Tag Archives: kentucky

Back to School Bash in Letcher County

*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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Letcher County is located in the southeastern corner of Kentucky and shares a border with Wise County, Virginia.

“Letcher County is very beautiful. On its eastern border runs a vast tract of the Jefferson National Forest, which is shared with Virginia,” explained our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube.

Jenkins Independent School is a long-established project with Children Incorporated, and our sponsorship programs are much needed and appreciated by the students.

“A point of pride in the county is Pine Mountain. It’s the second-highest mountain in Kentucky and is also an exceptionally long mountain whose ridge runs about 100 miles from just below the West Virginia line south through the Kentucky-Virginia border to Tennessee, including the entire length of Letcher County.”

“The county is trying hard to develop the tourist industry by promoting the scenic beauty to be enjoyed in its trails and parks. These include the Pine Mountain State Scenic Trail, Bad Branch Falls, and the Pioneer Horse Trail,” said Renée.

The need for tourists

The reason the county is working so diligently to promote tourism is due to the collapse of the coal industry. There used to be dozens of coal camps in Letcher County, each employing an average of 30 to 300 men who lived in the camps with their families. However, with the rise of automation, coal extraction and processing could be done with a significantly reduced number of workers. This was devastating for the families, and also devastating for communities that lost the tax base for their schools and community services.

“Letcher County has formally asked the U.S. government to construct a federal penitentiary on the site of an abandoned mountain top strip mine. Letcher County Judge-Executive, Jim Ward, was interviewed by NBC News about the prospective prison. He said the economic situation is desperate in Letcher County. He has talked to residents who have lost their jobs and homes. He has talked with parents who see no hope for their children to be successful if they grow up and stay in the county. He said residents are willing to try or do almost anything to save their rural way of life,” said Renée.

Running programs to help children in need

The front view of Jenkins High School

Jenkins Independent School is a long-established project with Children Incorporated, and our sponsorship program is much needed and appreciated by the students. The school serves students in seventh through twelfth grade in a  two-story building comprising twenty classrooms, two computer labs, a cafeteria, a gymnasium, an art room, a band/music room, a library, a guidance office, and four special education rooms.

Our volunteer coordinator, Angie, is an experienced coordinator who works tirelessly to bring resources for her students. She runs a Backpack Feeding Program for those who struggle to cope with food insecurity. She maintains clothing and supply closets, and she is always reaching out for more donations within the small community to further help children and their families.

Angie’s “Back to School Bash” is one of the key programs that she hosts every year, where she brings in informational booths to set-up on the school’s softball field, giving parents and children a chance to learn about any number of services the school and the community offers.

During a visit to the school last year, Renée had the chance to hear more about the programs Angie runs within the school. Then, Angie brought in a couple of students to her office for Renée to meet.

Angie’s “Back to School Bash” is one of the key programs that she hosts every year, where she brings in informational booths to set-up on the school’s softball field, giving parents and children a chance to learn about any number of services the school and the community offers.

Much-needed support for kids in need

Brian* is a sweet and rather shy seventh-grader. In school, he likes math, music, and playing baseball. Brian is not sure about his future plans, but he is interested in becoming a firefighter or maybe a construction worker.

“After he returned to class, Angie told me that Brian’s father had died unexpectedly, and his mother has struggled with raising him as a single parent. Angie was so grateful that Brian had the support of his sponsor because she knew he needed the help,” said Renée.

Next, Renée met Julia.* When Julia joined our sponsorship program in 2011, when she was in elementary school, she was matched with a sponsor who is still supporting her today. Even though Julia has moved multiple times over the years, Angie always made sure she still stayed connected with her sponsor.

“Julia told me that her sponsors feel like grandparents to her. She is grateful for their financial help, and just as appreciative for the emotional support. They sent packages, additional money gifts, and letters that are precious to Julia,” said Renée.

*Names changed to protect the children.

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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

Special Funds Helping Special Children in Fleming-Neon

*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 Fleming-Neon, Kentucky, has deep roots in the coal mining industry.

The Elkhorn Coal Corporation moved into the area in 1913, establishing the mining town of Fleming and several satellite communities, including a town called Chip.

“They said that while students enrolled in our program waited to be sponsored, it meant the world to them to receive coats and warm clothes, as well as school supplies and other basic essentials,” expressed Renée.

Local tradition holds that when the train that hauled coal from the mine in Fleming made stops in nearby Chip, the conductor would holler instructions to people climbing aboard to “knee on,” and that this exclamation morphed into the town’s present name, Neon. Coal from this region once fueled factories, powered locomotives, and heated millions of homes.

However, with the sharp decline of the coal industry due to automation and the increased use of other fuels, the lack of employment opportunities has fueled widespread poverty and depopulation throughout the region.

Today, the Fleming-Neon community has a population of only about 650 people – roughly half of what it was in 1980. Moreover, the median household income here is lower than even the Letcher County average, and nearly half of this community’s population lives below the poverty line. Families here struggle to afford even basic needs.

Meeting with Candi and Anne

Our affiliated project, Fleming-Neon Middle School, serves children in grades 6th through 8th.

“Fleming-Neon Middle is the feeder school for our affiliated, Martha Jane Potter Elementary School. For our sponsors at these projects, they have the best continuity with their relationships with the kids, as they can follow them from elementary school through middle and on to Letcher County Central High School as well,” explained Renée.

Candi and Anne with one of our sponsored children at Fleming-Neon Middle School.

While recently visiting the school, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, met with the school’s guidance counselor, Candi, as well as the Family Resource Youth Services Center Coordinator, Anne, who run our sponsorship program together.

“While meeting with Candi and Anne in Candi’s office, they expressed how thankful they were for not only Hope In Action Funds that we provided to the school but for Warm Clothing Funds as well.”

“They said that while students enrolled in our program waited to be sponsored, it meant the world to them to receive coats and warm clothes, as well as school supplies and other basic essentials,” expressed Renée.

Patiently waiting for a sponsor

After their meeting concluded, Renée met with a few unsponsored children who have benefited from our special funds.

Ben* is a sixth-grader who is full of humor and has an outsized personality. He loves to wear boots and camouflage clothing. Ben and his younger sister live with their parents, both of whom are disabled and unemployed.

“Ben is utterly confident in who he is. I asked him if he has begun thinking about his interests and what he might do with his future, and he said probably a coal miner or a diesel mechanic or a Marine,” said Renée.

Next, Renée met Crista.* Crista is in sixth grade. She enjoys science and solving puzzles, and she is interested in becoming a doctor because the idea of diagnosing illness sounds interesting to her. She has two older sisters and one younger brother. Crista’s mom is a homemaker. Her father is unemployed at this time, but he gives back to the community by serving as a volunteer firefighter.

After Crista returned to class, Candi and Anne told Renée that Crista’s parents are responsible and loving but are really struggling. They feel a sponsor will be a huge help and boost in confidence for Crista.

*Names changed to protect the children.

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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 Positive Contribution In Our Community, Nation and World

*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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Built to consolidate three existing high schools into a single school, Letcher County Central High School opened in 2005 with a profound and straightforward mission: “to provide a quality education for every student in Letcher County, ensuring each student will achieve his/her full potential to make a positive contribution in our community, nation, and world.”

“I was thrilled at the thought of Children Incorporated helping Laura to make her dreams come true,” said Renée.

Thanks to its dedicated staff and administrators, Letcher County High School has received a bronze rating from “U.S. News Best High Schools” and has received similar recognition for its sports teams, clubs, and marching band. The school also offers Advanced Placement courses and vocational training to help support children and encourage them to pursue academics or jobs of their liking.

A proud volunteer coordinator

While visiting Letcher County High School, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, met with our volunteer coordinator, Jennifer.

“Jennifer was proud to show me her Children Incorporated notebook where she organized all of the paperwork for our program. Her and her assistant, Paula, expressed their excitement to grow our program at the school, and even mentioned recruiting some parent volunteers to help,” said Renée.

Meeting Laura

Jennifer and our sponsored child, Laura

Renée then had a chance to meet one of the students in our sponsorship program.

Jennifer invited Laura* into her resource room to introduce herself to Renée. Laura is in the ninth grade and is interested in becoming a cosmetologist. She and her best friend are always practicing hairstyles on each other, and they’ve been talking about cosmetology school for about a year.

“After Laura left the office, Jennifer shared that, as is the case with many of the families of children in our program, Laura and her two siblings are being raised by their grandmother. [Her gradmother] lost her job and has been having a great deal of trouble stretching her limited benefits to provide for the household. Our program is a godsend to Laura’s grandmother,” explained Renée.

“I then told Jennifer about our Higher Education Program that could assist with tuition for vocational and technical institutes — just like the one that Laura would attend to become a cosmetologist.”

“I was thrilled at the thought of Children Incorporated helping Laura to make her dreams come true,” said 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

Beds and Blankets for Sisters in Need

During the difficult time of changes due to the COVID-19 virus, donations to our Beds and Linens Fund from our donors — just like you —were able to help two sisters in need before they weren’t able to return to school for some time.

Our volunteer coordinator, Jackie, at one of our affiliated schools in Kentucky, became aware that these two young girls enrolled in our sponsorship program didn’t have beds at home. With funding from Children Incorporated, she purchased blankets, sheets, mattresses, and bed frames and arranged for them to be delivered and set up in the family’s home.

With funding from Children Incorporated, she purchased blankets, sheets, mattresses, and bed frames and arranged for them to be delivered and set up in the family’s home.

Thank you for all that you do to provide for children in need through your sponsorship and donation to our Beds and Linens Fund!

Because of you, these girls and other children in our program now have comfortable beds for a good night’s rest while school is out – and for after they return to school.

How do I donate to the bed and linens fund?

Children living in poverty often go without mattresses, bedding and linens. Many do not have beds of their own and sleep on cold, hard floors. Your donations will help us to provide these children with comfortable places to sleep.

Every year, we provide hundreds of children with beds and linens so they can sleep comfortably at night. To make a donation, visit our Beds and Linens Fund donation page, or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.

DONATE

Together, We Can Change Lives — One Child at a Time

Dear Friends,

I want to tell you a story about a special young lady named Anna.* Anna lives in Kentucky and is a senior in high school. She is an ambitious girl who has always dreamed of a better life for herself — better than the life she had become so accustomed to as she was growing up.

Years ago, Teresa, our volunteer coordinator at the school Anna attends, saw Anna’s potential to rise above poverty.

As one in a family with seven children, Anna’s home was chaotic. She had no personal space, no privacy, and it was next to impossible for her to find a quiet place to study.  This was a problem for Anna who wanted to make good grades and excel in her schoolwork. Her parents worked hard to provide for their family, but there was just not enough room for all of them. Additionally, there was never enough food, and Anna and her siblings were often forced to wear worn and tattered shoes and clothing. They often attended school with insufficient school supplies.

Dreams for the future

Since Anna started high school, she has participated in the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps. She now wants to join the Army as soon as she graduates from high school in the spring.  She then hopes to get a college degree and continue to serve our country as a military nurse.

Years ago, Teresa, our volunteer coordinator at the school Anna attends, saw Anna’s potential to rise above poverty.

She saw Anna’s drive and determination to do something more with her life, and enrolled Anna in the Children Incorporated sponsorship program. Thanks to the hard work of our U.S. Sponsorship Division, Anna was matched with a sponsor very quickly, and Teresa was able to use the funds she received to buy Anna new clothes, hygiene items and other items she desperately needed.

When Anna turned eighteen in December, she moved out of her family home and in with a friend’s mother, where she hoped to find a peaceful place to accomplish her studies. For a while, things went well, but then quite suddenly, her circumstances changed and she was forced to find another place to stay. Anna packed her meager possessions into a trash bag and set off to find a new home or someone that would give her lodging. She missed quite a bit of school while she was looking for a place to stay, until finally a friend offered to let Anna move in with her family and sleep on their sofa.

Helping Anna in a time of need

Teresa found out that Anna had missed quite a few days of school and immediately recognized that Anna was in danger of becoming a drop-out; something Teresa definitely did not want to happen.  Teresa reached out to Renée Kube, our Director of U.S. Programs, and asked for help for Anna so that she could survive through winter break and into the new year. Children Incorporated, through our Hope In Action Fund, was able to provide Anna with food and other necessities, as well as financial assistance to cover her various living expenses.  As a bonus, Children Incorporated helped her share a nice Christmas dinner with her host family.  Teresa, our wonderful volunteer coordinator, helped her find part-time work at local café, the same one where Teresa’s daughter is employed.  Anna is now making some money of her own and can contribute to her friend’s household, where she plans to stay until graduation from high school in the spring.  After that, she intends to join the Army.

Will you consider making a donation to our Hope In Action Fund today? With your help, we will continue to be ready to help children in need at any time – for any reason.

None of this could have happened without the support of our Hope In Action Fund — as well as that of Anna’s sponsor. This very special fund is intended to help in wide-ranging and diverse situations,  including ones just like Anna’s.  When emergencies arise and families and sponsored children need assistance, sometimes beyond what sponsorship alone can provide, Hope In Action is there to help fill in the gaps. For Anna, the assistance she received from Hope In Action dollars made an incredible difference.

Will you consider making a donation to our Hope In Action Fund today? With your help, we will continue to be ready to help children in need at any time – for any reason.

From the heart,
Ronald H. Carter
President and CEO
Children Incorporated

*Name changed to protect the child.

MAKE A DONATION

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Looking for the Bigger Picture

When I received an email earlier this year from sponsor Laura DeCook about a bake sale fundraiser she was hosting, I was thrilled to hear about her efforts to help her sponsored child, Caroline*, beyond her monthly sponsorship contribution.

What I didn’t realize at the time was just how much more Laura was doing when it came to being involved in Caroline’s life — and the lives of other children as well.

I would soon find out that Laura had plans to fly from California to Kentucky to meet Caroline in person and that the donations she was collecting were going towards helping other children at Caroline’s school — those kids that don’t have sponsors like Laura yet.

I caught up with Laura to ask her about her sponsorship experience, her visit to Kentucky and how she feels about the power of sponsoring a child.

An interview with Laura DeCook

Laura’s mother accompanied Laura on her trip to Kentucky.

SC: Do you recall how you first got involved with sponsoring a child with Children Incorporated?

LD: Yes! I was going through a difficult time professionally and mentally, and someone told me about the book “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.”

I had been looking into organizations where I could give back and stop focusing so much on myself and looking at the bigger picture, which would make me feel more satisfied with my life.

When I read how much the author loved Children Incorporated, I did my research and loved what I saw. I immediately decided to sponsor a child most in need and was assigned to a very young boy, Elisandro, in Guatemala. He moved away about five years later, and I temporarily sponsored another boy until he too moved away.

I now sponsor the loveliest boy in Guatemala City, Danny, who is twelve years old. He writes the most eloquent letters I’ve ever seen a young boy write. I can tell he is going to be very successful one day.

SC: You sponsor a young girl in Kentucky named Caroline. What level of communication have you kept with her through your sponsorship? What has that communication meant to you and her?

LD: After sponsoring children in Guatemala for years, I decided I would like to sponsor another child in the U.S. — one that I could send packages to and maybe eventually meet in person more easily. Caroline was around eight years old when we first began writing to each other, and I loved seeing photos of her wearing the clothes I had picked out — including a cool jacket with the letter “C” on it.

“I’ll never forget Caroline trying to fit all of the clothing and art supplies I brought with me into her locker with a huge smile on her face.”

She wrote me really sweet letters every couple of months, always answering the questions I asked her in mine. She is eleven now, so it’s been quite a few years seeing her grow up in photos and the way she writes now, which is so much more mature.

SC: What was your motivation to host a fundraiser to provide additional support for the school where Caroline attends?

LD: One day, at the start of the summer, I was at the gym thinking about what I wanted to do for my birthday. Since parties aren’t a big deal to me anymore, I didn’t want my friends to feel obliged to go out and spend a lot of money.

I then had the idea that I would start a fundraiser to help out Caroline’s school through a PayPal money pool. I had decided by that time that I was going to visit her in Kentucky over Labor Day weekend so that I could tell her school’s Resource Coordinator about the donation in person. I was able to raise a great deal from generous friends quickly, but I wanted to go even higher.

Funds raised from Laura’s bake sale went to support children without sponsors at the school where Laura sponsors Caroline.

I then thought of another way to quickly fundraise — a bake sale at my company. Last year I had run a charity bake sale for a veteran’s organization over the 4th of July, so I thought, why not for Children Incorporated this year?

My company, Expedia Group, matches dollar-for-dollar to charitable organizations, so I knew I’d be able to raise quite a bit. After all was said and done, the bake sale raised about $700, and my friends donated the rest to make my total close to $1100. Expedia matched it, and the funds were given to the school and to three boys awaiting sponsorship there.

SC: That’s incredible! Can you tell us more about what your visit with Caroline was like for you?

LD: It was amazing. I still think about it all of the time. When Caroline and her sister, who is also sponsored through the Children Incorporated program, walked into the room, it was like a photo coming to life. Caroline was so excited she was shaking.

It only took about 15 minutes of conversation to feel a bond to her and her sister. We were soon laughing, talking about our lives, our pets, school, telling jokes, everything! What I thought would be one hour turned into close to three. The head of the school’s resource center, Angela, is a saint. She was such a wonderful host and had lunch waiting and answered every question I had about the girls’ lives before I met them. She showed me around her office, where she has neatly organized bins of clothing for children who come to school with dirty clothes or need an article of clothing. Getting to know her was just as much fun as meeting Caroline!

Caroline and her sister took Angela and me on a tour of their school before we said goodbye. I had tears in my eyes. I’ll never forget Caroline trying to fit all of the clothing and art supplies I brought with me into her locker with a huge smile on her face.

SC: Did you know much about Kentucky before your visit? What stood out to you?

“It is the best $30 a month anyone could spend. Children Incorporated and its sponsors are seriously changing lives.”

LD: I work in travel, so I had a general idea of the lay of the land and had read about Lexington and the beautiful horse farms and great food.

It was fun to see some of Kentucky a couple of days before I drove out to Appalachia, starting in Louisville, then to Lexington. The thing that stood out the most was the genuine Southern charm that everyone has. People were so down to earth and kind. It’s a huge change from so much of the Bay Area where everyone is always rushing from one place to another. In Kentucky, they seem to really slow down and enjoy life more.

The highlight of the sightseeing portion of the trip was going to a farm with retired horses that had run in the Kentucky Derby, some having made millions of dollars from their days on the track. I’m not a big supporter of horse racing but love how well the horses are now being taken care of in their old age!

Angela is pictured with Caroline and her sister. Caroline’s sister is also in our sponsorship program.

SC: What would you tell someone else sponsoring a child who might be considering doing so themselves?

LD: It seriously has been the most rewarding experience. Connecting with a child who is lacking so much that others take for granted has been so humbling.

Seeing the huge smiles on their faces when I get pictures of them with new clothes and shoes sometimes makes me really emotional but in a good way. It is the best $30 a month anyone could spend. Children Incorporated and its sponsors are seriously changing lives.

*Names changed to protect the children.

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How do I sponsor a child with Children Incorporated?

You can sponsor a child with Children Incorporated in one of three ways – call our office and speak with one of our sponsorship specialists at 1-800-538-5381, email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org, or go online to our donation portal, create an account, and search for a child that is available for sponsorship.

SPONSOR A CHILD