PIKEVILLE, Ky. – Wendy Wingrove wanted to do something for Eastern Kentucky’s homeless children. Why Eastern Kentucky? Because Wingrove had found, through her own private research, that Eastern Kentucky and Southern West Virginia has more homeless children than the entire state of Texas!
Wingrove, who works in BB&T’s Homelessness Outreach Program, set about trying to do something to help. Her help led to Pike County Schools Homeless Program receiving $100,000. “She called me in June and said ‘We’re ready to come to Pike County and do some great things,’” said Pike’s Homeless Coordinator Rick Branham, who had first been contacted by BB&T from their Corporate Office in North Carolina. Wingrove had been working in Central Florida in connection with federal McKinney Vento money when she began, on her own time, to research the problem of homelessness. The McKinney Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act mandates educational funds for homeless students and is money received by each state, money level determined by a state’s number of homeless students.
Wingrove discovered the great need in the Appalachian area. She contacted the Kentucky Department of Education about its McKinney Vento money and her wish to help and was steered toward Eastern Kentucky, Branham said. Three counties were selected for help, Pike, Boyd and Green-up. Pike County has better than 600 homeless children, more than any other county. “She asked me to come up with a wish list,” Branham said. He set up a committee, consisting of members of Pike Schools’ central office staff, West Care homeless shelter staff and community members, to come up with a plan. “I said I wanted a house, a vehicle, I want bicycles, I want scooters…” What Branham initially presented to BB&T was a $524,500 plan calling for housing, education, transportation, land and the establishment of a 501 c3 organization.
Branham wanted a safe place for 18-21 year old boys to stay, since boys are the ones most often affected. He even had a name picked out- the CABIN, (Caring About Boys In Need). He had thought he would partner with organizations like the Disabled American Veterans to serve as “House Fathers or Mothers.” Branham said, “Right now, I have a boy in the homeless shelter and a girl in a motel, and neither of them should be where they are.”
BB&T did not fund his initial plan, but, “We graciously accepted their $100,000,” Branham joked. A proposal for that money calls for $55,000 for housing, $8,000 for educational support and $37,000 for transportation.” With the money, Branham hopes to buy a vehicle that he can use to transport youth, not only to get them to school and other necessary places, but also to post-secondary facilities and other sites to expose them to post-secondary institutions that they could afford, such as Alice Lloyd College. Normally funds to not exist to enables these students to visit these colleges and trade/technical centers.
He is also thinking about the idea of paying stipends for host families, where young people could stay until more permanent housing could be arranged.
“We want to use the money where we can get the biggest bang for our buck,” Branham said. “This money will make so many things possible,” he added “We are very thankful to BB&T; they’ve made a big difference for a lot of kids.”