Despite its natural beauty and fresh-air charm, families living in the foothills of the Kentucky Appalachian Mountains are struggling.
The county’s traditional economic base was originally built on coal mining, timber and small factories. With the disappearance of these industries, the community has labored with unemployment or under-employment. The result has been overwhelming poverty. The need is clear and it is genuine.
Seventeen years ago, ICM was a dream. A dream that became real thanks to the influence and leadership of Hilton and Barbara Duncan.
ICM began operating in an unused building owned by the volunteer fire department. It was located about 4 miles up the road from where it is today. Clothing was donated to ICM and it was then handed out to the community from this little building. This business model didn’t work very well. We found that some local folks didn’t want a hand out so they didn’t visit us. Others probably took more than they needed.
We then decided to sell articles of clothing for a nickel, dime or quarter. When furniture or larger items were donated, we might sell a sofa for $5. There were situations where some families could not even afford these “prices” or maybe had a tragedy such as a house fire. In these cases, no payment was required. This was how our thrift store at ICM began.
In 2003, ICM built the Heritage Learning Center. But before the first building or facility was constructed on the ICM site, the property was the homestead of Barbara’s great grandparents. Barb and Hilton donated the property to ICM as a Heritage to the people of Rattlesnake Ridge.
A generous grant from UPS helped to cover the cost of building the Heritage Learning center. It was a facility where local people could meet. It consisted of a computer room, a small library, a multipurpose community room, a classroom, and we continued our little thrift store.
Today, ICM has grown to include a much larger thrift store, food pantry, playground, picnic area and baseball field. Also, a new bunkhouse was added in 2015 to accommodate up to 48 people. Mission groups visit year-round to support the community. These groups assist the local folks in home repair projects, family outreach programs, holiday parties, and in many other capacities.
The thrift Store, food pantry, and home repair projects have been instrumental in meeting the physical needs of the community. This has allowed us to move on and address the residents emotional and spiritual needs.
When people are all alone, dealing with life’s most difficult circumstances, moving in a positive direction is a struggle. When isolated, people tend to drift to negative behaviors and activities that causes them to spiral downhill and often leave an imprint on multiple generations.
On the other hand, when people are in a safe, loving, helpful, and positive environment, the possibilities for emotional and spiritual growth seem to skyrocket. When physical needs are met, and when people don’t feel judged, they are much more likely to participate in programs and studies that will help break the chains of hopelessness. In McCreary County Kentucky, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, ICM is such a place.
We are proud of all that we have accomplished. ICM has grown to become a safe haven in the community. The next few years will certainly bring us new challenges, but we are committed to the people in McCreary county because poverty should not be an inheritance.
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