Tag Archives: kentucky

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

High Rents in Jackson City

* 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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Jackson City is located in rural and mountainous Breathitt County, Kentucky. Until the 1990s, coal was the foundation of the county’s economy, but the steady decline of the coal mining industry has begun to wreak havoc upon the local economy.

Many families, who once depended upon the mines for income, now depend upon part-time employment at minimum wages, welfare, and food stamps. Poverty and unemployment have become intrinsic parts of daily life in Jackson City — which is exacerbated by the high cost of rent.

The school on the hill

Our affiliated project, Jackson City School, is nicknamed by residents “the school on the hill.” It is indeed perched atop a very tall hill behind the county courthouse. From the school grounds, there is a view over the rooftops of the little city below, as well as the rolling hills and mountains over the horizon.

Our volunteer coordinator, Dixie, has a lot of experience working with children in need.

While visiting Jackson City School, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, met with our volunteer coordinator, Dixie.

“Dixie a is a real winner of a coordinator — the students at Jackson City School are lucky to have her. She came to Jackson City Schools after working at the former Sebastian Middle School in Breathitt County, so she arrived at the Family Resource Youth Services Center fully understanding our sponsorship program,” explained Renée.

“Dixie is energetic and warm. She has developed close relationships with her students and families.” 

Rent overburdened in America

During their meeting, Dixie told Renée that the Family Resource Center’s greatest needs are support for the Backpack Weekend Feeding Program and her Parent Program. The Parent Program offers parents help with issues like child development and abuse prevention strategies, such as working on methods to calm down, patience, and time outs.

“Dixie explained that, since Jackson is the county seat, its middle class and professional families tend to live here and to enroll their children in the city school system rather than in the county school system,” said Renée.

“We are so grateful for our sponsors, and Dixie, who fills a big gap for parents. Dixie works hard to find great discounts so she can maximize the items she can provide for children throughout the year.”

“At the same time, there are six low-income housing apartment communities in Jackson that offer a total of 134 affordable apartments. One hundred two of these do not provide direct rent assistance but remain affordable. Thirty-two are formal, income-based apartments. The need outpaces the demand. If a family moves to another county, then that apartment is quickly rented to a new family.”

In the United States, households who pay more than thirty percent of their gross income are considered to be “rent overburdened.” In Jackson, a household making less than $1,357 a month would be regarded as overburdened when renting an apartment at or above the median rent. Nearly thirty-seven percent of households who rent are overburdened in Jackson.

Dixie and our sponsors to the rescue

“For families of children in our sponsorship program, this means a disproportionate amount of their low income is required to pay for rent, leaving only a small percentage available for utilities, food, gas, auto maintenance, and repairs — as well as their growing children’s needs for new shoes, school supplies, and other needs,” said Renée.

“We are so grateful for our sponsors, and Dixie, who fills a big gap for parents. Dixie works hard to find great discounts so she can maximize the items she can provide for children throughout the year.”

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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

Caring for a Generation of Students

* 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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Marie Roberts Elementary School is located in the small community of Lost Creek, Kentucky, in Breathitt County.

In a part of the country where 48.3% of children are living in poverty, the Family Resource Center at the school, and our volunteer coordinator, Jackie, are able to offer children the critical support they need to survive in difficult circumstances.

“Jackie is the original coordinator who brought our sponsorship program to the school many years ago. She has been a loving and stable presence for easily a generation of students,” explained our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube.

“With her students, Jackie is very warm, and they feel comforted and loved in her presence.”

Good news for children in need

While visiting with Jackie at Marie Roberts, Renée had a chance to hear more about how Jackie, and our sponsors, are helping some of the most vulnerable kids in Lost Creek.

“Jackie said her job is about removing as many barriers as she can to her students’ academic potential and well-being. The barriers are all related, in one way or another, to the high child poverty rate,” said Renée.

“Jackie shared with me information from studies that show when children grow up in impoverished households, they tend to have worse health than children in better economic situations. Their education is also negatively impacted. Poverty can even affect their income attainment into adulthood as well.”

An exterior photo of Marie Roberts Elementary School

But it wasn’t all bad news that Jackie had for Renée. During their meeting, they discussed the heartening news that recent research has supported the theory that positive sustained relationships with caring adults can buffer childhood trauma and the toxic stress they feel from growing up in a difficult environment.

“Not only are school staff like Jackie able to be that caring adult for children, so are Children Incorporated sponsor[s]. Having someone in their lives who cares for them and provides some financial support, but also some emotional support through correspondence – often over a period of years — is powerful,” said Renée.

Helping kids with their stress

Related to the trauma and stress many of the children endure, Jackie shared the school is now very fortunate to have two counselors from Mountain Comprehensive Care Centers which is part of the Kentucky Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental, and Intellectual Disabilities. They began working at Marie Roberts Elementary during the 2018-2019 School Year and have had a huge impact on the children. They provide assessment, counseling, and referrals in a convenient and familiar location — the school. This also helps with access barriers, as so many families lack reliable transportation.

Before she left, Renée and Jackie discussed the Family Resource Center’s needs, and right away Jackie said shoes.

“She explained that the kids grow so quickly, and shoes are so expensive. Many families can afford only the cheapest flip flops or slides from the Dollar Store, and Jackie is always looking for deals on name-brand, sturdy shoes,” said Renée.

“Thankfully, our sponsors and our Shoes and Socks Fund have also been able to provide funds for Jackie to purchase quality shoes for kids that will last.”

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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

Young Parents Struggling to Get By

* 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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Located in rural and mountainous Letcher County, the community of Blackey, Kentucky has deep roots in the coal mining industry.

In 1912, just four years after the town’s founding, the Lexington and Eastern Railroad ran a line through Blackey, quickly transforming the mountain hamlet into a booming, modern town.

Tragically, Blackey’s prosperity proved short-lived, as the late 1920s ushered in a series of disasters: a flash flood of the North Fork Kentucky River devastated the city, killing 26 residents; just months later, a fire destroyed much of the city’s business district; and finally, the Great Depression struck.

Today, the town is home to a small but resilient population, that works hard to revitalize the community despite hardship.

Today, the town is home to a small but resilient population, that works hard to revitalize the community despite hardship. Daily survival here is a struggle, and children feel it perhaps most keenly. The depressed economy and the lack of employment make it difficult for families to provide even basic needs and school supplies, a problem compounded by the fact that many youths in the area are foster children or are being raised by grandparents.

Administrators that care

At our affiliated project, Letcher Middle School, a caring and dedicated staff partners with Children Incorporated sponsors to provide students with basic essentials that we so often take for granted but that are vital to students’ success in both school and life.

Lynn works hard to provide for children in our sponsorship program.

The Family Resource Youth Services Center Coordinator and our volunteer coordinator at Letcher Middle, Lynn, was formerly a coordinator at West Whitesburg and Cowan Elementary Schools.

“Lynn was one of the first two coordinators in Letcher County to affiliate with Children Incorporated, and over the years has become very familiar with our program,” said Renée Kube, our Director of U.S. Programs.

“While meeting with Lynn, she told me that the Letcher community has a lot of young parents who are struggling to make ends meet. They often don’t have enough money to buy an adequate amount of food for their families. For that reason, she is very grateful to work with us so she can provide school supplies, clothes, and food for children in need.”

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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

A Stable and Loving Presence for Children in Need

* 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, Whitley County was founded in 1818 a few miles south of the Cumberland River.

Although an area of the United States known for its exceptional natural beauty, many Whitley County residents suffer from abject poverty. The last few years saw a decline in the coal industry. The result has been a lack of employment opportunities, and today, Whitley County is one of the few impoverished counties in Kentucky. As the few remaining industries and small businesses continue to close their doors, the current economic situation in the county is grim.

“Sherry has been a stable and loving presence in the lives of thousands of children who have moved up through the school. She is driven, organized, and takes pride in running successful programs,” said Renée.

Meeting Sherry

A two-hour drive southwest from Campton, Whitley County Elementary School is Children Incorporated’s westernmost affiliated project in Kentucky.

“The school is located in the small community of Rockholds. We have a fantastic coordinator at Whitley County Elementary named Sherry. Sherry had reached out to me years ago through her Family Resource Center when she found out about our sponsorship program,” said our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube.

“Sherry has been a stable and loving presence in the lives of thousands of children who have moved up through the school. She is driven, organized, and takes pride in running successful programs,” said Renée.

“Sherry has an excellent parent volunteer who helps with all of her programs, including our sponsorship program. Her volunteer helps her with everything from shopping for the children to helping them with letter writing.”

The B Squad Project

During a visit to Whitley County Elementary School, Renée met with Sherry, who was excited to tell her about a new local partnership she had established.

“Sherry had recently begun working with a non-profit organization called the B Squad Project. The B Squad started with one person — the manager of the Pizza Hut in Williamsburg, Kentucky — who wanted to make a difference for local kids in need. She lobbied a network of business contacts, family, and friends to gain support. Once she had funds in place, the B Squad’s first outreach project provided beds for impoverished children at Whitley Elementary School,” explained Renée.

“The next project gave personalized sneakers to kids at the school. The third outreach was at the start of this school year when the growing B Squad partnered with J.C. Penney to provide back-to-school supplies for children in need.”

Renée pictured with a few of the sponsored children in our program.

“Because of her partnership with the B Squad, Sherry can use all Children Incorporated sponsorship donations to go towards providing brand new clothes for children in our program, which they so desperately need,” exclaimed Renée. 

The inspiring Edna Sydow

Before Renée left the school, Sherry told her a heart-warming story about one of our late sponsors, Ms. Edda Sydow.

“Ms. Sydow loved to knit, and years ago, she had telephoned the Children Incorporated office and asked if she could mail knitted caps to one of our affiliated projects. I suggested Whitley County Elementary School, and Ms. Sydow agreed,” said Renée.

“The first year, Sherry received almost enough hats for both the school’s kindergarten classes, and the two teachers made up the difference. The next year, more hats arrived, and more faculty came together and donated money to purchase mittens to go with the caps.”

“This went on for many winters, up until Ms. Sydow passed away. Because her gifts of time and talent had meant so much to the school, the teachers set up the “Warm Heads for Little Hearts at Whitley North  — The Edda Sydow Project” which raises money from the community to continue to buy warm clothes for children every year,” said Renée.

“It is inspiring that Ms. Sydow’s kindness is living on in Whitley County.”

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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

Offering Much-Needed Consistency for Kids

* 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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Martha Jane Potter Elementary School is located in Kona, Kentucky and has been a Children Incorporated affiliated project since 2005 — our first partnership in Letcher County.

“Our volunteer coordinator at Martha Jane Potter is Teresa, who has been our coordinator since we began working together over 15 years ago,” explained our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube.

Teresa is a hardworking coordinator who greatly appreciates our sponsorship program.

“Through the years, Teresa has developed long and stable relationships with the families in her community, and they trust her a great deal.”

A program that can provide

According to Renée, Teresa works hard to connect with partners to bring resources to students in need at her school. And although she does have luck finding small businesses, individuals, and churches to help in her efforts, one of her biggest issues is that often the support is temporary or is a one-time gift.

Several years ago, Teresa was contacted by a mega-church in Georgia. They provided her with 500 backpacks, which she shared with the other coordinators at our affiliated schools in Letcher County — yet they ran out before they were able to provide for all the children in need, which disappointed Teresa and the children.

“When I met with Teresa at Martha Jane Potter, she told me that the Children Incorporated program is her favorite program because it provides consistent monthly support so that she can budget and plan,” said Renée.

“I mentioned to Teresa that applying for funding from our Back to School Fund might interest her so she could buy more backpacks and give one to every child that needed one for the upcoming school year. That way, she won’t have to worry about some kids not getting school supplies.”

“When Natalie receives cards from her sponsor, she gets very excited. Her sponsors provide financial assistance and emotional support for Natalie, and she loves having them in her life,” exclaimed Renée.

The value of great partners

Even though some of her partners aren’t able to provide the same consistent support that Children Incorporated can, Teresa doesn’t value their help any less. She expressed to Renée how especially proud she was of a particular partnership with an organization that brings dental care to underserved neighborhoods in Kona.

The dentists also come to school via a mobile van to do exams, x-rays, fillings, and simple extractions.

After their meeting, Teresa introduced Renée to one of our sponsored children, Natalie.* Natalie is sponsored by a couple who has been part of our organization since 1970. She has two brothers, and they are all being raised by their grandparents. Natalie’s grandmother is retired, and her grandfather has cancer and is unable to work.

“When Natalie receives cards from her sponsor, she gets very excited. Her sponsors provide financial assistance and emotional support for Natalie, and she loves having them in her life,” exclaimed Renée.

*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.

SPONSOR A CHILD