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Terrified yet courageous in the face of violence, Mountain Moms survive together

I had no business showing up at Mountain Moms’ Wednesday meeting. But on my first morning in Lake Cumberland, Kentucky, I was passenger to Scarlette Jasper, a friend these women trust with their lives — women, mind you, who have been scarred by abuse and tried by the trappings of rural Appalachia.

Summer’s green profusion had not quite relinquished its hold on the south Kentucky hills, despite the frost lingering on Scarlette’s Prius as we pulled into the parking lot of Saint Peter Catholic Church. I sat for a moment, basking in the greenhouse effect, and swallowed a tinge of apprehension. I was undoubtedly one of the only men ever to visit Mountain Moms, a group formed precisely to heal the wounds that men have inflicted on their wives, their girlfriends, their mothers, even. What reason did they have to trust me with their stories?

I closed the passenger door, shouldered my camera gear and trusted the only reason I had: Scarlette. I followed her into the cold shadow of the sanctuary and down a set of concrete steps to the basement. Sister Anne Kernan, Mountain Moms’ facilitator, greeted us warmly at the door and led us into a dim, fluorescent gathering hall, where four women circled around a speckled plastic table. A lone icon hung on the wall above them, a gold-leafed Madonna cradling her child and keeping watch over her kindred mothers — Janice, Connie, Jennifer and Priscilla. Who else but a young woman, terrified yet courageous in the face of violence, could be their matron saint?

Scarlette approached the table and heartily greeted her friends. I followed close behind, making equally tender yet skeptical introductions. Mountain Moms was supposed to host their monthly lunch outing that afternoon, but Sister Anne caught a stomach virus, so their schedule was clear. I swung a metal folding chair out from under the table and paused for permission to join the conversation.

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Sister Anne Kernan helped found the Mountain Moms support group in Monticello, Kentucky, nearly three decades ago.
Photo by Blake Tommey.

“We don’t bite,” Janice exclaimed, as I took a seat and cozied up to the table.

“Janice does,” Connie quipped in my left ear, “if you don’t watch her.”

“Well, she might nibble a little bit,” Scarlette echoed from behind the table.

Connie resumed her goosing. “Depends on how hungry she is.”

“I’m gonna get you,” Janice fired back.

“You can see part of what we do,” Connie said, gradually sobering her tone. “Just be silly.”

“We’re a support group for women and we help each other with whatever we need,” she continued. “Because our lives have similar backgrounds, we have a lot of things in common. Most of us have children, and most of us with adult children have had to deal with the drug situation in Wayne County and the lack of jobs. So we’re able to support each other. When something is going on in your life, you have people to talk to.”

Indeed, these mountain moms have each other, as well as their facilitator Sister Anne, but they also have Scarlette Jasper, field personnel with Together for Hope, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s rural development coalition. For years, Scarlette has supported Mountain Moms with everything from budget counseling and nutrition workshops to federal benefit assistance and deliverance from domestic violence.

But titles mean nothing to Scarlette. Using them would only hinder her in flowing seamlessly between helper and receiver, a powerful ally and a woman who, at the end of the day, requires the same love and tending as anyone at the table.

“So would you be willing to tell me about the journeys that led you here?” I asked expectantly. “What experiences do you have in common?”

“The drug situation in Monticello,” Janice murmured softly.

“Troubles,” Jennifer declared from across the table.

Janice offered some elaboration. “Some of us have man troubles, some of us have kid troubles.”

“Some of us have had both,” Connie explained.

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Priscilla has been attending Mountain Moms for 26 years, their longest-committed participant.
Photo by Blake Tommey.

Indeed, Connie’s journey to Mountain Moms began with a toxic mixture of both. Eleven years ago, she endured the most difficult day of her life when she filed an emergency protection order against her son, who had taken up his father’s mantle as Connie’s verbal and physical abuser.

“Oh lord, I was renting at the time but I had an adult abusive son who was basically tearing my house down, I mean horrible,” she explained, stifling her tears. “It was a horrible time in my life, and I called Scarlette all the time just to cry on her shoulder, even when I didn’t need to know about the legal process. She was always there for me.”

Sister Anne jutted her arm into the circle, extending a tissue over Connie’s shoulder.

“She’s always got my back. She’s on it,” Connie said, peppering her sobs with laughter.

“We do for each other here,” Sister Anne said with a wink.

“Well, she knows I’m a cry baby,” Connie explained.

As if legally restraining her son wasn’t enough, Connie was forced to flee her apartment with nowhere to go. That’s when Scarlette, an experienced housing counselor, stepped in to offer more than a shoulder on which to cry.

“A lot of the individuals I work with, not just here but in other areas, need help with housing and trying to navigate that process,” Scarlette explained. “We have resources but they’re not well advertised, so people don’t know what steps to take. Plus, many programs require you to apply online and it’s helpful to have someone navigate the process with you.”

Together, Connie and Scarlette navigated multiple assistance programs to secure a new home, including a matched savings IDA, or individual development account, which helps victims of domestic violence build their savings toward a specific goal, such as a vehicle or new home. Every dollar Connie saved, the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence would match it with two, thereby tripling her investment. By the time her down payment was due, Connie had personally saved $2,000 and subsequently put $6,000 down on her new house.

Better yet, Connie qualified for a specialized program of the Kentucky Housing Corporation, which pays her monthly mortgage installments in full, given she continues to deposit at least $10 a month into her IDA.

“It’s amazing,” Connie declared, “especially considering where I was when all of this started. I can’t believe it. It’s totally amazing.”

“The programs that I work through, they require some buy-in,” Scarlette said. “It’s a partnership. We walked together. Didn’t we Connie?”

“Yes,” Connie whispered, bowing her head.

“Would anybody else be willing to share what brought you here?” I asked. “Priscilla?”

“Well, ‘Scilly, you’re the one who was here first,” Jennifer said.

Priscilla responded timidly.

“My sister always brought me,” she said. “I came through her. Then I met her and her, playing games and talking.”

“Priscilla was here the second week we were open,” Sister Anne interjected, “26 years ago.”

“And I had two little kids then, too,” Priscilla added.

Two little kids and no husband. He was killed in a car accident, leaving Priscilla to raise her two children alone. Since then, she and her sister Mary have leaned on and supported Mountain Moms through their grief and struggle.

A few years later, Priscilla remarried and had a third child, a daughter who just turned 21 and now lives in Nicholasville, Kentucky. Ultimately, Priscilla said, being with people, especially her family at Mountain Moms, makes her feel whole again.

“What about you, Jennifer?” I asked. “Are you willing to share what brought you here?”

“Well, I met Sister Anne when my daughter was little,” Jennifer explained. “My baby girl’s daddy left, and left me to take care of her and me handicapped.”

Her answer needed no explanation, even to a brand-new acquaintance. As a young woman, Jennifer contracted bone cancer and survived only after surgeons amputated her left arm at the shoulder. Consequently, she was forced to leave her job at a local sewing factory. Having already faced the death of her first husband, Jennifer endured physical abuse from her daughter Lily’s father until he vanished.

“I was tore up because I thought I loved him,” she said matter-of-factly. “And well, I was so tore up that I didn’t know if I could go on or not. The lady that came to help me at the HANDS program [Health Access Nurturing Development Services] got in touch with Sister Anne and she came to see me. That’s how I got to know her and she invited me.”

Jennifer soon found more kindred company in Connie, whose mother she worked alongside at the sewing factory. That led to a decade and counting with Mountain Moms, she said, as she continues to care for Lily, now 12 years old.

“We’ve literally watched each other’s kids grow up,” Connie said.

“My child, let’s see, how old was Charlie?” Janice interjected. “Three? Four?”

“And how old is Charlie now?” Scarlette inquired.

“22,” Janice replied.

Connie reprised her goosing. “Janice, you’re getting old.”

“Y’all been telling me that for years,” Janice replied, laughing. She promptly squared her face to mine and signaled to the swaths of gray hair protruding from her forehead. “This is earned, dear.”

“You don’t put that in?” I joked.

“Nope,” she said, smiling proudly.

“Well, do you feel open to sharing your journey to Mountain Moms, Janice?”

She pursed her lips and paused for a solid five seconds of contemplation. “Well, why not?”

“I met Scarlette,” she said, pausing for more contemplation. “She helped me apply for SSI.”

That’s Supplemental Security Income, for laity, which provides monthly payments to older or disabled individuals with low-income and few resources.

“And after a long struggle,” Sister Anne said emphatically.

“Yeah, she helped me with a child I’m trying to give away,” Janice teased.

Scarlette helped translate the inside joke. “Sometimes they don’t want to leave home, or they leave home and they come back.”

“They come back and they bring more with them,” Connie added.

Though Janice did endure domestic violence as a younger woman, her most recent abuse took an infinitely more complex form, namely in her son, Charlie, and his friends, many of whom were battling drug addiction and yet made themselves frequent house guests at Janice’s home. As her guests’ income began to lag behind their addiction, they took to stealing her belongings and debit card, even draining her checking account.

It wasn’t long before Janice’s landlord caught wind of her overcrowded apartment — a gross violation of her lease — and evicted her. Janice had nowhere to go but to her sister’s house, where she lived until she regained her feet. Meanwhile, Scarlette coached Janice through protecting her income and belongings from further theft. More importantly, however, Scarlette helped her apply for SSI, a convoluted process with which even the most educated and able need assistance, she explained.

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The Mountain Moms receive support from each other as well as through their partner Scarlette Jasper, field personnel with Together for Hope.

“A big thing I do is help individuals apply for social security benefits, SSI or SSDI. I go through filing the paperwork. I’ve been trained to do that — everything up to if they get denied and we have to file an appeal. Then we go get an attorney. Just helping get that process started, because if you go to the Social Security office, they just tell you, ‘There’s a computer in the lobby.’

“It’s very lengthy to do all of that paperwork, and everything has to be done online now. So I consult and help with eligible benefits, benefits that they deserve and are qualified for, whether it’s housing, food benefits, SSI or SSDI, different things like that.”

“I don’t know how Scarlette does as much as she does,” Sister Anne bellowed, turning to Scarlette across the table. “I don’t know how you do it, girl.”

“She did say that she’s a workaholic,” I blurted out in response.

Scarlette muffled a laugh. “I did tell him I’m a workaholic.”

“And her supervisor gets onto her, she said, for not taking her vacation days,” I blurted out again.

As the laughter died, Scarlette tilted her head to the floor. “But you know,” she said, “when you get to be with people like the ladies in this room, that’s not work. That’s a blessing for me.”

I took the opportunity to share my own gratitude. “Thank you so much for having me, for telling me your stories and letting me in. I know that’s not an easy thing to do and I know that I’m a strange person. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you.”

“If Scarlette trusts you, you’re okay with us,” Connie declared, as the others laughed with her.

“Right, yes, that’s good. I’m glad she’s here,” I replied, chuckling through my teeth.

Scarlette continued. “These ladies are my family too, and they have been for a long time. They minister to each other and they minister to me much more than I minister to them. I don’t know that they realize that.

“I want you all to know that,” she said. “Sometimes we may have something planned and it just doesn’t go that way, does it? But we just end up talking and being together.”

Connie nodded her head in agreement. “Those are usually the best days.”

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Through mentorships, many pertaining to financial health, Scarlette Jasper helps empower people struggling with low income, including Janice, a member of the Mountain Moms support group for survivors of abuse.

 

Read more in the Southeast Kentucky series:

Living in poverty is hard work

Terrified yet courageous in the face of violence, Mountain Moms survive together

Southeast Kentucky: Enduring images

Photo Gallery: Southeast Kentucky

Video: Scarlette Jasper reflects on the compassion of a family in need

Video: Scarlette Jasper Reinterprets Rural Poverty

Video: What makes Glynda Jackson angry?

Video: Tamara Daffron finds stability through financial health mentorship

 

 

Related commentary at baptistnews.com:

Our disaster-relief success hasn’t moved the needle in addressing poverty. We need to ask why | Craig Nash

Reimagining churches as full-time partners with those in poverty | Laura Rector

 

Related news at baptistnews.com:

Interfaith partnerships, service to those in poverty and an ATM define Louisiana church

The endless work of combatting rural poverty can leave you in the dark, but hope flickers

 

 

This series in the “Resilient Rural America” project is part of the BNG Storytelling Projects Initiative. Has the United States forgotten its countryside? What strength and resilience may yet be stirring outside our city limits? In “Resilient Rural America,” we attempt to answer these questions when we visit these unique communities to examine the singular nature of poverty in rural America and tell the stories of development among its courageous and resilient people.

_____________

Seed money to launch our Storytelling Projects initiative and our initial series of projects has been provided through generous grants from the Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation and the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. For information about underwriting opportunities for Storytelling Projects, contact David Wilkinson, BNG’s executive director and publisher, at [email protected] or 336.865.2688.




Living in poverty is hard work

Glynda Jackson is in the market for a job, and her life depends on it. “I have to work to live,” she explains. “I mean, we all work to live, but I literally have to work to live.”

That’s because Jackson survives with help from a dual-chamber pacemaker in her heart and a spinal stimulator, or “back pacemaker.” Forty-nine years have certainly been easier on most women, but Jackson has endured spina bifida, scoliosis, bradycardia, bipolar disorder and more — all thanks to heredity and half a lifetime of backbreaking, minimum wage jobs. She recently lost her Medicaid, which means she will have to make up the 20 percent of her medical bills that Medicare doesn’t cover.

And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Shortly after Jackson divorced her drug-addicted husband of nine years, she took refuge in Corbin, Kentucky, a quaint rail town on the western edge of Appalachia. Her mother’s family, including her aunt, resided there and would help her regain her feet. By that time, however, she was under a mountain of debt.

“My husband had a drug addiction and I was an enabler, but I can’t necessarily put all the blame on him or even on me being an enabler,” she explains. “A lot of it was because I’ve worked since I was 16 years old — retail, restaurants, call centers, what have you — but I was never really taught how to manage money. I could make the money, but I didn’t know how to manage it.”

Most of that debt was medical bills, which had accumulated over years of advancing health issues and injury. Because her mother was blind, Jackson grew up quickly and for the most part on her own. As a teenager, she worked long hours in fast food drive-thrus where the daily grind took its toll on her body. “I was lifting fry boxes, Whopper boxes, Arby’s roast beef boxes. Technically I shouldn’t have done all that, but I did. I would fall at work. I’d fall when I got home.”

Doctor visits and surgeries piled up. So did the bills. “I was $7.63 short of $100,000, and that was just for my pacemaker,” she explains. “That doesn’t include the doctor bill. That doesn’t include my back. That doesn’t include my knee surgery, none of that.” On top of her medical debt, Jackson was also trapped under a stack of payday loans, most of which came with 400 percent annual interest — an impossible rate for those already living paycheck to paycheck. Even in Corbin, Jackson’s ability to regroup seemed inconceivable.

That is until her aunt introduced her to Scarlette Jasper, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel working in the 10 counties of the Lake Cumberland Area Development District in south-central Kentucky. Jasper, a minister with CBF’s rural development coalition, Together for Hope, took Jackson under her wing and began a financial health mentorship, one of her primary means of empowering those struggling through poverty.

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“The families that I work with are not hopeless,” Scarlette Jasper says. “Sometimes they feel helpless, but everyone needs a little help sometimes, I don’t care who you are or how much money you have.” Photo by Blake Tommey.

“Most of the individuals that I work with live paycheck to paycheck or they’re on Social Security or disability, so they have a limited income,” Jasper explains.

“When your resources are limited and something happens like your car breaks down or you have an unexpected medical bill that your insurance doesn’t cover, those things really put you behind, in paying your rent, in making your utility payments and things like that. You’re always having to determine what the priority is. What can I pay from this limited amount of funds that I have? What has to be done and what can I put off for a month or two? You’re always just one moment away from a financial disaster.”

It was high time to create some cushion between Jackson and the next disaster, starting with monthly meetings at Corbin’s First Baptist Church, where the two prioritized Jackson’s payday loan debt. Jasper coached her in creating monthly budgets that would allow her to slowly pay off her most outstanding debt and avoid prosecution. Next, they turned toward generating sustainable income for Jackson, whose health could no longer endure a full-time job. Jasper helped Jackson build her case for disability income, for which Jackson had to travel across Kentucky, and even to New York, tracking down her medical records. Jasper accompanied her to the Social Security Administration offices in Somerset and guided her through the convoluted filing procedure.

More importantly than even digging out of debt, the pair has consistently tended to Jackson’s emotional health, which had suffered enormously through years of mounting financial pressure.

“I felt burdened. I felt like I was sinking and I had no way out of it,” Jackson says. “You get in a rut and you just don’t want to do anything. You don’t want to function. You don’t want to deal with it. You don’t want to make the phone calls. You don’t want to tell somebody you need help. It’s very stressful.”

Glynda Jackson fell into debt over extensive medical bills and now struggles to navigate her income and federal benefits. With help from Scarlette Jasper, Jackson says her nose is nearly above water.

With her payday loans now behind her, Jackson is trending forward, thanks in part to unexpected windfall money from her disability claim. But the battle remains decidedly uphill. Her heart pacemaker must be replaced every seven to 10 years, and her spinal stimulator every five to seven. On top of that, Jackson’s disability claim, paired with income from a part-time job, disqualifies her for Medicaid. When she’s not working, she falls under the $16,000-a-year limit to qualify for Medicaid, yet still earns too much per month to enjoy a meaningful level of coverage. If she accepted Medicaid now, it would only pay her $134 monthly premium for Medicare — an abysmal tradeoff for remaining unemployed altogether.

Instead, she must forgo Medicaid and find a part-time job if she intends to chip away at her medical debt and afford the 20 percent of her healthcare for which she is responsible. The catch is, if she earns more than $1,180 a month in that job, she will lose her disability benefits.

Despite her catch-22, and the fact she will likely carry medical debt for the rest of her life, a strange calm has come over her, she explains. “I’m starting to be able to breathe. I’m still below water, but I’ve got my nose right there. I’m making progress.”

In the meantime, Jackson savors the companionship of her six best friends, all of whom network on behalf of each other in Corbin, she says. If one has extra groceries from the food pantry, she notifies the others and contributes her unwanted items. Likewise, if someone encounters an extra job opportunity or needs a babysitter. When it’s time to unwind from the constant barrage of maintaining income, she relaxes with her aunt, cousins and her 45 nieces and nephews.

Make no mistake, Jasper echoes, living through poverty is a barrage, one that nobody chooses and one that threatens your entire future if you don’t have help accessing the resources to which you are entitled. “Living in poverty is hard work and you have to spend so much time trying to access resources that may be available to you,” she explains. “People in poverty don’t just sit at home and watch TV.”

“They’re out trying to network and find resources that are available, to make sure that their family is taken care of. It’s a full-time job and it’s emotionally exhausting. You go to one place and find out you need to be somewhere else or you need different paperwork. Then you have to go to another county to access another resource, because that’s the only office in the region. Then you’re struggling to find out, how am I going to get there? And then, what am I going to do with my children? It’s truly a battle, every day.”

For Tamara Daffron, the battle ensued for years before she discovered her own rescue, again in a close mentorship with Jasper. Daffron and Jasper’s families grew up across the street from each other in Somerset and enjoyed a long-time friendship. Yet Jasper could only look on as Daffron’s unchecked bipolar disorder, ADHD and learning disability took over. Clothing and unused retail purchases piled up at home. Unpaid rent and utility bills swelled. Daffron’s debt deepened as she floated from job to job, unable to cope in a corporate environment. Two divorces, one from an abusive husband, intensified the turbulence.

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Tamara Daffron, a long-time friend of Scarlette Jasper, tells her story of overcoming disability and finding sustainable income.
Photo by Blake Tommey.

But Daffron’s disabilities had gone unresolved for years, she says. She recalls frequently being called on in her elementary school classes, where she learned to joke instead and became the class clown — anything to distract her peers from the fact that she couldn’t communicate the answers. “As I got older, I just kind of acted, fooled people,” she explains. “I avoided things I knew I couldn’t do or spell. I could have a conversation but not carry it to a point acceptable for corporate life. With the bipolar and all of that, it was hard to keep it together in a job, so I’ve had a lot of them.”

Despite her limitations, Daffron earned her certification as a nursing assistant and even got within six months of becoming a licensed practical nurse, thanks to instructors who would allow her to take oral tests instead of written. Just before taking her Fundamentals II exam, however, her instructor became ill and communication broke down between Daffron and the substitute. Consequently, she failed the test.

Daffron’s disability and depression had caused more than enough damage, so her mother and sister finally came to retrieve her from Somerset and seek medical help back in Cincinnati, her former home. Over the course of 14 years, Daffron’s mother accompanied her to multiple doctors and psychiatrists, all of whom had answers, but not the right ones, she says. “We were in and out because it was ‘schizophrenic’ and a lot of different diagnoses,” Daffron says.

“My mom would go with me and she was scared to death. I couldn’t blame her but that’s where we were and where we had to start, somewhere. We finally found Saint Elizabeth’s Behavioral Health and got me diagnosed. Dr. Davis did all the tests, neurological testing, and found out where I was. So finally, there was actual documentation and the family could see. They were like ‘Okay, we can see it and read it and it’s a fact, in black and white.’”

Eventually, Daffron was ready to return to Somerset and regain her independence, but this time, in close partnership with Jasper. During her first weeks back, Jasper even created an apartment for Daffron in her mission house just off Highway 27 until she could afford her own space. Like with Glynda Jackson, she helped her build a case for disability income, escorted her to the Social Security Administration office and guided her through the intricate online application. When Daffron qualified, Jasper became her payee. Each month, the two meet to establish a budget, ensure Daffron’s bills are paid properly and designate any remaining funds for savings or her two adult children.

More than anything, Daffron says, Jasper became a source of grace and love in the midst of profound grief for having to apply for assistance in the first place.

“How I felt when I went to that [Social Security] office, it was just devastating,” Daffron says. “She went with me to the testing and to an evaluation. I still have guilt for being on disability and I feel like it’s not my money. But I worked for it, so it is. Sometimes I think, I need to work, I need to contribute to society and I don’t want to take advantage of anything like that. That was not my purpose. But I know I can’t. The light started coming though, and the money is there and my bills are being paid through Scarlette. She takes care of all that.”

Daffron now works four hours a week with a cleaning service to supplement her disability income. She constantly quells the instinct to work more, she explains, but can’t legally exceed the federal income limits. “I’m a hard worker so the disability thing is still tough, but I would really be in trouble if I lost all my benefits. I’ve never had money like that though. Having it is just like ‘Wow.’ Even if it’s $20. That’s like a million.”

As Jasper continues her mentorship with Jackson, Daffron and a host of other individuals enduring insufficient income, their credit improves and provides a viable pathway out of debt and desperation. If individuals and families can become financially stable, Jasper explains, they can dedicate their energy to developing a sustainable future, where a new car, a better job or even a mortgage are finally possible. “Even when you’re applying for housing or getting a job, employers and landlords aren’t just looking at criminal backgrounds. They’re looking at your credit as well. It determines how much you pay in car insurance, how much your cell phone deposit is, so many different factors, and my work has really evolved toward this financial literacy component.”

Too often, Jasper explains, people in the United States see individuals like Glynda Jackson and Tamara Daffron and completely misjudge them. They associate low income or receiving eligible benefits with laziness as if living in poverty was a choice. “I don’t know anyone who would choose to live in poverty,” Jasper says.

Yet even poverty is not wrong or hopeless, she adds. At least those living in poverty have learned how to live in community, how to depend on others to sustain their life and, in turn, how to cultivate the kind of grace and empathy that helps others sustain their own lives.

“The people and families that I work with are not hopeless,” she says. “Sometimes they feel helpless. But everyone needs a little help sometimes. I don’t care who you are or how much money you have. Being in community and in fellowship with people, whether they’re in poverty or not, is important. We all need that. Families living in poverty are often made to feel like it’s wrong that they need a little help.

“It’s not wrong. We’re all here to be together and love one another.”

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Scarlette Jasper, CBF field personnel, is trained in financial counseling and accessing resources for vulnerable individuals and families, including Social Security Disability, Medicaid and supplemental security income.
Photo by Blake Tommey.

 

 

Read more in the Southeast Kentucky series:

Living in poverty is hard work

Terrified yet courageous in the face of violence, Mountain Moms survive together

Southeast Kentucky: Enduring images

Photo Gallery: Southeast Kentucky

Video: Scarlette Jasper reflects on the compassion of a family in need

Video: Scarlette Jasper Reinterprets Rural Poverty

Video: What makes Glynda Jackson angry?

Video: Tamara Daffron finds stability through financial health mentorship

 

 

Related commentary at baptistnews.com:

Our disaster-relief success hasn’t moved the needle in addressing poverty. We need to ask why | Craig Nash

Reimagining churches as full-time partners with those in poverty | Laura Rector

 

Related news at baptistnews.com:

Interfaith partnerships, service to those in poverty and an ATM define Louisiana church

The endless work of combatting rural poverty can leave you in the dark, but hope flickers

 

 

This series in the “Resilient Rural America” project is part of the BNG Storytelling Projects Initiative. Has the United States forgotten its countryside? What strength and resilience may yet be stirring outside our city limits? In “Resilient Rural America,” we attempt to answer these questions when we visit these unique communities to examine the singular nature of poverty in rural America and tell the stories of development among its courageous and resilient people.

_____________

Seed money to launch our Storytelling Projects initiative and our initial series of projects has been provided through generous grants from the Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation and the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. For information about underwriting opportunities for Storytelling Projects, contact David Wilkinson, BNG’s executive director and publisher, at [email protected] or 336.865.2688.

 




Southeast Kentucky: Enduring images

Central Appalachia is ready to shake off its stubborn notoriety for poverty and despair. From the dawn of Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty in the 1960s, the mere mention of Appalachia, especially southeast Kentucky, conjures images of tattered shacks, skinny mules and emaciated white children huddled together in doorways. To this day, a simple Google image search of “Appalachian photography” reveals what can only be described as poverty porn, a phenomenon that no other region of the United States enjoys. In the end, the images are false, even if the deficiencies are real.

Indeed, southeast Kentucky, which comprises the bulk of central Appalachia, continues to host nearly ten of the United States’ 50 counties with the lowest median household income. For decades, the boom and bust of extractive resources — primarily coal and timber — provided a moderate, if shaky, economic backbone. With the coal industry now in a 30-year decline, however, the average wage-earner has little recourse apart from administrative and service positions. Still, geographic isolation, economic disinvestment and a sweeping lack of infrastructure have cemented the region’s widespread unemployment. Consequently, Kentucky is the second most federally dependent state in the union, accounting both for federal contributions to state revenue and residents’ return on federal taxes paid.

McCreary County, Kentucky, located just across the border from Knoxville, Tennessee, claims Kentucky’s highest poverty rate, with 42.5 percent of the population living below their federal poverty threshold. That’s where the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s rural development coalition, Together for Hope, began in Kentucky 20 years ago, not only to help rural communities address systemic poverty but to transform the images and narratives around poverty in the first place, says Scarlette Jasper, Together for Hope field personnel.

“We’re just people; we’re all the same,” Jasper says.

“I even hate the word poverty because there are so many negative images that people associate with it. The families that I work with are not hopeless. Sometimes they feel helpless, but everyone needs a little help sometimes. I don’t care who you are or how much money you have. Being in community and in fellowship with people, whether they’re in poverty or not is important. We all need that. Families living in poverty and often made to feel like that’s wrong that they need a little help. That’s not wrong.”

Through Jasper’s wide and diverse relationships, Together for Hope’s reach extends beyond McCreary County to the nine additional counties of the Lake Cumberland Area Development District. In addition to helping individuals and families meet basic needs of food, shelter and clothing, Jasper serves as a financial health coach among people struggling with debt, disability and unemployment. In the same manner, Jasper also partners with survivors of domestic violence and individuals experiencing homelessness through monthly counseling and mentorships. Through her constant work, Jasper has stood alongside countless individuals as they acquire their first home, gain disability benefits, climb out of payday loan debt, escape an abusive spouse, locate a steady job and even find shelter on a cold night.

Poverty is not part of your culture, character or identity, Jasper explains. It’s simply a reality from which most human beings are only one catastrophe away. The challenges of life in southeast Kentucky merely augment the effects of the natural misfortunes we all face, she adds. And a person’s misfortune, whether caused by medical bills, a violent partner or a learning disability, should give us no fodder for stereotypes and discriminatory images of despair, or even of “poverty.” Despite  — and possibly because of — the struggle and vulnerability in Kentucky’s rural communities, the images that truly endure are those of strength, resilience and the grace to still discover both within yourself.

Southeast Kentucky 11

Geographic isolation and a widespread lack of infrastructure contribute to high unemployment, making Kentucky the second most federally-dependent state in the union. Photo by Blake Tommey.

 

Read more in the Southeast Kentucky series:

Living in poverty is hard work

Terrified yet courageous in the face of violence, Mountain Moms survive together

Southeast Kentucky: Enduring images

Photo Gallery: Southeast Kentucky

Video: Scarlette Jasper reflects on the compassion of a family in need

Video: Scarlette Jasper Reinterprets Rural Poverty

Video: What makes Glynda Jackson angry?

Video: Tamara Daffron finds stability through financial health mentorship

 

 

Related commentary at baptistnews.com:

Our disaster-relief success hasn’t moved the needle in addressing poverty. We need to ask why | Craig Nash

Reimagining churches as full-time partners with those in poverty | Laura Rector

 

Related news at baptistnews.com:

Interfaith partnerships, service to those in poverty and an ATM define Louisiana church

The endless work of combatting rural poverty can leave you in the dark, but hope flickers

 

 

This series in the “Resilient Rural America” project is part of the BNG Storytelling Projects Initiative. Has the United States forgotten its countryside? What strength and resilience may yet be stirring outside our city limits? In “Resilient Rural America,” we attempt to answer these questions when we visit these unique communities to examine the singular nature of poverty in rural America and tell the stories of development among its courageous and resilient people.

_____________

Seed money to launch our Storytelling Projects initiative and our initial series of projects has been provided through generous grants from the Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation and the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. For information about underwriting opportunities for Storytelling Projects, contact David Wilkinson, BNG’s executive director and publisher, at [email protected] or 336.865.2688.




Photo Gallery: Southeast Kentucky

Southeast Kentucky 1
As old industries, like coal, decline in Pulaski County, Kentucky, the new economy is most commonly driven by administrative, sales and production jobs.
Photo by Blake Tommey.
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All photos taken in this photo gallery are by Blake Tommey.

Storytelling Projects

Poverty is not part of your culture, character or identity. It’s simply a reality from which most human beings are only one catastrophe away. The challenges of life in southeast Kentucky merely augment the effects of the natural misfortunes we all face. And a person’s misfortune, whether caused by medical bills, a violent partner or a learning disability, should give us no fodder for stereotypes and discriminatory images of despair, or even of “poverty.”

 

Read more in the Southeast Kentucky series:

Living in poverty is hard work

Terrified yet courageous in the face of violence, Mountain Moms survive together

Southeast Kentucky: Enduring images

Photo Gallery: Southeast Kentucky

Video: Scarlette Jasper reflects on the compassion of a family in need

Video: Scarlette Jasper Reinterprets Rural Poverty

Video: What makes Glynda Jackson angry?

Video: Tamara Daffron finds stability through financial health mentorship

 

 

Related commentary at baptistnews.com:

Our disaster-relief success hasn’t moved the needle in addressing poverty. We need to ask why | Craig Nash

Reimagining churches as full-time partners with those in poverty | Laura Rector

 

Related news at baptistnews.com:

Interfaith partnerships, service to those in poverty and an ATM define Louisiana church

The endless work of combatting rural poverty can leave you in the dark, but hope flickers

 

 

This series in the “Resilient Rural America” project is part of the BNG Storytelling Projects Initiative. Has the United States forgotten its countryside? What strength and resilience may yet be stirring outside our city limits? In “Resilient Rural America,” we attempt to answer these questions when we visit these unique communities to examine the singular nature of poverty in rural America and tell the stories of development among its courageous and resilient people.

_____________

Seed money to launch our Storytelling Projects initiative and our initial series of projects has been provided through generous grants from the Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation and the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. For information about underwriting opportunities for Storytelling Projects, contact David Wilkinson, BNG’s executive director and publisher, at [email protected] or 336.865.2688.




Video: Scarlette Jasper reflects on the compassion of a family in need

Storytelling ProjectsPoverty is not part of your culture, character or identity. It’s simply a reality from which most human beings are only one catastrophe away. The challenges of life in southeast Kentucky merely augment the effects of the natural misfortunes we all face. And a person’s misfortune, whether caused by medical bills, a violent partner or a learning disability, should give us no fodder for stereotypes and discriminatory images of despair, or even of “poverty.”

Watch the interview with Scarlette Jasper who reflects on the compassion of a family in need:

 

Read more in the Southeast Kentucky series:

Living in poverty is hard work

Terrified yet courageous in the face of violence, Mountain Moms survive together

Southeast Kentucky: Enduring images

Photo Gallery: Southeast Kentucky

Video: Scarlette Jasper reflects on the compassion of a family in need

Video: Scarlette Jasper Reinterprets Rural Poverty

Video: What makes Glynda Jackson angry?

Video: Tamara Daffron finds stability through financial health mentorship

 

 

Related commentary at baptistnews.com:

Our disaster-relief success hasn’t moved the needle in addressing poverty. We need to ask why | Craig Nash

Reimagining churches as full-time partners with those in poverty | Laura Rector

 

Related news at baptistnews.com:

Interfaith partnerships, service to those in poverty and an ATM define Louisiana church

The endless work of combatting rural poverty can leave you in the dark, but hope flickers

 

 

This series in the “Resilient Rural America” project is part of the BNG Storytelling Projects Initiative. Has the United States forgotten its countryside? What strength and resilience may yet be stirring outside our city limits? In “Resilient Rural America,” we attempt to answer these questions when we visit these unique communities to examine the singular nature of poverty in rural America and tell the stories of development among its courageous and resilient people.

_____________

Seed money to launch our Storytelling Projects initiative and our initial series of projects has been provided through generous grants from the Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation and the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. For information about underwriting opportunities for Storytelling Projects, contact David Wilkinson, BNG’s executive director and publisher, at [email protected] or 336.865.2688.




Video: Scarlette Jasper Reinterprets Rural Poverty

Storytelling ProjectsPoverty is not part of your culture, character or identity. It’s simply a reality from which most human beings are only one catastrophe away. The challenges of life in southeast Kentucky merely augment the effects of the natural misfortunes we all face. And a person’s misfortune, whether caused by medical bills, a violent partner or a learning disability, should give us no fodder for stereotypes and discriminatory images of despair, or even of “poverty.”

Watch the interview with Scarlette Jasper who reinterprets rural poverty:

 

Read more in the Southeast Kentucky series:

Living in poverty is hard work

Terrified yet courageous in the face of violence, Mountain Moms survive together

Southeast Kentucky: Enduring images

Photo Gallery: Southeast Kentucky

Video: Scarlette Jasper reflects on the compassion of a family in need

Video: Scarlette Jasper Reinterprets Rural Poverty

Video: What makes Glynda Jackson angry?

Video: Tamara Daffron finds stability through financial health mentorship

 

 

Related commentary at baptistnews.com:

Our disaster-relief success hasn’t moved the needle in addressing poverty. We need to ask why | Craig Nash

Reimagining churches as full-time partners with those in poverty | Laura Rector

 

Related news at baptistnews.com:

Interfaith partnerships, service to those in poverty and an ATM define Louisiana church

The endless work of combatting rural poverty can leave you in the dark, but hope flickers

 

 

This series in the “Resilient Rural America” project is part of the BNG Storytelling Projects Initiative. Has the United States forgotten its countryside? What strength and resilience may yet be stirring outside our city limits? In “Resilient Rural America,” we attempt to answer these questions when we visit these unique communities to examine the singular nature of poverty in rural America and tell the stories of development among its courageous and resilient people.

_____________

Seed money to launch our Storytelling Projects initiative and our initial series of projects has been provided through generous grants from the Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation and the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. For information about underwriting opportunities for Storytelling Projects, contact David Wilkinson, BNG’s executive director and publisher, at [email protected] or 336.865.2688.




Video: What makes Glynda Jackson angry?

Storytelling ProjectsPoverty is not part of your culture, character or identity. It’s simply a reality from which most human beings are only one catastrophe away. The challenges of life in southeast Kentucky merely augment the effects of the natural misfortunes we all face. And a person’s misfortune, whether caused by medical bills, a violent partner or a learning disability, should give us no fodder for stereotypes and discriminatory images of despair, or even of “poverty.”

Watch the interview with about what makes Glynda Jackson angry:

Read more in the Southeast Kentucky series:

Living in poverty is hard work

Terrified yet courageous in the face of violence, Mountain Moms survive together

Southeast Kentucky: Enduring images

Photo Gallery: Southeast Kentucky

Video: Scarlette Jasper reflects on the compassion of a family in need

Video: Scarlette Jasper Reinterprets Rural Poverty

Video: What makes Glynda Jackson angry?

Video: Tamara Daffron finds stability through financial health mentorship

 

 

Related commentary at baptistnews.com:

Our disaster-relief success hasn’t moved the needle in addressing poverty. We need to ask why | Craig Nash

Reimagining churches as full-time partners with those in poverty | Laura Rector

 

Related news at baptistnews.com:

Interfaith partnerships, service to those in poverty and an ATM define Louisiana church

The endless work of combatting rural poverty can leave you in the dark, but hope flickers

 

 

This series in the “Resilient Rural America” project is part of the BNG Storytelling Projects Initiative. Has the United States forgotten its countryside? What strength and resilience may yet be stirring outside our city limits? In “Resilient Rural America,” we attempt to answer these questions when we visit these unique communities to examine the singular nature of poverty in rural America and tell the stories of development among its courageous and resilient people.

_____________

Seed money to launch our Storytelling Projects initiative and our initial series of projects has been provided through generous grants from the Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation and the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. For information about underwriting opportunities for Storytelling Projects, contact David Wilkinson, BNG’s executive director and publisher, at [email protected] or 336.865.2688.




Video: Tamara Daffron finds stability through financial health mentorship

Storytelling ProjectsPoverty is not part of your culture, character or identity. It’s simply a reality from which most human beings are only one catastrophe away. The challenges of life in southeast Kentucky merely augment the effects of the natural misfortunes we all face. And a person’s misfortune, whether caused by medical bills, a violent partner or a learning disability, should give us no fodder for stereotypes and discriminatory images of despair, or even of “poverty.”

Watch the interview about Tamara Daffron who finds stability through financial health mentorship:

Read more in the Southeast Kentucky series:

Living in poverty is hard work

Terrified yet courageous in the face of violence, Mountain Moms survive together

Southeast Kentucky: Enduring images

Photo Gallery: Southeast Kentucky

Video: Scarlette Jasper reflects on the compassion of a family in need

Video: Scarlette Jasper Reinterprets Rural Poverty

Video: What makes Glynda Jackson angry?

Video: Tamara Daffron finds stability through financial health mentorship

 

 

Related commentary at baptistnews.com:

Our disaster-relief success hasn’t moved the needle in addressing poverty. We need to ask why | Craig Nash

Reimagining churches as full-time partners with those in poverty | Laura Rector

 

Related news at baptistnews.com:

Interfaith partnerships, service to those in poverty and an ATM define Louisiana church

The endless work of combatting rural poverty can leave you in the dark, but hope flickers

 

 

This series in the “Resilient Rural America” project is part of the BNG Storytelling Projects Initiative. Has the United States forgotten its countryside? What strength and resilience may yet be stirring outside our city limits? In “Resilient Rural America,” we attempt to answer these questions when we visit these unique communities to examine the singular nature of poverty in rural America and tell the stories of development among its courageous and resilient people.

_____________

Seed money to launch our Storytelling Projects initiative and our initial series of projects has been provided through generous grants from the Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation and the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. For information about underwriting opportunities for Storytelling Projects, contact David Wilkinson, BNG’s executive director and publisher, at [email protected] or 336.865.2688.