For her work as founder of Old Greenwich-based non-profit, Lieberman says Amy Guerrieri is a ‘hero’

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) made a special trip to Old Greenwich last week to sing the praises of Amy Guerrieri, founder of RAMP, a locally based non-profit working to end poverty in Appalachia.

The senator was joined by his wife, Hadassah, to present Ms. Guerrieri with a “Joe’s Heroes” award, which honors the accomplishments of outstanding citizens in Connecticut.

Upon entering RAMP’s headquarters, Sen. Lieberman told Ms. Guerrieri, “You’re my hero.” But the non-profit founder was not ready to accept the award without first giving the senator a full overview of RAMP’s efforts and the rampant poverty plaguing Appalachia.

Beginning in Martin County, Ky., with plans to expand all over Appalachia, RAMP’s mission is to connect resources, invest in communities and empower children and families to lift themselves out of poverty.

 

Through her own words, and with the assistance of a slideshow of pictures, Ms. Guerrieri explained to Mr. Lieberman the numerous initiatives launched by RAMP in order to achieve those goals.

The first image presented was a photo of Lyndon B. Johnson visiting Martin County, Ky., in 1964. It was the last year a president stepped foot in eastern Kentucky and was purposely selected as the first photo to emphasize the importance of spreading awareness about poverty, Ms. Guerrieri told the Post.

Subsequent photos showed children with deep purple circles under their eyes, which Ms. Guerrieri explained is a sign of poor nutrition. She described the food programs RAMP has launched at schools in Martin County, which not only fight hunger but teach the youth the importance of eating nutritious meals. Before RAMP came along, many children who now benefit from the programs had never even heard of a cantaloupe or a cucumber, she told the senator.

Ms. Guerrieri also presented the organization’s emergency response program, which provides relief in the wake of natural disasters, and the newly developed micro loan program, which will allow high school seniors the opportunity to start their own businesses within the county as a means of boosting economic development in the area.

Following her presentation, Ms. Guerrieri called 18-year-old Martin County native Sarah Chapman, who relayed to Mr. Lieberman over speakerphone the tremendous support Ms. Guerrieri and RAMP have provided her family over the last several months, including a free trip to Greenwich to experience life outside Kentucky.

With the help of RAMP, “We don’t have to worry … I know that if I need something that Amy and them are there to take care of us,” Sarah told the senator.

“We all worry at every age but at your age you shouldn’t have to worry too much, you should just focus on doing everything you can to have a good future and do well in school and go on and do all the things I know Amy knows you’re capable of,” Mr. Lieberman responded.

Following the phone call, Ms. Guerrieri once again stressed the importance of spreading awareness about poverty as well as resources like RAMP that are available to poverty-stricken communities.

“It’s about us getting out there. You don’t need to run away from it … We need to face it head on. We have 40 million children in this country who go to bed hungry every night,” she explained.

Mr. Lieberman agreed, telling Ms. Guerrieri that he had two thoughts to share with her about her work in Appalachia.

First, he said, “I read once somebody was talking about the difference between water as a symbol and fire … If you have a pitcher and you pour water in a glass, there’s less in the pitcher. If you have a candle and you light another candle you don’t lose the original flame and in fact you lit another candle … that candle can light other candles. That’s you. You’ve responded and done something so good and part of the story that’s in the [slideshow] is that people kept seeing what you were doing and then wanting to help and do something different themselves. Another way to describe it … you might say you lit a fire under some people.”

The second thought, the senator explained, was about the phrase “If you save the life of one child it’s as if you save the whole world.”

“In that sense you’ve saved a lot of worlds,” he said.

With regard to “Joe’s Heroes” awards, Mr. Lieberman said he has periodically recognized people in the state who don’t get recognized enough.

“My hope in giving out these Heroes awards is not only to make the people who do such great things … feel good and appreciated but also, frankly, to get some attention for what you’re doing,” the senator explained.

“I want to thank people like you who are just extra special and extra good and to say you’re a hero, a Connecticut hero, my hero for your outstanding leadership and tireless dedication as president and founder of RAMP,” he told Ms. Guerrieri while presenting her with the award.

But the senator didn’t just have an award to give Ms. Guerrieri, who not only lives in town but owns several small businesses here. He also decided to literally put his money where his mouth was when it came to praising her work.

“Hadassah and I are going to go back to our checkbook and write out a check to give something. I don’t do this every time I give a Heroes award but I’m so moved,” Mr. Lieberman said.

When the event was over, Ms. Guerrieri said she felt very positive about Mr. Lieberman’s appearance and the attention he paid to RAMP’s programs.

Now, Ms. Guerrieri can only hope that he spreads the word to his colleagues and others in positions of power and influence that she couldn’t reach on her own to increase awareness, she said.

“It’s all about getting in front of the right person.”

 

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