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Microloans in America? Rockin' Appalachian Mom Project Launches Program

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WHOLE FOODS PARKING LOT
AP Images/Steven Senne

With the dim news about rising unemployment reaching 9.2 percent, job prospects in Martin County, Kentucky, one of the most poverty-stricken areas in Appalachia, are pretty few and far between. After working in the area for more than two years, the Rockin' Appalachian Mom Project (RAMP), saw an opportunity to help some entrepreneurial individuals in Martin County through a microloan program. The goal of the program is to create jobs, revenue for local residents, and long-term sustainability. The RAMP Microloan Program, created in partnership with Rockin' Water™, a kids beverage company, and Whole Foods Market, that has partnered with RAMP, has funded its first microloan in the area to Betty Harris. We've written about Betty before -- she is a standout example of a leader in her community that won't put up with the status quo; she is a go-getter, and a person of strong faith and beliefs -- so much so that she puts aside her own struggles, both financially and in health, and puts others before her. Betty and her husband Elmer, of Inez, Ky, have helped put food on the table of more than 500 families. They run a small church, food pantry and community garden on the top of a hollow in the Calf Creek region of the Appalachian Mountains. And, since the first day we met Betty, she has told us about her dream to have her own sewing and quilting business.

Betty and her friends and neighbors sew for others. They quilt baby blankets and play-mats to welcome the newest residents of Calf Creek; they sew clothes and create home accessories that help brighten up the lives of local residents. Betty has often pulled us aside and told us how Amy Guerrieri, RAMP's founder, has inspired her to start her own business.

"Amy's a mom with four kids, she runs five business and a non-profit that helps us down here," noted Betty Harris. "I look up to Amy as an example of how someone with a dream can make things happen. I've always thought of having my own sewing business, and with Amy and RAMP's help, I'm so excited to get this off the ground!"

RAMP's microloan to Betty for her Calf Creek Creations is in the amount of $3,000 and is being administered by RAMP and financed through fundraisers that RAMP, Rockin' Water and Whole Foods Market have held. Two cents of every bottle of Rockin' Water sold go to RAMP, and Whole Foods Market has been a tremendous partner holding five percent day fundraisers at its stores and supporting RAMP through its knowledgeable and motivated staff; Whole Foods Market has also provided its experience in microlending through its Whole Planet Foundation. What's different about RAMP's microloan program is that Betty will launch her venture through selling Calf Creek Creations' products at Whole Foods Market stores throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Whole Foods Market has committed to purchasing a supply of lap-size quilts/play mats and aprons from Calf Creek Creations to sell this holiday season. Betty also has other plans for expanding Calf Creek Creations, selling her products at local stores, online, and at Appalachian tourist destinations throughout the region.

RAMP's goal is to raise funds to finance 20 microloans a year, to entrepreneurs in Martin County, Ky., just like Betty. While microloans are often more prevalent in other countries, RAMP thinks the time is right to implement more microloans in the U.S. to inspire and help small business owners and entrepreneurs. To learn more, visit http://www.rampamerica.org or http://www.rockinwater.com