ADMIN GENERAL1922 Correspondence Internal 

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 06: ADMINISTRATION – General and Financial

TAGS: Administration General Correspondence Internal 1922, administration, letters, correspondence, memos, finances, deficits, yearly budget, annual budget

ADMIN General Correspondence Internal 1922

This brief correspondence from the Board of Trustees to the staff workers at Pine Mountain Settlement School describes the internal struggles of the School with financial deficits.

The history of the School has had, in its 100+-year history, many lean times but also times of generous budgets. The theme of poverty at the School has had, however, a remarkable parallel to the deep poverty in the surrounding community. The initiative of the Board, the staff, and the students to meet the challenges of lean times has also been repeated over and over.

One value, among many, of the early settlement houses and schools, was the recurring lesson of poverty. It is often best learned by living within the community of interest. The reciprocal lessons of learning to live on less were shared by School and Community in the early rural settlement efforts. The lessons and the outcomes of those lessons can be measured by the strength of those who survived on very little and later found that having more was not the full measure of happiness.

Of the staff who came, many left, but those who stayed, served, grew, and often thrived. Of the community who never left, they found strength in sharing, learning, and sharing their skills of survival. All contributed, believed and persevered in a mutual search for a better life. The efforts to overcome poverty are often intense, but the best remediation can often be found in living and inventing and re-inventing ways to share the struggle with a neighbor.

New data has just been released (2018) about poverty in America and five counties have been identified as having the highest level of poverty in the United States. Kentucky has three of those counties —- literally a corner on poverty. The poorest counties in America are in Eastern Kentucky and they are Bell, Harlan, and McCreary counties. Pine Mountain continues to serve the area with place-based education and programs that employ members of the Community. The School has been adept at struggle but the crushing exploitation of corporate greed and an undiversified economy continues to erode each success along the way. In its one-hundred and sixteenth year of work with Harlan County and the surrounding area, Pine Mountain continues to overcome financial barriers and with those in that we all share in the effort to bring folk to a better life.

This short report is probably by Evelyn K. Wells, an early Secretary at the Settlement School and later a member of the Board of Trustees. She reflects on the distaste for discussions of poverty but admonishes the workers at the School to put pride aside and instead, “… let people know of the school’s struggle for existence, which matches pretty well the severity of our neighbors’ struggle for existence.”

March 28, 1922

To the Workers at Pine Mountain, from the Executive Committee [of the Board of Trustees.]

When there were just two houses at Pine Mountain, and as we sat around the fire after the children had gone to bed, we visited nightly with the whole staff, everybody was in pretty close touch with things at the school and in many ways we could pull together more effectively that we can now. For instance, everybody knew when we were particularly poor, and when any sums of money came in over which we particularly rejoiced. Everybody knew what a hand-to-mouth struggle life was.

We have thought now that you might like to have in black and white certain facts that are daily realities here, which you may have escaped knowing because of the lack of intimate contact.

Although we now have a pretty complete plant at Pine Mountain we are really a desperately poor school, ever more than we were in our early growing days. There are many times when we do not know within two days of the [?] to send out salary checks, whether we shall be able to pay them. Our last fall’s grocery bills have not been met.

Our yearly budget, covering the expense of running this school, the Medical Settlement and Line Fork, is $50,000.00

Our annual subscriptions amount to about $13,000

Our annual income from endowment is about $1,275

Making a total income of $14,275

And a balance to raise of $33,725,00

We try to add something to our endowment yearly, but business conditions outside are not favorable just now for a very general appeal. We ought, therefore, all to work together to increase the number of our annual subscribers or secure money gifts. If you don’t want to approach people yourselves, and could give us the names of people who might be interested because of your connections with the school, we would be glad to try to interest them from here. We feel that if you are all clear on the actual financial standing of the school, you can give people a better impression of it, as a work that needs support as well as enthusiastic interest. Don’t go away without literature which you can use.

If you have any suggestions as to the more economical running of the school, let us talk about them at our next meeting. Certainly, we must do without anything that is in the nature of a luxury, and hold ourselves down only to essentials, until we have a much larger proportion of our annual expenses guaranteed from one year to the next. While we, personally, and as a school, dislike to talk poverty, we believe it is necessary if the constructive work the school is doing is to go on, that we let people know of the school’s struggle for existence, which matches pretty well the severity of our neighbors’ struggle for existence.