There Is Help for Children of the Mountains

By: Dara Rees Email
By: Dara Rees Email

The debate over the ABC program "A Hidden America, Children of the Mountains" continues. Many argue the program did not show enough about the positive things happening in eastern Kentucky.

During our special one-hour Issues and Answers program, we talked to five people involved in organizations helping people break the cycle of poverty. They say there is a way to get ahead, but people have to want it.

Some say the national spotlight on children in Appalachia missed a few important things about the mountains. These community leaders says the help is out there for most of these families.

Greg Bentley, President of RAM Kentucky says, "We need to get back to instilling some dreams, some goals for these people and aspire to go higher."

Sheldon Clark high school teacher Bob Allen says education is an important tool. "I think that's the key to breaking the cycle of poverty. It is education. We have to teach kids that it is their way out. And it may be their only way out."

Other programs like the remote area medical clinic, known as RAM, offers free medical, dental, and eye care. Local doctors say the program is not a hand out, but a hand up. "It's the ones that fall in between the cracks and have no insurance and have minimum wage jobs or can't pay the co-pay or can't pay the deductible. That's the kind of people we see at RAM," says Dr. Bill Collins.

Jenny Saylor works with a Harlan County family resource center and sees the need every day. But she says she is worried about financial support that is slowly getting cut. "We got $210 per child. Now we're down to $204 per child. And there's talk about cutting more, and maybe even cutting resources. And if they do that, I don't know what Harlan County will do."

"These kids are survivors. They would be more apt to survive than I would, because that's their way of life. And they do whatever for younger brothers and sisters, older brothers and sisters, they look out for each other," says Stacey Sheppard. Her group "the Backpack Club" packs 1,400 bags of food each week for students in Laurel County that do not get sufficient food when they go home for the weekend. Sheppard and the other leaders say programs like these will help the children of the mountains rise above the stereotypes.

Jenny Saylor says she is also working with a business owner in tennessee to build a clothing factory in cumberland that would bring more jobs to the area.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by lj Location: lexington on Mar 12, 2009 at 03:15 PM
    I am from Letcher County Ky. but i moved to Lexington Ky.years ago. I have a Masters in Electricity and a degree in Veternarian Technician.I'll be retiring soon at the ripe old age of 45.And im heading home to letcher county.You know I can find the same places where Dianne Sawyer lives.They are people like this all over the world.
  • by Jay Bee Location: KY on Feb 26, 2009 at 10:07 AM
    Gotta disagree with you, Jack. We have some top schools here and excellent teachers. Look it up. May Valley ranked #1 in the state. We have teachers with national awards. We have other professions here as well. For one, my husband is a nurse..good job, good pay. The reason most people are p.o'd about the 20/20 program was that it depicted just a small section of the state, not representative of everyone. You may have grew up here and then left, but you do not know all the good things around here, you are one of many that want to focus on the bad. Others are working hard, making a good life for themselves and don't want to leave their home. You made your choice, let others make theirs. Don't be so judgmental.
  • by Pat Location: Harlan on Feb 26, 2009 at 09:06 AM
    This is for Jack--- Do you still have family in Eastern Kentucky? If so, how ashamed they must be of you.
  • by Pam Location: Pikeville on Feb 25, 2009 at 08:10 PM
    This is to Jack. You don't have a clue! There have also been alot of people that leave and come back. Take a good look around you. Maybe you just got pi---- off because somebody didn't drop to their knees for you. Well get a life!!! WE ARE SICK OF PEOPLE LIKE YOU.
  • by who cares on Feb 25, 2009 at 12:03 PM
    Oops, my bad, sorry about the technicality, Linda. But I know what I am talking about. I've had a run in over this twice. Once when I got grants to go to college and once with the Dislocated Workers program. Both times were the same - grants are income and affect your foodstamps.
  • by Jack Location: Kentucky on Feb 25, 2009 at 11:03 AM
    I get so tired of hearing this about Eastern Kentucky. I grew up there and I left because I wanted things in life that wouldn't available there. The politics in Eastern Kentucky is so one sideed that nothing ever changes there. Lt Dan said all of you wre stupid for not voteing for Obama but when he runs for the sUS Senate you will go vote for him. Politics,Welfare,mining, and school teachers are all the jobs you have there. Education still lags behind and most of the people are just to damn lazy to talk or get a job. Blame anyone you want there have been thousands of young people that leave and been leaving forever to better their lives. If it offends you when Diane Sawyer or anyone does a story like this leave get a job and make a life for your family.
  • by Linda Location: Eastern Ky on Feb 25, 2009 at 09:29 AM
    To who cares...Social services doesn't deal with foodstamps, they neither give nor take them. Social services is involved in protecting children and vulnerable adults.
  • by Me Location: Here on Feb 25, 2009 at 08:59 AM
    Jesus said that the poor would always be with us. But even in His time, the poor were asked to work in the fields and glean what was left after the workers had went through and harvested once. People need to realize that God blesses hard work and if you are not willing to work, you cannot expect to get gain. Teach your children that work is a good thing and dependence upon the government is wrong - they will succeed - regardless of their circumstances.
  • by Anonymous on Feb 25, 2009 at 08:39 AM
    EDiane Sawyer only wanted to make headlines, and she did. And I agree with whoever posted that working at Burger King or Wendy's is better than nothing. I also agree with whoever said take their food stamps and foruwheelers and see how fast they do try to provide for themselves. I'm not saying poverty isn't an issue, but there are hundreds out there who sit back and do nothing but draw food stamps or checks. Then they go out and buy cigarettes, pop, and even alcohol. When they should be putting their children first and providing food. But no everyone is like that. Not everyone lives the way those families on the show lives (or pretends to live). They make our state look like trash. And it's not true at all. And education is the key. You can't get a good paying job or a better life without education.
  • by who cares on Feb 25, 2009 at 06:56 AM
    No, grants do not have to be repaid but they do come out of your food stamps. So you pay either way. Not ordinary income but income just as well.

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