This family story comes from Fahe member Bell-Whitley Community Action Agency (BWCAA) located in Bell and Whitley County Kentucky. Bell-Whitley provides many services for their communities including housing initiatives, Head Start/Early Head Start programs, Community Service Block Grant funds, weatherization, winter care and other services. They work closely with other agencies such as the Department of Employment Services, Southeast Community College, Adult Literacy Program, Vocational Rehabilitation, and Job Corps.
This particular story is a reminder of why having a quality built home is important to the health and success of the family living within, especially in the wintertime.
As the bitter cold air of winter began to blow and bring a chill that penetrated deep into bone, the feelings of hopelessness and despair began to settle once again upon the Barnett family. Hopelessness is defined as having or feeling no hope; the feeling that something is incapable of redemption or improvement and for the Barnett family this feeling had become all too familiar.
“It’s clean, it’s just falling in around us,” were the words spoken by Mr. Barnett while his wife softly wept as they talked about their living conditions. The Barnett family had turned to BWCAA seeking any type of heating assistance that would bring some warmth and hope into their lives.
As we talked more in-depth, the details of the hopelessness that the family faced began to unravel. When their home was selected for Weatherization services through BWCAA a sigh of relief finally came; in the end the conditions were so poor and so extensive that it became a “walk away,” meaning nothing could be done. The floor joist under the house had broken causing the floors to fall and separate from the walls. Dark shadows of black mold lingered in the corners of the kitchen and bedrooms emanating deadly toxins into air. The kitchen stove supported by boards to keep it level served as the primary source of heat. All of these things caused a domino effect in their lives. The black mold led to overwhelming illness while using the kitchen stove as a primary source of heat resulted in enormous electric bills. The stressors revolving around the Barnett family at times seemed too much to bear. “The old house needs a lot of work,” stated Mr. Barnett. “It’s hard when you don’t have the means to do what needs to be done.”
On that cold winters day the Barnett family was assisted with the costs of heating their home through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). An electric heater was provided to use instead of relying on the kitchen stove for warmth. All issues were not alleviated that day but a small ray of sunshine shown upon them as the CSBG staff began to look for ways to help improve the lives and living conditions of this family.
As the sounds and smells of spring filled the air the winds of change began to blow. New funding became available at Bell-Whitley Community Action Agency through the Kentucky Housing Corporation’s HOME program. BWCAA worked quickly and diligently to get the Barnett family moving in the right direction. A tiny spark of hope flickered in their eyes as they listened to the possibility of a dream that once seemed unreachable… owning a new home!
Months of preparation, hard work and sacrifice finally paid off when the Barnett family received the keys to their new home. “It’s like a dream come true,” stated Mr. Barnett as he guided the Bell-Whitley staff on a tour of their new home. “You will never know how thankful we truly are for all of you at Bell-Whitley Community Action Agency,” stated Mrs. Barnett as she cried tears of joy. Through combined efforts of BWCAA’s Community Service Block Grant, Housing Initiatives HOME program, and Weatherization programs, a dream that once seemed unfathomable had finally come true. The weightiness of despair had lifted. Hopelessness had lost its grip. Hope persevered!
The Barnett’s story isn’t unique. There are still thousand of families in Appalachia in need of assistance but we are making a difference. Fahe and our member organizations help thousands of families every year improve their lives through homeownership, home improvement, job creation, and new infrastructure. We are able to help these families thanks to people like you. If you would like to help more families like the Barnett’s, go to fahe.org/donations. Thank you for helping make a difference in a life today.