a donation on our website.

Our Back to School Fund in Action

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for many children who attend our affiliated schools in Eastern Kentucky to not have proper clothes and shoes, let alone school supplies, throughout the school year. In a part of the U.S. where poverty is rampant, oftentimes, parents don’t have enough money to pay the bills or to buy their children new, necessary items when needed. Thankfully, some children living in Kentucky have the Children Incorporated program and our volunteer coordinators, along with our Back to School Fund, to rely on to provide for them when they need help the most.

Kevin desperately needed new shoes.

Last year, one of our volunteer coordinators in Kentucky, Gloria, noticed in a school hallway that seven-year-old Kevin’s* shoes were falling apart. Kevin, who at the time was enrolled in our program but waiting for a sponsor, wore shoes that were covered in duct tape – they were so covered that Gloria could barely see the shoes themselves. When she asked Kevin about his shoes, he said that his mom had tried to fix them when the soles came unglued, but duct tape was all she had, and she couldn’t afford to buy him a new pair.

New shoes for Kevin

Gloria was able to find Kevin a gently-used replacement pair of shoes at the Resource Center at the school, and then she contacted our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, to see if Children Incorporated could help Kevin to get a new pair quickly. Thanks to our Back to School Fund, Renée was able to send funds to Gloria to get Kevin brand new shoes and a new school outfit, as well as some school supplies.

Today, Kevin has a sponsor who ensures each and every month that he is provided with the things he needs to be able to go to school without worry and to concentrate on doing well in his studies.

We are incredibly grateful for our sponsors and donors who contribute to our Back to School Fund to ensure that our sponsored and unsponsored children are being supported throughout the year. Without you, we couldn’t help children in need.

*Name changed for child’s protection.

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HOW DO I DONATE TO THE BACK TO SCHOOL FUND?

You can donate to our Back to School Fund 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 and make a donation on our website.

A Big School Making a Big Impact

Located in the town of Owingsville in Kentucky’s Bath County, Crossroads Elementary School is a consolidation of two of Children Incorporated’s former affiliated schools – Bethel and Salt Lick Elementary Schools. When the two older schools were shut down, one new school was built to replace them; and according to our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, who recently visited Bath County, the school is huge.

Serving 496 children in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, a large percentage of students there is living in poverty. 75 percent of the kids qualify for free meals. Many parents and guardians are small farmers, laborers, and service workers – they hold low-income jobs with little security. Many children are being raised by their grandparents, which is hard on their caretakers, especially the ones who have lived in poverty their whole lives.

Renée, Gloria, and a few of our sponsored kids at Crossroads Elementary School pose for a photo.

 

Upon arriving at Crossroads Elementary School, Renée was greeted by our Volunteer Coordinator, Gloria, whose plan was to have Renée visit the Resource Center, and then meet some of our sponsored kids before taking a tour of the school. Built just eight years ago, the school has a modern feel that was apparent from the second Renée stepped through its front doors.

Renée could see large classrooms on either side of the hallways as she and Gloria made their way to the Resource Center, the corridors bright and sparkling, as though they had just been cleaned. Even before seeing it in its entirety, Renée thought it was a beautiful school, and it made her happy to imagine how hundreds of children in attendance had a large, safe, clean environment in which to learn and grow. Over the years, Renée has visited many of our sponsored children’s homes, which are typically old, small, rundown, and unkempt – a reflection of the extreme poverty in which these families live.

Resources for everyone

When they arrived at the Resource Center, Gloria showed Renée some cabinets and plastic storage bins that were stuffed with food and gently-used clothes. She explained that any child or family can come chose what they need; and for some children, she sends food home with them on the weekends if she’s worried they won’t have anything to eat otherwise.

Shortly after Gloria finished showing Renée her supplies, Natalie*, one of our sponsored children, arrived at the Resource Center. Natalie is a sweet and shy second-grader who loves to read. She and her brother are being raised by their disabled grandparents in a small, old mobile home. Natalie benefits greatly from the support of her sponsor, who ensures through her contributions that she gets appropriately-sized clothes and shoes, and school supplies and hygiene items all year long, as she needs them.

Next, Renée met Kevin*, another sponsored child who Gloria knew really needed the additional help that sponsorship provides. Gloria enrolled Kevin in our sponsorship program last December, but sometimes it takes a while to find sponsors for kids; by spring of the following year, Kevin was still waiting to be sponsored. During that time, he went to school in shoes that were completely split open and covered in duct tape. When Gloria brought him to the Resource Center to ask him about the shoes, Kevin said, “My shoes broke and Mama fixed them because I can’t have new ones.”

Many children are being raised by their grandparents, which is hard on their caretakers, especially the ones who have lived in poverty their whole lives.

Gloria knows Kevin’s mother struggles intensely – she is raising three kids in a small mobile home, and her sole income comes from work at a fast food restaurant where she makes minimum wage. Gloria was able to go to her cabinet and find Kevin a pair of gently-used shoes that, although not brand new, were at least not held together with tape. Thankfully, Kevin got a sponsor shortly after the incident, and now he receives new shoes and clothes that fit him perfectly.

A beautiful school

After visiting with Natalie and Kevin, Gloria took Renée on a tour of the school, which is colorful and full of natural light all throughout it. The computer lab has the latest technology, and the library is full of thousands of books, with brightly painted murals on the walls, and fun carpets laid across the floors. Renée loved seeing all the different rooms in the school – she felt as though it offers a wonderfully warm atmosphere for learning, and that it really does serve as an oasis for our sponsored kids, who come from broken homes and instability.

Once they arrived at the gymnasium, Renée found a big group of kids watching performers do exercise routines for the children to learn and then copy. Something special set up by the principal to reward the students for good attendance, they snapped, stomped, shook, and jumped in place on the floor of the big gym, with its shiny floors and new mats and bleachers. Renée could tell the children were having a fabulous time, and she once again found herself feeling thankful that these children, who had enough to worry about at home, living in poverty, have a lovely school to enjoy.

*Names changed for children’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.

The History of Our Partnerships in Kentucky

We couldn’t do what we do without the help of our partners. At every one of our projects, whether it is an orphanage in South Korea, a community center in Costa Rica, or a school in New Mexico, without our affiliated projects or the volunteer coordinators who oversee our program at each location, we would not be able to provide support for some of the poorest children in the world. One of our most important partnerships here in the United States is with the Family Resource and Youth Services Centers (FRYSC) in Kentucky, where we have 2,294 sponsored and unsponsored children currently enrolled in our program.

The Family Resource Center at Owingsville Elementary School is stocked full of supplies for students.

The Family Resource and Youth Services Centers were established as a component of the historic Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) of 1990. The mission of these school-based centers is to help academically at-risk students succeed in school by attempting to minimize or eliminate barriers to their learning – a similar mission to our own here at Children Incorporated: we strive to give impoverished kids the basic necessities they need in life so that they can go to school and learn. Schools where at least twenty percent of the student population is eligible for free or reduced school meals can receive FRYSC funding, which means that many schools in Eastern Kentucky, where some of the poorest counties in the U.S. are located, qualify.

Each of our affiliated schools in Eastern Kentucky has their own FRYSC in a separate and private room for students to go to confidentially, without embarrassment, when they need clothes, shoes, school supplies, hygiene items, or food to take home after school. Each center coordinator, who works full-time to offer support to every child at the school, also serves as the Children Incorporated volunteer coordinator in the schools with which we affiliate in Kentucky. The centers have established a record of success based on improved student performance on class work and homework, as well as healthier peer relations, according to research conducted by the state. Parents also benefit from the assistance they receive through nutrition and parenting classes, holiday meals, and even emotional support from coordinators when they need to talk about the daily struggles of living in poverty.

Without our affiliated projects or the volunteer coordinators who oversee our program at each location, we would not be able to provide support for some of the poorest children in the world.

The evolution of helping in the community

Owingsville Elementary School was one of the first schools in Eastern Kentucky to receive its Family Resource and Youth Services Center, which has been ably run since 1992 by Michele, our volunteer coordinator, along with her assistant, Barbara. Michele said that when the centers were first established, many included a component for a daycare that was run by the school. Over the years, however, as the needs of the community evolved and resources became scarcer, many schools have closed their daycare centers.

Owingsville Elementary School has kept this service in place for its families, though. Michele works very closely with the Daycare Director, Willie Mae, who has maintained this position for over 25 years – and on a shoestring budget. Michele and Willie Mae collaborate on many outreach efforts, such as home visits. In this way, Michele can get to know the parents and guardians of the youngest children, who will eventually become school children served by the FRYSC.

On a recent visit to Owingsville Elementary School, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, met with Michele, who showed her around the resource center. Michele had set up a shoe and clothes closet, as well as a food pantry. She explained that there are two retired sisters who are former county administrators that hold food drives at their churches and through their other contacts. These sisters take food to the center on a regular basis, and every Friday, Michele sends small bags of food home with kids who otherwise might not eat on the weekends.

Food is just as important for children as clothes, shoes, and school supplies.

Michele said that the greatest need at the FRYSC includes ongoing help with food; hygiene items, which include buckets and mops for home visits; and additional funds for her collaboration with a special program through Morehead State University and AmeriCorps called “Build-A-Bed,” which helps families who do not have enough beds, or any beds at all, in their homes. With additional support, Michele feels that she could do a lot more; but she told Renée that she is incredibly grateful for our sponsorship program – for what it does not only for the children, but also for the entire community.

Kids who love their sponsors

After Renée met with Michele at the resource center, they took a tour of the school, where Renée had the opportunity to meet some of our sponsored children. Michele introduced Renée to Courtney*, whose sponsor, Robert, had recently sent her a package with pretty, new clothes. Courtney, who is in the fifth grade this year, was so happy with her gifts because they made her feel special. What’s more, the gifts really helped her and her family. Courtney’s parents both work; her dad installs drywall when construction work is available to him – but it is not regular, steady employment. Her mom works at a fast food restaurant, but only part-time. Their wages are low, and they receive no benefits.

Afterwards, Renée met Melanie*, an adorable and outgoing little girl. Melanie and her brother and sister are being raised by their grandparents, who are disabled and can no longer work. They depend on social services assistance to care for their grandchildren, but they struggle with the everyday expenses involved in raising rapidly-growing kids. Michele said that Melanie visits the FRYSC almost every day. As a second-grader, Melanie loves having a sponsor who has been part of her life since kindergarten. Her sponsor’s support is helping her to be a healthy and happy child who is able to do her best in school.

Lastly, Renée met Connor*, who had also just received a package from his sponsor, making him incredibly happy. Connor is an active first-grader who lives with his parents and three siblings. His parents are among the families who are trying to stay in their community, so they work on small farms, because all the other jobs around them have disappeared. They don’t have much land, and they try to maintain a few beef cows and a little tobacco. Their income is very low. Thankfully, however, Connor, along with our other sponsored and unsponsored children at our 87 affiliated schools in Kentucky, have the Family Resource and Youth Services Center to rely on, as well as our wonderful volunteer coordinators, like Michele, to help them get what they need.

*Names changed for children’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.

When the Small Things in Life Really Matter

Bath County Middle School is located at the end of Main Street in Owingsville, Kentucky, where residents have experienced economic decline, unemployment, and poverty in an otherwise picturesque region of the United States. On a recent trip to Owingsville, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, visited with our Volunteer Coordinator at the school, Kaye, to find out more about how Children Incorporated is helping kids enrolled in our program get what they need so that they don’t fall into a pattern that is all too common for students living in poverty:

“Our biggest problem is the students who drop out of school before graduation,” says Kaye. “Our goal at Bath County Middle School is to encourage students to graduate from high school and go on to some useful post-graduation training or higher education.”

Meet the Andrews

Bath County Middle School serves 471 children in grades six through eight. The Family Resource and Youth Services Center at the school provides the primary support for kids in need. While talking with Renée, Kaye said that she works hard to provide simple things to the children – usually items that we don’t think about going without, like toiletries, clothes, and shoes.

“Our goal at Bath County Middle School is to encourage students to graduate from high school and go on to some useful post-graduation training or higher education.”

Kaye mentioned the Andrew* family, who Renée had met the day before while visiting with our volunteer coordinator at Bath County High School. Kaye described the Andrews, a family of six with two children living at home, as one of the neediest families that she works with. Although the parents are incredibly loving, they have a hard time finding steady employment due to their lack of education and skills. The father picks up odd jobs, but is unemployed more often than not. The mother is disabled; she has some health conditions that affect her greatly, and she is plagued by cataracts and extremely poor vision.

Recently, when their landlord sold the small house they were renting, the Andrews became homeless. Thankfully, they were able to stay with another family temporarily; but the transition only caused this already impoverished family to struggle more than ever. Kaye was able to help them by providing them with soap and shampoo – things that the Andrews couldn’t afford – thanks, especially, to the Children Incorporated program. With two sponsored children enrolled in the program – a son at the high school and a daughter at the middle school – Kaye says it has been a blessing for the Andrews’ children to have sponsors to help them while their family tries hard to get back on their feet.

Kaye continued to praise our sponsors and what they do for the children at her school. She said it is an incredible feeling, at times when she is trying to figure out what to do to help a child who is really struggling, to receive an additional monetary gift for that child from a sponsor, or a package or caring letter or card from the sponsor. Kaye said that the sponsors’ interest in and devotion to these kids are transformational for them.

Overwhelmed by the need

When Kaye first started working at the resource center, then became our volunteer coordinator, she felt overwhelmed by how in need the students at Bath County Middle School are. Over time, she has established many methods and systems through which to care for them, one of which is stocking her supply closet full of the important small items that help kids out a lot. Donations of school supplies and food come from local churches and school staff members here and there, but Kaye relies mostly on the support of sponsors for purchasing clothes and shoes for kids.

Despite receiving help for the more than forty kids she now has enrolled in our program, Kaye says that her greatest need is more funding still for the purchase of hygiene items like sanitary napkins, deodorant, and laundry detergent. Kaye washes a lot of clothes for students in a washer at the resource center that was purchased years ago with Children Incorporated funds. The children bring their dirty clothes to her in the mornings, and she cleans them and returns them to their book bags before the school days are done, ensuring it is done discretely so as to not embarrass the kids she serves. The students also need more food to take home on the weekends, because oftentimes they don’t receive food outside of the free meals they receive at school.

It all adds up; these small things that don’t cost a lot really add up and become expensive when the need is so great. Renée told Kaye that she was impressed that she is able to accomplish so much for the children on the small budget she receives for the resource center. Kaye returned the compliment to Renée, telling her that without a doubt, Children Incorporated is her favorite program and her best resource to help kids get the little things they so desperately need.

*Name changed to protect the family.

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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.