School For Life

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School For Life is helping to change Hopelessness
to Optimism

“I’ve never seen living conditions like this . . . it’s like going back in time,” stated one missionary, as we visited a family living in an old coal-camp house that had a leaking roof. The cook stove oven door was open—the only heat the family had except for an old coal stove . . . there was no coal.

Gary, West Virginia is in the most remote and rugged stretches of McDowell County, one of the poorest counties in the nation, with the highest percent of children living below the poverty level according to a recent study.

In this same study, nationally, McDowell County ranks last in economic sustainability and general health; first in diabetes, suicide, homicide, sudden infant death, low birth weights, births to unwed mothers, and high school dropouts.

The greatest need for ministry in our nation is in the poverty stricken Appalachian Mountains of Gary, West Virginia with needs ranging from spiritual and family counseling to drug and alcohol rehabilitation. “Just this year, I’ve helped bury eleven young people who died of drug abuse,” stated a local pastor. We tend to think of this kind of problem being in the larger cities; however, it has now become a rural problem of great proportions.

In a new February, 2008 Kids Count West Virginia Survey it ranked McDowell County last in several indicators of children’s well being. The data bank showed that more than 84 percent of the struggling county’s children qualify for free and reduced-price meals. It also showed that McDowell County leads the state in problematic teen pregnancies. For every 1,000 females age 15 to 19 in McDowell County, 75 gave birth. Plus, more than 15 percent of McDowell’s new mothers age 10 to 19 are unmarried and 40.3 percent of new moms have less than a 12th grade education.

Additional Statistics for McDowell County (Ranked within the worst ten in the US for)

• Childhood Poverty – 56.4% (Children’s Defense Fund)
• Overall Poverty Rate – 33% (Census Bureau)
• Disability Rate – over 40% (Census Bureau)
• Mortality Rate – 8th worst in US (Census Bureau)

Other Poverty Indicators for McDowell County

  • *Median Home Value - $22,600 (18% are unoccupied)
  • *Median Household Income - $19,100
  • *Median Per Capita Income - $10,174
  • Adults 25 and Older with High School Diplomas – 50%
  • First Food Stamp Recipient in United States (5/29/61) was a family of 15 living in Welch, West Virginia, the County Seat of McDowell.

*Explanation of “Median” statistics: The term median is usually used in statistical reporting because extreme highs and lows do not have the significant effect on “medians” as they do with “averages”. Median is simply a number that represents a midpoint where there are as many examples above that number as below that number. When looking at median values, you must be aware that medians often do not accurately convey the true impact of the statistics being evaluated. For instance, the median home value shown above is $22,600. Again, that means that there are just as many homes worth more as worth less. In reality, the homes worth more are only worth a little more – the ones worth less are worth far less. A great number of homes in the Gary, West Virginia, McDowell County area, are only worth $1,500 - $2,000. Eighteen percent (18%) are unoccupied and many of these are only worth the back taxes.