Tag Archives: stories of hope

As a part of our “Virtual Tour” of our Floyd County, Kentucky affiliated sites, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, tells us about her “visit” to John Stumbo Elementary School.

“This is a small school in the community of Grethel, which is in a very rural area about 20 miles south-southeast of the county seat, Prestonsburg. The community is on Kentucky Route 979, and besides the school, there is a small post office and a Dollar General store.”

Angie told me that the parents our sponsored children are incredibly grateful for the help given by the sponsors.

“John Stumbo serves 344 students in grades Pre-Kindergarten through 8th. About 84% of the children come from low-income families. The children struggle academically too. Test scores are below the state average, with science at 22% and social studies at 39%.”

Working hard to help kids and families in need

“Our Volunteer Coordinator is Angie. She works tirelessly at the Family Resource Youth Services Center to help the children and their families. When the pandemic started, Angie was very worried about how she would be able to shop properly for the students. In the early days, there were limits on the number of items she could buy per shopping trip. Many stores had low inventories, and so things ranging from hand sanitizer to Lysol wipes were limited.”

“She was also concerned about getting correspondence from their children for their sponsors since the children were at home instead of in the school, and many didn’t have internet or phones for her to check in on them. She was gradually able to work out the kinks, and she began feeling some confidence. She was able to make a big shopping trip at the end of April 2020, and she made home deliveries to every single Children Incorporated sponsored child. Once the 2020-2021 school year began, the shortages eased up, and Angie was able to make plans and to shop without any difficulties.”

“But, unfortunately, she had other challenges. Floyd County had a couple of surges of the COVID-19 virus, driven by variants. She talked with many worried parents and grandparents, especially those who are medically vulnerable. One of her students lost her custodial grandmother due to COVID-19, which was heartbreaking.”

Yearning to get back to normal

“Angie commented that when the current 2021-2022 school year began, she detected a high level of ‘COVID fatigue’ among students and their caretakers. The kids especially yearned to get back to normal, and she empathized with them – she wanted them to be able to have less to worry about and just focus on learning and getting to see their friends and feel a little closer to normal.”

“At the end of our virtual meeting, Angie told me that the parents our sponsored children are incredibly grateful for the help given by the sponsors. With inflation hitting the gas stations and grocery stores, parents’ very limited budgets are being squeezed almost to the breaking point. Our sponsors’ support with the children’s school clothes, classroom supplies, and hygiene items is deeply appreciated.”

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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

Our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, has two more stops on her virtual tour of Floyd County, Kentucky, which she conducted this past spring. Today, Renée met with Sharon at May Valley Elementary School to hear about how our sponsors are supporting students in this small community.

Meeting with Sharon

“May Valley is located in the community of Martin, right off of Kentucky Route 80. It is a busier and more bustling community than Eastern or Grethel. Martin has a grocery store, a gas/convenience mart, and a Walgreens pharmacy — which doesn’t sound like much but is more than some towns have in this part of the U.S.”

Sharon has always been very active on behalf of her students and readily asks Children Incorporated for extra assistance from our Hope In Action Program.

“The school educates 341 students in pre-Kindergarten through 5th grade. The children here are performing higher than the state average on state tests, which is wonderful, considering that a majority of them come from difficult circumstances. The poverty rate at May Valley is high — 78% of households struggle to make ends meet.”

“The Family Resource Center Coordinator, Sharon, is also our volunteer coordinator. Sharon is an experienced, long serving coordinator who will be retiring in September 2022 and will be greatly missed by all of us at Children Incorporated, and I am sure by her students and the staff at May Valley.”

Our special funds helping kids in need

“Sharon has always been very active on behalf of her students and readily asks Children Incorporated for extra assistance from our Hope In Action Program, as funds are needed. We have been glad to help, and Sharon is very appreciative of our sponsors and donors.”

“We have recently provided aid for two little girls who had no beds. Thanks to our Beds and Linens Fund, the girls now have cozy beds of their own, ensuring they are well rested and ready to learn.”

“Sharon requested travelers’ aid for a little boy and his mother. The boy needed special surgery and was referred to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Thanks to our donors, we were able to provide some assistance with food and gas to and from the hospital, which the family desperately needed with no means to have emergency savings. We were delighted to hear that the young man came through his surgery with flying colors and made an excellent recovery!”

A letter from Sharon

After receiving Hope In Action funding, Sharon sent us to thank our donors for the support. Sharon wrote:

‘I would like to express my appreciation for your generous donation. I completed a home visit recently and saw dire circumstances. The home visit was to assess the living conditions of two little girls, their maternal grandmother, and their maternal great grandmother. The girls’ mother has not been able to look after them for some time. After the death of the mothers’ husband, she lost the family home.’

Sharon sent a photo of the new beds along with her letter of appreciation.

‘The two women rented a house, but it caught fire, and they lost everything. Thankfully, a relative had a small house left to her, and she has allowed the four of them to move into it. When I arrived at this house, among other things, I found that one of the girls was sleeping in the only bed. The two adult women and the other girl were sleeping on an old mattress on the floor.’

‘I called Children Incorporated and spoke to the U.S. Program Director, Renée Kube, who said right away that help could be provided. Renée also mentioned that a special gift had been given by two sponsors to be used for children in the Appalachian Mountain region. My school is located in Floyd County in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. There is a high poverty rate here and many families are struggling.’

‘With the funds, I purchased a set of bunk beds and mattresses for the girls, and a twin bed and mattress for their grandmother. The top bunk has a built-in desk. Arlene and Mary put two stools there, and the girls sit together and do their homework and studies.’

‘The girls are so, so happy with their new beds and want me to thank you for caring about them. They are so appreciative. You have made a huge difference in the girls’ healthy sleep, comfort, and education.’

***

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

As a part of our 2022 “Virtual Visit” series, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, takes us to Duff-Allen Central Elementary in Floyd County, Kentucky where she “meets” with Scott, our volunteer coordinator, at the school.

“Duff-Allen Central Elementary is a large elementary school also located in the community of Eastern. It serves about 626 students from pre-kindergarten to 8th grade. It was formerly two separate schools on the same campus – James A. Duff Elementary and Allen Central Middle – but the Board of Education voted to consolidate and have just one set of administrators.”

“Scott closed by saying his favorite part of our sponsorship program is the simple, ordinary things, like meeting a family in need in Walmart, which might feel mundane to us. But the kids in our program are over the moon with excitement to be there!”

“The Family Resource Youth Services Center has always been a combined center for both the elementary and middle students. Its coordinator, Scott, is our volunteer coordinator.”

“Many students at the school struggle academically and financially, and the situation became worse during the pandemic. At present, the Algebra 1 participation rate is just 11%, and the pass rate is less than 1%. The rate of children living in poverty is 77%.”

“When we met virtually, Scott expressed how happy he is now that the school has returned to fully in-person instruction over the last semester. Parents and guardians still have the choice to enroll their children into the county-wide Virtual Academy due to medical conditions or other vulnerabilities if they prefer. In fact, Scott’s wife is the principal of the Virtual Academy! Scott made a point to mention that regardless of the virtual option, all administrators, faculty, and staff at Duff-Allen believe strongly that in-person instruction is best for the students and their education and well-being.”

Scott did express to me that he has had some struggles during the pandemic. In the beginning, with school on fully remote instruction, students and parents were less responsive. It was hard to coordinate services, but things are starting to turn around. He is now very busy making home visits and taking stock of his office and resources. He is extremely grateful for the extra support provided by Children Incorporated during the pandemic, as well as during last year’s severe spring flooding in the area. He mentioned that now, he could really use help with his clothes closet, as he is totally out of important items like leggings and socks and underwear.”

“Scott closed by saying his favorite part of our sponsorship program is the simple, ordinary things, like meeting a family in need in Walmart, which might feel mundane to us. But the kids in our program are over the moon with excitement to be there! Scott remembers one of his former families consisted of two sets of twins, and their family experienced extreme poverty. He will always remember the twins for their enthusiasm and great appreciation for their sponsors, because their support allowed them to pick out clothing that was new and fit them — something they had never gotten to do before in their lives.”

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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

When the Covid-19 pandemic struck hard in March 2020, all U.S. schools went fully virtual. They had no time to prepare — everything was done, as the old saying goes, “on a wing and prayer.” However, for most districts, the school year was over by mid-May, and at first everyone thought things would be back to normal soon. Then, the realization sank in across the country that the pandemic would get worse before it got better, so the summer of 2020 was used to plan for a very different 2020-2021 school year.

Our volunteer coordinators at schools around the country coped during the 2020-2021 school year with a mixture of hybrid and virtual instruction and outreach. They rose admirably to the challenge.

Our volunteer coordinators at schools around the country coped during the 2020-2021 school year with a mixture of hybrid and virtual instruction and outreach. They rose admirably to the challenge. Again, in May 2021, there was a sense of optimism, only to be faced with the late summer Delta variant and the late autumn Omicron variant. Many school districts opened their doors in August 2021 for in-person instruction while others chose hybrid. Due to rising infection rates, many had to go back and forth between in-person and virtual learning. Some have continued with virtual instruction only.

Though we haven’t been able to visit our affiliated sites in-person, Children Incorporated staff has stayed in close contact through lots of emails and phone calls, as well as virtual visits via FaceTime, Zoom, and Google Meet. Over the next weeks, we will share with you stories from our “virtual trip report” about our organization’s affiliations in beautiful Floyd County, Kentucky and how our sponsors’ support has been especially important during the past two years.

We hope you enjoy taking this “virtual trip” with us and thank you for all your support of children in our program in Floyd County, Kentucky and around the world!

About Floyd County

Coal was first discovered in the American colonies in 1750. It was found in what would become Kentucky, when explorer Thomas Walker used some coal to heat his campfire. However, it would be another 150 years before coal was mined in the Eastern Coalfields region on a large commercial scale. In 1820, the first commercial coal mine opened in Muhlenberg County, in western Kentucky.

The decline of the coal industry has in so many ways effected families and communities in Eastern Kentucky.

Floyd County was a former major coal mining area with a long and noted history of which its residents are extremely proud. In 1900, the first commercial coal mine in the Eastern Coalfields region was opened in the Betsy Layne community in Floyd County. Coal mining experienced periods of boom and bust during the 20th century. The two world wars were boom periods. The first was followed by a deep bust, brought on by the end of war production and the start of the Great Depression. After World War II, the Korean War kept the second boom going longer. However, railroads and households began shifting from coal to oil and gas for their energy needs, and the industry experienced another downturn.

The decline of coal

Two developments have resulted in the major reduction of  coal mines — increased mechanization which has reduced the need for labor, and the regulation of factory emissions by the 1990 Clean Air Act. Kentucky coal, has a high sulfur content, making it less desirable than coal in other parts of the country, and factory emissions with high sulfur content contribute to high rates of acid rain, which leads to deforestation and makes water sources acidic. Coal companies can remove the sulfur through scrubbers, switch to mining low-sulfur coal, which is found in western states like Wyoming, or pay fines for their sulfur production.

The result of factory emissions regulation has been a steadily decreasing number of coal mines and of well-paying mining jobs in eastern Kentucky. But the issue goes beyond that, as the coal economy once supported communities across the entire Eastern Coalfields region. Other sectors, which have fewer customers with purchasing power, such as the banking, engineering, construction, transportation, and related manufacturing sectors, have been impacted as well. Over time, the results are fewer jobs, and those left are mostly service jobs (fast food restaurants, convenience stores, gas stations, etc.) that pay low wages. With the decline of the coal industry came a rise in poverty.

Poverty is linked to poor health and food insecurity, and Floyd County residents have long been plagued by all three. In Floyd County, rates of premature death and infant mortality are twice as high than the rest of the nation. Three in ten adults are obese. Four in ten adults exercise less than once a month. More than one-third of adults describe their health as fair or poor. More than one-third smoke, which is twice the national average. There is also a serious problem with opioid addiction. Some Floyd County families have trouble getting to the doctor, contacting the doctor, or just don’t believe in going to the doctor.

For the children, the schools have been a place not only of education, but the lifeline of the federal free breakfast and lunch program.

Extreme poverty in Kentucky

In 2019, USA Today reported a finding by 24/7 Wall Street, which had conducted an index study of three measures: poverty, the percentage of adults who have at least a bachelor’s degree, and average life expectancy at birth. They used these to identify the “25 Worst Counties In Which To Live In America.” Floyd County was #25. The report stated Floyd County, in the center of Appalachian Kentucky, epitomizes the social and economic problems of the region. More than 30% of residents live below the poverty line, and a similar percentage rely on SNAP benefits (food stamps) to afford minimum basic essentials. Floyd is losing residents rapidly. In the last five years, the population has dropped 5.1% even as the U.S. population grew by 3.8%.

For 10 years, the organization Feeding America has been conducting a “Map the Meal Gap” study to improve our understanding of food insecurity. The term refers to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s measure of both lack of access to enough food for an active healthy lifestyle and limited availability of nutritious food. Food insecure children are those living in food insecure households. The most recent mapping was based on data from 2018. However, due to Covid-19, the organization also released a companion study and interactive map to show the impact of the pandemic on food insecurity. For Floyd County, the overall food insecurity rate is 22.1%. The child food insecurity rate is 31.7%.

According to the Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED) website, the all-age poverty rate in Floyd County has declined since 2000. However, the U.S. Census Bureau shows the all-age poverty rate is still high at 27.4%, and using the last available data from 2018, the “Well Being in The Nation Network” shows the Floyd County child poverty rate is 31.7%. Both rates are higher than the national averages.

The importance of our partnerships

For the children, the schools have been a place not only of education, but the lifeline of the federal free breakfast and lunch program. The schools are also a place of community and care, of secure and stable routines, and exposure to the enrichment of activities, clubs, and athletics. The Covid-19 pandemic has kept vulnerable children at home for much of the past two years. Some children adapted well to remote learning, but others not so much.

Our valued partnership with the Family Resource Youth Services Centers is so important to providing basic necessities to children in our program. Our missions are complementary, and our sponsors and donors provide the resources that help them remove barriers to the children’s full potential.

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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

Children Incorporated is thrilled to announce our partnership with the Spirit Airlines Charitable Foundation. To mark fifteen years of flights to San Jose, Costa Rica, Spirit Airlines wanted to give back to children, families, and communities in the area.

“Lanie Morgenstern, the Senior Manager of Corporate Social Responsibility & Strategic Partnerships with Spirit Airlines contacted us and was very enthusiastic about our work in Costa Rica,” explained Children Incorporated Director of Development, Shelley Callahan.

Spirit Airlines is committed to having a positive impact on the world in many different ways through their partnerships with organizations just like ours.

“Lanie felt that our work directly lined up with the mission and vision of the Spirit Airlines Charitable Foundation and wanted to provide immediate educational and basic needs support to children who attend our affiliated sites in San Jose.”

“I also felt that this partnership was ideal for both the children in our programs and for the sites we support. The donation from Spirit Airlines Charitable Foundation will allow our volunteer coordinators to purchase much-needed food items, hygiene items, mattresses, clothes, shoes and school supplies for the children we support,” explained Callahan.

“These items are essential to their health, well-being, and education and we are so grateful for Lanie and the whole Spirit Airlines Team.”

Spirit Airlines is committed to having a positive impact on the world in many different ways through their partnerships with organizations just like ours.

Its website states: “The Spirit Charitable Foundation believes change starts by giving back. We are committed to inspiring positive change in the communities where we live and work. We invest in organizations that have a meaningful social impact on the lives of Children and Families, Service Members and the Environment, through Team Member volunteerism, monetary, and in-kind donations. Every child should have a bright future, which is why we support and volunteer with organizations that focus on developing our next generation. Our efforts improve children’s lives and their future opportunities to learn and grow and become successful members of their communities.”

Thank you, Spirit Airlines Charitable Foundation, for all your support!

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After a little more than a week in Mexico, the time has come for Luis and I to visit our last affiliated site before returning home to the United States.

Hogar Santa Maria is located just across the river from the city center of Guadalajara where you will find high rise hotels and a bustling main street. The contrast is stark as we drive from our hotel to the neighborhood where Santa Maria is located — it is completely different from one side of the city to the other. Wealth and commerce are contrasted with poverty and old, small buildings. One side is modern and striving, growing towards the future, while the other seems to not be a part of the same world.

It is so apparent that these children feel loved and safe at Santa Maria.

The same but different

These were all the same feelings I had the first time I visited Santa Maria in 2016, but I doubted that everything had stayed exactly the same due to the pandemic. If Santa Maria was anything like all our other affiliated sites in Mexico, our coordinators also had to go through big changes to continue to provide for the children in our program.

When we arrived at the Home, we were greeted by one of the four sisters who takes care of the children, and Santa Maria’s full-time social worker. Unfortunately, our coordinator was away in Mexico City having surgery and couldn’t be with us for our visit, but we were made to feel welcome all the same, given a tour of the facility, and heard about how our sponsorship program has been going over the past few years.

The social worker explained that they were able to continue to provide support for the children during quarantine when the children were sent home, largely thanks to our sponsors. The children only returned just a few short months ago when public schools finally opened again, and now 18 children are living at Santa Maria again during the weekdays. Since before the pandemic, attendance has gone down, and although the home isn’t at full capacity again, almost all of the children who attend have sponsors through Children Incorporated.

As we wandered through the dormitories and the small classrooms, we talked also about the ways in which Santa Maria is a blessing for families in the community. With many parents working long hours or overnight shifts, it is crucial for young children to have a place to live, learn and play with their friends during the week.

With many parents working long hours or overnight shifts, it is crucial for young children to have a place to live, learn and play with their friends during the week.

The parents pay a very small fee for the children to stay at the Home, which as it was explained to us, was mostly just to ensure they felt invested in their child’s care, and less about what the money really provided. Fortunately for these children, their sponsors help make sure they have healthy meals every day, new clothes and shoes, and school supplies throughout the year.

As we finish up our tour, the children arrive excited and, unknowingly to us, expecting our visit. As we gather in the dining room, the children have a surprise for Luis and me — they have learned a song to sing to us to say thanks to our organization and all of our sponsors.

It is so apparent that these children feel loved and safe at Santa Maria, which is important to giving their parents peace of mind while they work. For these children, Santa Maria ensures they and their parents have nothing to worry about while they are there so they can focus on enjoying just being kids.

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How do I sponsor a child in Mexico?

You can sponsor a child in Mexico 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 Mexico that is available for sponsorship.

SPONSOR A CHILD