American families in need struggle to weather the winter months

Even here in the United States, the winter months can be the most difficult for families living in poverty, like the Cutrights in West Virginia. Warm clothing and other basics are difficult to come by, especially when jobs can still be difficult to find.

Story and photos by Laura Reinhardt, World Vision U.S.
Published January 16, 2013 at 12:00am PST

Julie Cutright, 26, opens the door to her trailer, holding her 2-year-old daughter, Aubrey, in her arms. It’s cold inside — cold enough that visitors would want to keep their winter coats on. But Julie only had on shorts with a sweatshirt.

“There’s [cold] air that comes from everywhere,” Julie says. “You don’t know where it comes from. You can plastic stuff and cover it, and you still feel it. It’s terrible.”

One problem leads to another

After an electrical fire, Julie’s husband, Johnny, disconnected the faulty breaker, so they have no electricity in the front room and no way to heat their house, except for a wood stove.

Also, their water heater leaks, so they leave it off, resulting in a three-hour wait when they do need hot water. If they kept it on, the moisture from the leak would lead to mold in the house, which is bad for anyone, but especially for Aubrey.

As an infant, Aubrey spent a month at the hospital in an oxygen tent with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). It’s done permanent damage to her lungs, making her more susceptible to respiratory infections.

Aubrey is still in her pajamas at midday because of a cold. She has a deep cough that sounds more like it belongs to a lifetime smoker. The wood fire isn’t good for Aubrey — but it’s either that or freeze.

Food, work, and warmth hard to find

Johnny has been out of work for over a year, and Julie just got laid off from her seasonal waitress job.

Julie applied and is assured the same job when the tourist season begins again in April. Her re-hire date is the week her second child is due. Julie said she’ll take that week off, but then be back at work the following week. That’s how much they need this income.

When I was there, Julie’s husband, Johnny, was out deer hunting. For some, hunting is sport, but for this family, it means having a supply of food through winter.

“Food, food. Wonderful food,” Julie looked away. “When you don’t have much, you appreciate it a lot more and it helps you out a lot more. A lot more.”

Johnny just applied for a security job. “Hopefully, it’s not like everything else. It’s just so hard to get a job right now,” said Julie.

Learn more

World Vision hosts week-long mission trips to places of need right here in the United States, including the Appalachian region of West Virginia.

Learn more about the dates and locations of these trips — and consider participating in one to bring help and hope to American communities in need.

Three ways you can help

Pray for families like the Cutrights here in the United States who struggle with poverty and find the winter months to be the most difficult time of year. Pray that they would see the love of God through the compassion of others, even in the midst of their challenges.

Make a one-time donation to help provide warm clothing and shoes to U.S. children in need. Your gift will help deliver new shoes, clothing, and more to U.S. children whose families live in poverty and are unable to afford essentials. Thanks to corporate product donations, your gift will multiply 12 times in value.

Give monthly to support World Vision’s U.S. programs. Your monthly contribution will help us provide support and empowerment to children, families, and communities in need right here in the United States.