Tag Archives: kentucky

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

Sending Children Home with Food for the Weekend

*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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The town of Whitesburg was founded in 1842 and is situated on the North Fork of the Kentucky River in Letcher County. Located in the heart of Kentucky’s Eastern Coal Region, Letcher County holds the unfortunate distinction of having the second-largest unemployment rate in Kentucky.

Our volunteer coordinator, Stephanie, works hard to make sure children are cared for at West Whitesburg Middle School.

Coal from this region once fueled factories, powered locomotives, and heated millions of homes. However, the coal industry, which once employed the majority of the area’s workforce, has sharply declined due to automation and the increased use of other fuels. Lack of employment opportunities has resulted in widespread poverty amongst the region’s residents, which includes those families of students at our affiliated project, Whitesburg Middle School.

A lot of children in need

“This school is on the same campus as West Whitesburg Elementary School. Children in our program at the elementary school then feed into the middle school and then go on to our other affiliated project, Letcher Central High School,” explained our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube.

While Renée was visiting with our volunteer coordinator, Stephanie, at West Whitesburg Middle School in early 2020, Stephanie told Renée that the county’s public housing projects are located in Whitesburg — in fact, they are directly across the street from the school, so many of her students are living in poverty.

She says that for the students in our program currently, their sponsors are a blessing,” said Renée.

Since there are so many children in need at the school, Stephanie runs a backpack feeding program for twenty of her children who she knows don’t have enough food to eat on the weekends. She makes bags of items each Friday with Pop-Tarts, oatmeal packets, tuna, mac & cheese, Fruit Roll-ups, and peanut butter crackers — things children can easily make on their own if their parents are working or are absent.

Many more children to support

“Stephanie is working hard to provide for the children in her school. She plans on getting more students enrolled in our program because she believes strongly in the power of sponsorship. She says that for the students in our program currently, their sponsors are a blessing,” said Renée.

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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

An Open School in Eastern Kentucky

*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 the heart of Kentucky’s Eastern Coal Region, Letcher County holds the unfortunate distinction of having the second-largest unemployment rate in Kentucky.

“Brittney said there is not a problem with bullying, and all the kids are open, friendly, and accepting of one another — much like the openness that the actual school building offers.”

Coal from this region once fueled factories, powered locomotives, and heated millions of homes. However, the coal industry, which once employed the majority of the area’s workforce, has sharply declined due to automation and the increased use of other fuels.

Lack of employment opportunities has resulted in widespread poverty, along with associated socioeconomic issues such as drug abuse, obesity, and domestic abuse issues. Fortunately, for many impoverished families in this community, West Whitesburg Elementary School offers their children a well-rounded education in a school environment where kids support one another in positive ways.

A different kind of school

“West Whitesburg was built in the late 1960s during the ‘open school’ movement,” explained our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube.

“This meant no walls separated classrooms, with the idea that students would learn creatively, and teachers would collaborate. Whereas most open schools are very loud and noisy, West Whitesburg is not. Partitions were put up many years ago, and teachers work especially hard here on ‘indoor voices versus outdoor voices.”

West Whitesburg Elementary School serves 390 children in grades pre-kindergarten through 5th.

The school has an open layout, which is not very typical of public schools in the U.S.

The school itself shares its grounds with Whitesburg Middle School. The two schools abut one another and have separate entrances, administration, faculty, and staff.

Learning more from Britteny

While visiting the school, our U.S. Director of Programs, Renée Kube, met with the Family Resource Youth Services Center Coordinator, Britteny, and her assistant, Donna. Together, they also run our sponsorship program.

During their meeting, Renée had a chance to ask Britteny more about the students in attendance at this very different kind of school.

“When I asked about the school’s culture and dynamics, Brittney’s face lit up. The population is mixed between some of the more well-to-do families, middle-income families, and those who live in the public housing complex across from the school,” said Renée.

“Brittney said there is not a problem with bullying, and all the kids are open, friendly, and accepting of one another — much like the openness that the actual school building offers.”

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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