Americans Helping Americans is committed to building and strengthening our nation’s communities – particularly in the Appalachian region. Our programs support basic needs, education, health, and housing for many individuals and families. However, we could not have the positive impact we’ve witnessed over the years without our community partners. One of these partners is Appalachian Ministries of the Smokies.
How Appalachian Ministries Helps Their Community
Located in Jefferson City, Tennessee, Appalachian Ministries of the Smokies (or A.M.O.S.) provides food, clothing, and housing repair services to the people they serve. Their Clothing and Food Pantry is designed like a small grocery store where individuals and families can come and select the food items they need. Clothing vouchers are also provided on a per-month basis.
In the summer, their Home Repair Ministry steps into action. Partnering with churches that provide skilled volunteers, they make exterior improvements like wheelchair ramps, painting, and roof repairs for people living in substandard conditions.
Another fantastic and essential service A.M.O.S. supports is the Samaritan House Family Shelter in Jefferson City, Tennessee. This is an emergency shelter for women and children facing housing crises in Jefferson, Grainger, Cocke, and Sevier counties. Besides providing a safe home environment for families in need, the Samaritan House helps their residents become self-sufficient through employment, savings, and affordable housing.
The Continued Need for Charitable Support in the Appalachians
These partnerships and the services we provide together are so critical in this “region apart” that has historically battled generational poverty at higher rates than the rest of America. Since the creation of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) in 1965, billions of dollars have been invested in the hopes of improving economic conditions.
The ARC has focused on five key areas:
- Business development
- Workforce training
- Critical infrastructure
However, even with the U.S. government’s investment over several decades, significant economic improvements have not been realized in the Appalachian region.
For instance, according to an article from Bellarmine University, the ARC works in 54 Kentucky counties; however, only three of them are considered as moving toward equivalency with the rest of the nation. Thirty-eight counties are still considered “distressed” while 13 are “at risk.” In Tennessee, 32 counties are considered “at-risk” and 10 are “distressed.”
Another report from the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), which was completed just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, noted that all rural Appalachian counties lagged behind the rest of America’s rural counties in “educational attainment, household income, population growth, and labor force participation.”
The report also found that the percentage of people with a disability or dealing with poverty was higher than in other parts of the rural United States: 20% to 18% and 22% to 16%, respectively. Those of working age with a four-year college degree were also seven percentage points behind the rest of America. The median household income stood at $10,000 less than the national average.
The ARC has also found that health disparities are critical in Appalachia too:
Appalachia has higher mortality rates than the rest of the nation in seven of the nation’s leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, COPD, injury, stroke, diabetes, and suicide. In addition, diseases of despair are much more prevalent in Appalachia than in the rest of the country. Rates of drug overdose deaths are dramatically higher in the Appalachian region than in the rest of the country, especially in the region’s more rural and economically distressed areas.
Access to quality healthcare is one factor impacting this issue. The University of Alabama Institute for Human Rights notes that this region has fewer “health care professionals per capita, including primary care physicians, mental health providers, specialists, and dentists” compared to the rest of the U.S.
So, the need is great. Together with our partners, Americans Helping Americans is committed to fulfilling our mission – to improve the quality of life for those in the Appalachian communities we serve.
AHA Programs in Appalachia
Here is a brief snapshot of the different services we offer:
Basic Needs and Wellness
We provide food, clothing, school supplies, coats, medical equipment, and personal hygiene items to those in need. We also provide emergency utility payment assistance, winter coats, new shoes, new blankets, diapers, and more.
We provide children with shoes and boots, school summer enrichment opportunities, and safe environments where they can eat nutritious meals.
We provide safe and stable housing including repairing roofs, floors, rotting porches, and stairs, as well as constructing ramps for the elderly and disabled.
We donate up to $20,000 in grants to provide educators the ability to meet the unmet needs of a classroom at their Appalachian-region school.
We support vocational programs for young adults who may need remedial help in GED and other training opportunities for them to earn a skilled trade and enter the workforce.
How to Help AHA and Appalachian Ministries of the Smokies
In all areas of service, we sincerely appreciate any support you can give. If you live in the region, please look at volunteer opportunities we may have in our various programs or with our partners or see about donating items for our food pantries and other projects.
If you are unable to volunteer or make a physical donation, we greatly appreciate any monetary donation you can provide. Helping our neighbors in need is one of the greatest callings we have, and we thank you for your support in this ongoing cause.