A Summer of Memories, and Meal, for Hundreds of Appalachian children
Summer’s over for children throughout Appalachia, and school has resumed. Hundreds of children have exciting stories to share when asked, “What did you do this summer?”
“Afterschool all Summer Long”
In McDowell County, West Virginia, our partner, Big Creek People in Action (BCPIA), hosted what co-executive director Dyanne Spriggs described, saying, “We have had afterschool all summer long.”
BCPIA doesn’t just operate its afterschool program with support from Americans Helping Americans® during the academic year but throughout the year to help ensure children don’t forget what they learned in school during the summer months.
This summer, that program introduced the children to growing vegetables and transforming them into budding gardeners.
“In the spring, the kids planted a garden in raised wooden garden beds and took care of it throughout the summer,” Dyanne reported. “They planted tomatoes, strawberries, eggplant, cucumbers, bell peppers, okra, lettuce, chives, basil and sunflowers.
“For fun, they planted two types of ‘Zombie’ plants that fall over like they are dead if touched, and the kids were amazed,” said Dyanne.
“They enjoyed picking the ripe vegetables and fruits and eating them,” she added. “Most of the plants did well, except for the strawberries.
“It was a great learning experience.”
Through its summer day camp program, also supported by Americans Helping Americans®, nearly two dozen kids living in the distressed Appalachian community experienced “a great three-week summer camp.
“The kids were picked up and brought to the center where they did crafts such as making bucket lists for the summer, wooden magnets, and painting canvases and summer squashes. We watched movies and took them to the city park numerous times.”
BCPIA also took the campers on a three-day, two-night stay to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee – all decked out in three brand-new outfits purchased for each child, along with a new pair of shoes, a swimsuit and pajamas.
“Our kids were able to enjoy doing so many new things, including watching the Pirate Voyage Dinner Show, visiting the Rainforest Zoo, which had a show introducing the children to exotic animals (they were able to hold and pet most all of them, including a 10-foot python!) and a petting zoo,” Dyanne reported.
“They could swim in the pool at our cabin, which had a lazy river running through it. We had our miniature golf course and pool tables and made s’mores around the campfire. They also rode go-carts, which is their favorite thing to do!”
And to cap the summer off, the local elementary school, Southside K-8, hosted its annual “Back-to-School Bash” on August 21, where BCPIA distributed 259 backpacks filled with school supplies (which the children were able to select themselves) and 164 dental kits provided by Americans Helping Americans®.
“Kids got great joy in picking out their bookbags,” said Dyanne, adding that “many of the parents expressed their appreciation so that they did not have to go out and buy all their kids’ bookbags.
“Most parents around here are on some kind of assistance and don’t even have the money to buy their kids school supplies,” says Dyanne. “Many of them call us before the event to make sure we will give them out so they know they won’t have to buy them for their kids.
“Southside principal Sheri Culbreath and the teachers at the school always thank us for serving the needs of their students.”
And, as for Dyanne herself, “We appreciate all of the basic needs items we receive from Americans Helping Americans® to help out our families to provide for their children.”
“Enriching the lives of countless individuals.”
In Lee County, Kentucky, our partner there, Cumberland Mountain Outreach (CMO), operated its kid’s day camp and its Teens In Leadership (TILP) program made up primarily of former campers who become mentors and role models to the younger campers.
In announcing the program for this year, CMO President and CEO Cindy Evanoff stated, “We will be having fun, playing games, and learning how to be leaders in our community.” (Those who commit to TILP until they graduate high school will earn the designation of “Kentucky Colonel,” the highest title of honor bestowed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky.)
During the summer, the TILP participants volunteered for five weeks to participate in community service projects, including cleaning and painting a local veterans memorial, passing out U.S. Department of Agriculture commodities, “and enriching the lives of countless individuals.”
Among the TILP participants was Brooklyn Snowden, who wanted the supporters of Americans Helping Americans® to know:
“The TILP this year has helped me and blessed me, just for letting me help little kids learn more about God and getting to know new people from all over the USA. Thank you.”
Five weeks of day camp
And at the Pine Crest Camp, owned by Americans Helping Americans® and operated by CMO, over 350 children enjoyed meals together, healthy activities, lessons “and, most importantly, interactions with other children for five weeks of day camp.
“We are a little mission in the mountains of rural Kentucky,” Cindy notes, adding, “With minimal resources, there is no way we could afford such an undertaking.
“Because of receiving this grant funding from Americans Helping Americans®, we served 360 children.”