Tag Archives: kentucky

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

Moms Helping in Our Schools

*Note: The school visit mentioned in this blog occurred prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although we are currently conducting school visits virtually, our On the Road stories remain relevant in regards to our volunteer coordinators’ 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 eastern Kentucky, Breathitt County is one of the 100 poorest counties in the United States. The economic prospects of Breathitt County are, at best, bleak. The coal mining industry that once dominated this area and provided employment for the majority of its population has been declining.

Children here not only struggle with lack of basic needs, such as food, clothing, and school supplies, but they are also often in dire need of encouragement and positive interaction with adults.

Today, there are few job opportunities for the area: three small factories, a community college, a grocery store, a department store, a small medical center, a juvenile detention center, and the county education system. Many families who once relied upon mining jobs for income now depend upon part-time employment at minimum wages or federal assistance such as welfare checks and food stamps.

Tragically, drug and alcohol abuse are common, both stemming from and further contributing to these difficult socioeconomic circumstances. Children here, therefore, not only struggle with lack of basic needs, such as food, clothing, and school supplies, but they are also often in dire need of encouragement and positive interaction with adults. Many of them lack positive role models who can teach them how to maintain strong moral values and to be and have friends of good character and caliber.

A loving and supportive volunteer coordinator

Thankfully, children at Sebastian Elementary School have our volunteer coordinator, Genevieve, at the school’s Family Resource Center.

“Genevieve is a caring and dedicated staff member who is thrilled to partner with Children Incorporated sponsors to better equip students with the basic essentials and offer them a  positive influence,” said Renée Kube, our Director of U.S. Programs.

Renée is pictured with one of our sponsored children.

“It is always a pleasure and a treat to spend time Genevieve when I visit Breathitt County. She is another very long-serving coordinator and was the one who brought our organization to her school in 2004. She always goes above and beyond for her students.”

Parents lending a helping hand

During her most recent meeting at Sebastian Elementary School, Genevieve introduced Renée to her parent assistant, Jennifer.

“Jennifer is a wonderful help to Genevieve — and of course to our sponsorship program,” said Renée.

“She is the fourth assistant Genevieve has worked with through a program that places mothers in part-time employment at the school. Each of the previous mothers with whom Genevieve has worked has gone on to regular, full-time employment, in part thanks to the experience they got working at the Family Resource Center. Genevieve is very proud of them,” explained Renée.

“It’s an amazing program — mothers get to help children in our sponsorship program that are in need, and in exchange, can work towards helping to get their own families out of poverty. It’s a win-win situation.”

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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

Meeting Virtually with Our Volunteer Coordinators

Although in-person meetings with our volunteer coordinators were halted due to COVID-19, our amazing staff made sure they were still able to check in with our projects around the world to ensure children in our program continued to receive the care and support they needed.

Today, hear from U.S. Sponsorship Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, about her virtual meetings with coordinators in Kentucky and how your support has made an impact through the pandemic.

Although in-person meetings with our volunteer coordinators were halted due to COVID-19, our amazing staff made sure they were still able to check in with our projects around the world to ensure children in our program continued to receive the care and support they needed.

Louisa Elementary School

“I met with our volunteer coordinator, Jessica, who told me that the school closures and quarantine have been damaging to local small businesses and to employment numbers in Louisa County.

The majority of the jobs in the county are through the healthcare system or the school system. Many healthcare workers in the area have been furloughed since March because elective surgeries and procedures have been postponed for the time being. Recently there were five job openings at a regional medical center and over 160 applicants.

Most students at Louisa Elementary have internet connections in their homes. There are only about 5-8 families that do not. These students are given a new jump drive each week with their school work loaded onto it. A school staff member has trained the students and parents on how to use the jump drive.

Families who want to meet with the coordinator have to call and make an appointment to come up to the school. Jessica is also doing a lot of home visits to make sure the kids are doing OK with their school work and to make sure they have what they need like food, hygiene items, warm clothes, and whatever else may come up.” 

Lawrence County High and Louisa Middle Schools

“I spoke with Anne and Luann who co-coordinate the two schools. They are staying positive that school will resume in-person soon and families will be able to choose as to send their children or keep them at home. So far approximately 60% of the middle school parents want their kids back in school and about 50% of the high school parents.

Shelley was able to host virtual meetings with our volunteer coordinators since in-person meeting were not an option during the pandemic.

Until then, Anne and Luann’s day-to-day routine looks different than it used to without the students roaming the halls. The have been helping prepare the daily food service for their schools. The bus drivers deliver food to the children’s homes each day, giving faculty touchpoints with the families, which is a very important contact with the outside world because some kids haven’t left their home since March.

They will soon begin to do home visits to students themselves. This will also be an important touchpoint to check on the welfare of the students and to evaluate their needs. Some of the families have been calling in with needs, and Anne and Luann are quick to help.

There are not many active COVID-19 cases in the county as far as Luann and Anne know.  However, the response to the virus in the area has affected the local community. Many businesses have shortened their hours creating less work time for employees. Others have shut down and employees have been furloughed.

The local hospital had to file bankruptcy because they were unable to do surgeries for the first few months of the pandemic. As far the parents of Children Incorporated sponsored children, most were unemployed before the pandemic and they continue to be. This is why the program is so important for these families.

Luann and Anne have witnessed the mental and emotional aspect of the kids during the pandemic. They are seeing a lot more anxiety and depression. Even the kids who get out on family outings are struggling. Needless to say, those who are not getting out are really struggling. They hope that school will resume, at least to give it a chance and give the students a sense of normalcy.” 

Fallsburg Elementary School

“I spoke with our coordinator, Brenda, about the students and families she serves and how they are coping with the pandemic.

She said her families have experienced a lot of food insecurity during the virus. They have a food bank in the community that serves about 225 people every couple of weeks. Many of the families they are serving are experiencing food insecurity for the first time. These are mostly families who have lost an income due to closures caused by the pandemic. Fortunately, the school has also started the weekly meal delivery to the homes. These meals are delivered to each and every student whether it is needed or not.

“The kids are adjusting to the changes at different levels; some ok and others not. A lot of families do not have the internet because it is not available where they live.”

Brenda’s biggest concern is the mental health and wellbeing of the students. There is a lot of neglect, abuse and/or drug activity in some of the homes. Often a big brother or big sister is in charge of caring for younger siblings throughout the day and night, putting a lot of pressure and stress on them every day of the week. The school is a safety net for these children during the school week. A second grade teacher said she is witnessing her students have anxiety from having to sit still in front of a screen for hours in a row — it’s been really tough on the kids.

Brenda is keeping in touch with her families and checking on their needs by doing porch visits and scheduling meetings with families in the school parking lot. She said phone calls are not an effective method to root out needs; it’s better to see them face to face. Brenda uses Children Incorporated funds to purchase items these families need.

The pandemic has majorly affected funding for the drug rehab facilities and housing units in the area. Prior to the pandemic, residents of the group homes were given paid job training and leadership opportunities. When the budget was cut, these programs were no longer able to operate. Residents lost their incomes as well as their stability and many ended up back on drugs. This has been a very sad and unfortunate repercussion of the pandemic.”

Inez Elementary School

Thankfully, our coordinators are able to conduct home visits to bring our sponsored children supplies while they are out of school.

“I spoke via Facetime with our coordinator, Andrea, and asked her how COVID-19 is affecting her students and families. Andrea explained that the kids with parents who are involved in their school life and school work are doing OK. These parents are keeping their kids busy and on a schedule. Many have taken day trips or have planned activities. They make sure their kids are up in time for virtual learning and are doing their school work, and they are helping them with their schoolwork when necessary.

For other kids it is a huge step back. Many haven’t left home in months. There is no schedule; they’re staying up late and sleeping until mid-afternoon. Routines have been lost. Hygiene is a low priority. At school the teachers and staff could monitor hygiene and health. There has always been a problem with lice and hair care and this was monitored and treated at school. Now children are living with lice and their hair is matted. Food has become an issue; with children home 24/7 they are eating a lot and many families can’t afford this.

Without the busy, bustling school day, Andrea often doesn’t know how to start her day. She is ready to get into more of a routine. She is planning to do ten home visits a week, if possible, to check on her families and their needs. Many families contact her when there is a need but many do not. During each visit she plans to distribute a hygiene package.

Eden Elementary School

“I spoke with our coordinators, Marlena and Barb, via Facetime. I asked them how things were going for their students and families.

“Children Incorporated funds were very important once school closed down in mid-March. The meal buses were not taking food to the homes at that time and the supplemental income from the government had not begun so the coordinators used the money to buy food and cleaning supplies for the families.”

They told me that families in the area were handling shutdowns well and making adjustments. They said that up until the end of August the families who were living on unemployment and food stamps were actually doing OK because of the supplemental funding from the government. This funding has recently ended, and they expect these families will begin to contact the resource center for help with things like food and other basic necessities.

The kids are adjusting to the changes at different levels; some OK and others not. A lot of families do not have the internet because it is not available where they live. The school is putting lessons on flash drives which can be uploaded onto a Chromebook. The buses deliver the lessons each week. The buses also take food to the homes which is a great way to keep students and parents on a schedule and a great welfare check.

Children Incorporated funds were very important once school closed down in mid-March. The meal buses were not taking food to the homes at that time and the supplemental income from the government had not begun so the coordinators used the money to buy food and cleaning supplies for the families. Over the summer the gardening project funded by Children Incorporated was so important to the families because it gave them something to do, something to learn and provided supplemental fruits and vegetables for their pantries.”

Martin County High School

Thanks to our sponsors, kids have been provided for through school closures since last March.

“I had a Facetime meeting with Kara Beth at Martin County High School. She had just started the Youth Service Center position at the high school the day before. I asked her how her families are doing and she said most families are just rolling with it like everyone else. Kara Beth said this is a small-town community with not a lot going on anyway so the difference between now and a year ago is small other than the fact that kids can’t go to school.

She said they all feared that the families were going hungry or struggling in other ways but they were surprised it was better than they thought. If anything, the school work is the biggest struggle for these families and their children. The work is getting harder as the days go on and kids are having a hard time staying on top of it and remaining self-motivated.”

Warfield Elementary School

“I spoke with Amanda who told me that Martin County schools will begin hybrid learning; families have a choice between in-school learning or virtual learning.

Most families at Warfield have chosen to send their kids to school, especially after experiencing the small dose of virtual learning they’ve had since the start of the school year. Amanda is looking forward to when the kids return; she said the empty school building is just weird and lonely. She misses kids coming in and out of her office all day wanting to talk or needing something. Once the students return, if the school grows in COVID-19 cases, they will go back to all virtual learning. As of now, the cases in the area remain low but are projected to grow.

Amanda said most of the students have handled all of the changes OK. The kids are antsy but they’ve been rolling with it. School lessons aren’t live; the kids can do their assignments any time of day and the teachers are available during school hours for assisting students. This helps parents who work during the day to help their kids in the evenings with school work.

The impact of the virus on jobs has been felt across the community. There is a modular tiny-home/cabin factory in Inez which is adjacent to Warfield (same county) and they have furloughed all 180 employees. A lot of families drive to Pritchard, West Virginia to work at a parts factory — this is an hour drive each way.

Amanda plans to continue with her routine of shopping herself for our sponsored children instead of asking families to meet her at Walmart. She calls the parents to see what the kids need and then she goes to Walmart and shop for them and then delivers the items herself.”

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD?

You can sponsor a child with Children Incorporated 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

Taking Care of Her Own

We are fortunate that we often get news from our volunteer coordinators that really brightens our days.

Today, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, shares a  sweet story about two brothers who were recently enrolled in our sponsorship program and are waiting for sponsors.

Today, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, shares a  sweet story from our volunteer coordinator, Genevieve, about two brothers, Brandon and Alex*, who were recently enrolled in our sponsorship program and are waiting for sponsors.

A story about Brandon and Alex

“Genevieve called the other day and wanted to tell me about the boys’ stepmom, Patricia,” said Renée.

“Brandon is in second grade and Alex is in first. These brothers are hard of hearing, and neither speaks. They have a special teacher for the hearing impaired, and they can sign. Their mother abandoned the family when the boys were very young, and their single father was struggling to raise them. In order to care for his children, the boys’ father hired a babysitter to care for his sons so he could work, a young woman who he knew through extended family.”

The family’s home in Kentucky

“It’s not too surprising that after talking daily about the boys’ well-being and progress, their father and the babysitter grew close, and eventually they fell in love and got married. Now they have a little one of their own!” exclaimed Renée.

“I was so happy to hear this amazing story, but Genevieve saves the best for last. Before we ended our call, she told me that the boys’ stepmother, Patricia, is actually a former sponsored child from the Children Incorporated program!”

“Although they now have two loving and responsible parents, their family continues to struggle. The father lost his restaurant job after it cut staff due to the pandemic. So, they are really struggling now, and getting sponsors for the boys, Brandon and Alex, will be a big and appreciated help.”

“We love heartwarming stories such as this and would love to get these boys sponsored as soon as possible. We love that our program often comes around full circle for families and communities and especially in difficult times such as these, we are so pleased to be able to share special stories such as this one,” said Renée.

Please contact us directly today if you would like to sponsor Brandon or Alex today!

*Names changed to protect the individuals. 

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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

Stepping in to Help

It’s hard for people to ask for help in many situations — especially when it involves a person’s ability to care for their own family. But for families living in poverty, it is often a necessity for them, which is why our Hope In Action Fund exists to provide support when they need it the most.

Today we hear from our volunteer coordinator, Genevieve, at Sebastian Elementary School in Eastern Kentucky, about how Children Incorporated has been able to help families through our Hope In Action Fund thanks to our donors:

“As director of the Sebastian Elementary School Family Resource Center for the past fourteen years, let me say that no program does so much to help so many as Children Incorporated.

I am so thankful I work at a school Children Incorporated serves. It is a blessing, especially for the aging 61-year old grandmother struggling after surgery to raise her 6 and 7-year-old grandchildren, who attend my school. Children Incorporated stepped in and sent them money for laundry along with food boxes just to help out, blessing them with basic needs until the grandmother could get back to work. In the past, a home was devastated by fire in the dead of winter leaving seven of our students with nothing. Again, Children Incorporated stepped in and gave them clothes, shoes, and coats.

In the past, a home was devastated by fire in the dead of winter leaving seven of our students with nothing.Children Incorporated stepped in and gave them clothes, shoes, and coats.

Recently, a struggling mother asked for help, as she could not provide her daughter with an Ipad for educational support. Children Incorporated gave the blessing for that to be made possible. Thank you for helping her provide that need for her child. Her daughter was so happy as she looked at the Ipad and was absolutely jumping for joy!”

About Sebastian Elementary School

Located in rural and mountainous eastern Kentucky, Breathitt County is one of the 100 poorest counties in the United States. The economic prospects of Breathitt County are, at best, bleak. The coal mining industry that once dominated this area and provided employment for the majority of its population has been declining.

Today, there are few job opportunities for the area: three small factories, a community college, a grocery store, a department store, a small medical center, a juvenile detention center, and the county education system. Many families who once relied upon mining jobs for income now depend upon part-time employment at minimum wages and/or federal assistance such as welfare checks and food stamps. Tragically, drug and alcohol abuse are common, both stemming from and further contributing to these difficult socioeconomic circumstances. Children here, therefore, not only struggle with lack of basic needs, such as food, clothing, and school supplies; they are also often in dire need of encouragement and positive interaction with adults — positive role models who teach them how to maintain strong moral values and to be and have friends of good character and caliber.

For this reason, Sebastian Elementary School serves as a beacon of hope for the surrounding community. The school’s caring and dedicated staff is thrilled to partner with Children Incorporated sponsors to better equip students with the basic essentials, positive influence, and well-rounded education they need to break the cycle of poverty and rise above the difficult circumstances they face each day.

***

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