Rest In Peace

Eugene Lad Krizek

12/17/1927 – 10/5/2021

Following his retirement from government service and the founding of Christian Relief Services, Gene founded Americans Helping Americans® in 1990 as a direct response to the extreme poverty in Appalachia that he saw firsthand during his visits to the distressed communities in the region, to ease the chronic needless suffering of those children, families and seniors down on their luck who are not looking for a handout, just a helping hand up.

Although for these children in families where hunger was more the rule than the exception, and the elderly and disabled struggled to get by month to month on meager fixed incomes and living in rural, distressed communities hundreds of miles away from his home – to Gene they were more than just fellow Americans, he saw them as neighbors in need.

When Gene traveled to West Virginia in those early years he literally could not believe what he was seeing – families living in dire poverty, many without running water and homes on the verge of collapse, more like a third world country than the United States of America which had been fighting the “War on Poverty” for decades.

In the early 1990s, Gene began to put his focus on the needs of people in depressed regions in Appalachia where unemployment is high and the low-wage jobs that are available don’t pay enough to support entire families.

Under Gene’s leadership that focus has remained through the years, and to this day, with his belief that “Charity begins at home” and the United States is for all of us “our home.”

“That’s how most people feel about America and where they live – but unfortunately for many, that feeling cannot be shared as most Americans are unaware of the severe living conditions right here in our own blessed American backyard,” Gene told supporters of Americans Helping Americans® more than three decades ago.

On a trip to Appalachia in 1995, Gene reported, “You walk in the door and just feel the cold winds blow through from underneath the floorboards. With no insulation, no running water, or many times, no front steps, many families are living in dilapidated housing that is, at best, barely habitable.”

It was also that year that Americans Helping Americans® kicked off Operation: Home Improvement to help low-income homeowners who cannot afford to make much-needed repairs to their homes, such as fixing leaking roofs and replacing rotting floorboards, have these repairs made for them at no charge to them.

By the end of the 1990s, Americans Helping Americans® had expanded our programs and services in Appalachia to include emergency food assistance, medical prescription assistance, shelter, furniture and household items, utility assistance, infant and toddler supplies, cleaning supplies, hygiene items, and much more.

In the three decades since the incorporation of Americans Helping Americans®, Gene led the way to support the neediest in dozens of communities throughout Appalachia.

Today, more than 30 years after the founding of Americans Helping Americans® Gene’s legacy of helping our neighbors in Appalachia lives on with many of the programs he initiated, and the nearly two years since the pandemic struck, to include COVID-19 emergency assistance response.

“Many of our families are single-parent families with one income and they are often overlooked – and the children suffer,” said the director of our partner in Beattyville, Kentucky. Through the support of Americans Helping Americans® all the children were able to come and receive coats without the stigma of being ‘poor.’”

Lee County Family Resource Center