Amy Guerrieri, a Greenwich resident, owner of the Upper Crust Bagel Company and Arcadia Café in Old Greenwich, and CEO of the children’s beverage Rockin’ Water, is also the founder of a non-profit organization called RAMP – that works in the Appalachian region of the United States working specifically with poverty-stricken families to alleviate poverty through nutrition and economic development.
Two teenagers that RAMP has helped better their lives in rural Martin County, Kentucky, one of the poorest counties in the nation, are visiting Greenwich to ring in the New Year! Tyler and Sara Chapman will be arriving at the Guerrieri’s home, along with two friends, on Dec. 29, and staying the week until Jan. 4, 2013, with the Guerrieri family to celebrate the New Year.
Sara and Tyler have had a rough life – trying to live in a home without everyday services that most people take for granted. This past March, Sarah and Tyler’s home, the only stability they had ever experienced, was destroyed by a tornado that ripped through Martin County, Kentucky. They lost everything. RAMP helped them obtain suitable new housing and rebuild their lives.
“Just because someone lives in poverty doesn’t mean we should forget about them,” noted Amy Guerrieri. “Every child needs a chance to have a childhood; grow up in a safe home, and have a family that loves them. To be able to brighten the holidays for a child, regardless if it is a youngster or a teenager, is an amazing thing.” Guerrieri noted that giving to others is what the holidays are about. “Sara and Tyler came into my life with daunting circumstances. To be able to help change their lives for the better, just by providing them with basic necessities, and the love of my family, has been a life-affirming event for everyone involved with RAMP.”
Sara and Tyler, along with two friends, are spending the week with Guerrieri, her husband Rob, and their four children in their home in Riverside, Conn. Amy plans on showcasing the Greenwich area to the teens, taking them into New York City, and sharing lots of “family time.” It is Amy’s goal to show these teens a positive family experience; one they can take back with them to Kentucky that will help them focus even more on their studies at school and encourage them to build a better life with an entrepreneurial spirit.
This past July, Amy Guerrieri first invited the kids to spend part of their summer vacation with her family in Greenwich. Before visiting Connecticut earlier this year, the kids had never really been out of Kentucky. They had never seen the beach, the ocean, or a big city like New York City. And they had never had a family experience like the Guerrieri’s, where they made meals together, played and just hung out and talked and laughed.
Growing up in poverty, Sara and Tyler have had hardships that most teenagers never have to contemplate, such as not knowing if they had enough food for a meal, or worrying about scraping enough money together to pay bills when their parents didn’t have enough.
For the past year-and-a-half, Sara and Tyler have been recipients of RAMP’s “Backpack Snack” program — where they are supplied food to take home two weekends a month — because their family cannot afford to purchase food on a regular basis. This is a huge and all-to-common problem in Martin County, Kentucky. RAMP supports more than 350 children through its Backpack Snack Program — ranging in age from pre-school through high school. Sara and Tyler are in high school and have struggled with poverty their whole lives. The Backpack Snack program is just one of seven programs RAMP has in place in Kentucky.
This holiday season, RAMP provided thousands of pounds of healthy foods — including multiple truckloads of fresh produce from partners at the Southeast Produce Council — to struggling children and families in Martin County, in addition to its year-round programs.
“If it wasn't for RAMP, we may not have been able to celebrate Christmas as a family and have our family traditions,” noted Sara Chapman in a note she sent to Amy Guerrieri after Christmas. Sara went on to say, “I wanted to say thank you and how much I appreciate you and RAMP and how much you mean to me. Taylor and I started decorating last night for Christmas and we started talking about how if it wasn’t for you, we may not have been able to celebrate Christmas as a family. You honestly have given us much more than we could want. You have given us the ability to be able to be a family still. That is the most important thing we could ever want. It was nice being able to decorate with Taylor and it really opened my eyes about just how much you care. I mean I know you always have, but last night I really understood. Within the year and a half that I have known you, you have made a huge impact in my life. You've been a rock for me. Someone who cares. And to me there is nothing more important than that. You've become my second family. I can’t picture my life without you all. I love you! And thank you Amy for being the person you are. I appreciate everything you have done and I appreciate YOU!”
RAMP’s goal in Martin County, Kentucky, is to create a pilot program that can be implemented in other poverty-stricken communities throughout the United States to help families lift themselves out of poverty. RAMP has been working in rural Martin County, Kentucky, for three years now and has seen amazing progress.
RAMP’s mission is to provide basic needs, sustain food pantries that serve the neediest in the community, improve the nutritional well being of local residents, and create sustainability by mentoring income generating projects that will bring economic growth and lasting change. Working community-to-community, family-to-family, Mom-to-Mom, and kid-to-kid, RAMP is making a difference. RAMP works with the Martin County community to identify critical needs and create solutions focusing on nutrition, economic development, and emergency relief intervention, with a special focus on children and families. RAMP connects resources locally and nationally to address basic human needs where other resource are limited or inaccessible. RAMP builds relationships with the community, schools, and local government and business leaders to mobilize volunteerism and facilitate the efficient delivery of resources and services. RAMP believes in a “hand up, not hand out” operating model that invests in the community from the ground up. RAMP empowers the families, schools, and organizations of Martin County to take ownership of the programs, get involved, and volunteer to help bring about positive change. RAMP envisions a poverty-free Appalachia. It strives to refine its operating model and grow its impact by replicating the Martin County pilot throughout the Appalachian region.