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Cowan Community Center Programs

Cowan Programs

For over 50 years, Cowan Community Action Group, Inc. (CCAG) has offered educational, social, cultural, and recreational programming in order to build a stronger and healthier community in Letcher County.

Our programs are designed to support the Letcher county community and beyond!

Kids on the Creek (KOTC)

KOTC provides engaging learning opportunities for youth ages 5-12 at Cowan Community Center. KOTC Afterschool runs four days a week from 3:30 to 6pm, and KOTC Summer Camp expands to five days a week from 9am to 3pm. AT KOTC, youth engage in diverse, exciting learning and community building outside of their regular school days. Our most recent KOTC semester saw a robust offering of classes which included textile art, weaving, theater, agriculture, cooking, Spanish language, woodshop, photography, and music, all taught by qualified and experienced faculty. This year, KOTC partnered with Appalshop’s Roadside Theater for this semester’s KOTC Theater Troupe to produce the original shadow puppet performance of Jack and the Christmas Stump, and we look forward to more partnerships that allow us to bring even more opportunities for our youth.

During KOTC Summer Camp, Cowan Community Center serves as one of our USDA Summer Feeding Service Program Sites, where students are fed nutritious meals prepared by our kitchen staff daily.

KOTC is supported and promoted by Save the Children and Berea College. KOTC and Cowan Community Center is not just a space for dynamic youth focused education, but also a place that local parents and grandparents can depend on. In the wake of last year’s devastating flood, Cowan kept its doors open beyond its normal KOTC Summer Camp programming, providing the only free youth programming and child care in the area at a time when children needed a loving space to gather and play as their families began the long journey of post-disaster recovery.

Cowan Creek Mountain Music School

Since 2002, some of the country’s finest old-time musicians and students of all ages and levels have gathered at CCMMS to celebrate our rich Mountain heritage of song, music, dance, and storytelling. Every summer during the last week of June, old-time musicians from all over the world gather to learn from master musicians.

 In keeping with the tradition of Mountain music being passed down through the generations as young learners listened to and played along with their older family members and neighbors, CCMMS is a truly intergenerational educational space.

In response to COVID-19 pandemic, CCMMS began offering an additional online Winter Music School, which has only increased the program’s accessibility and renown. https://cowancreekmusic.org/

Grow Appalachia

Since becoming a Grow Appalachia site in 2012, Cowan has equipped hundreds of Letcher Countians with the skills and resources they need to grow and preserve their own food. Through Grow Appalachia, community members receive extensive home-based gardening education and enter into a peer-learning and support network made up of hundreds of other local and regional gardeners and farmers. Over the past ten years, Grow Appalachia participants have harvested over 500,000 lbs of food!

For many, Cowan Grow Appalachia is a strong stepping stone into more active participation in our local food system.

From selling their products at our Whitesburg City Farmers Market, improving their value-added products at CANE Kitchen, or hosting Kids on the Creek student visits at their farm or garden, participants in Cowan Grow Appalachia experience first-hand how their home-based gardening can be an essential part of the creation of a stronger and healthier Letcher County. This year, Cowan will also participate in Grow Appalachia’s Wellness Hub project and its new program, Young Food Leaders.

Levitt AMP Whitesburg Music Series

Since 2017, we’ve been one of 15 commnities chosen to host the Levitt AMP Music Series. This concert series offers ten weeks of free live music in downtown Whitesburg. Over the years, these concerts have reenergized downtown Whitesburg.  Levitt AMP is a success every year thanks to the sponsorship of Appalachian Regional Healthcare, and the ongoing investment of local partners the City of Whitesburg, the Mountain Heritage Festival Committee, Appalshop, City of Whitesburg Farmers Market, CANE Kitchen, as well as the local shops, restaurants, art galleries, and businesses who all join in to make Levitt AMP concert evenings special for the whole community.

They have created a thriving gathering place where people of all ages and backgrounds come together, transcending any ideological divides, to envision a stronger and healthier community while sharing in the joy of music.

On these music series nights, a diverse lineup brings fresh sounds to Whitesburg, and our local growers bring fresh produce that feeds our community! Local food abounds as Levitt attendees shop at our Thursday City of Whitesburg Farmers Market and the local food trucks for supper. Cowan also provides free meals during Levitt AMP concerts for both seniors and, through USDA’s Summer Feeding Service Program, anyone under the age of 18. Currently, Cowan has a three-year contract to continue the Levitt AMP Whitesburg Music Series, witthe possibility to renew for the following six years.

USDA Summer Feeding Service Program (SFSP)

Funded federally, but administered by the state, SFSP’s mission is to ensure that young people under the age of 18 who live in low-income areas have access to meals and snacks during the summer months while school is out. Food security is a large concern for families throughout all of Eastern Kentucky, and particularly in Letcher County. 72% of students in Letcher Co. schools are eligible for free or reduced lunches, which allows for all students to eat all meals at school for free. School meals during the academic months eases the burden for many families who struggle to feed their children.

During summer months when students are not able to access these regular meals, SFSP becomes crucially important as a source of regular food access for our local youth.

Cowan was first selected for the SFSP in partnership with Letcher County Public Schools in 2014. Since then, Cowan has offered thousands of free or low-cost meals and snacks to local youth during the summer months. Currently, Cowan offers this service at two main Feeding Sites: the City of Whitesburg Farmers Markets (including Thursday evenings at Levitt AMP Whitesburg Music Series) and Cowan Community Center during Kids on the Creek Summer Camp. Much of the food offered through SFSP is made with produce grown by our very own Cowan Grow Appalachia and City of Whitesburg Farmers Market growers, making SFSP a great opportunity for growers to enter or expand into the local market.

Interns on the Creek

Through a partnership with Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP), CCAG provides employment opportunities for local rising juniors and seniors. These interns work across our programs, but primarily within our Kids on the Creek (KOTC) programs where they work as aids for our faculty and staff, and young mentors for our students.

Through this program, Cowan had 30 interns working at our 2022 KOTC Summer Camp, one of whom was later hired by Cowan as a Peer Mentor for the following Fall KOTC semester.

Cowan Creek Community Theater

Cowan Creek Community Theater  Grew from a handful of Cowan Creek women sharing their stories and memories in a piece called It’s About Time at the Seedtime on the Cumberland Festival in 2010.  Since then, the group has become an inter-generational troupe of performers who weave the recollections and doings of family members, friends and neighbors into narrative plays that reflect the complexity of contemporary mountain life with poignancy and humor. Community members have gained experience in every facet of theater production, from story development to lighting, under the guidance of gifted theater professionals such as Angie DeBord and Bob Martin. Their story-plays Homecoming and Roots and Branches have been performed at the Cowan Community Center, Seedtime on the Cumberland and the Mountain Heritage Festival.  In 2016 we worked with Higher Ground to organize the Hurricane Gap Community Theatre Institute, a conference at which performers from around the region sharpened their production skills.  The theater has received support from Berea College’s Brushy Fork Institute and the Kentucky Arts Council.

Christmas on the Creek

 Santa has made his way to the Cowan Community Center for over 50 years. He brings treats and books for the kids and all ages enjoy a heartwarming varying event, sometimes carols, story sharing and performances from some of the mountain’s most beloved performers: Ron Short, Angie DeBord, Kevin Howard, Lee Sexton, Randy Wilson and Kids on the Creek students.  Generations raised along Cowan Creek will tell you the celebration at the Cowan Community Center is the “real Christmas”.

Martin Luther King Day Celebration

has been hosted by the CCAG each year since 2001. It is a thoughtful and uplifting program, varying each year, of a morning of song, readings and reflections which brings together a wide array of Letcher Countians, young and old, to renew their commitment to equality and social justice.

The Valentine’s Day Annual Fundraiser

on February 14th features  a delicious, heart-healthy dinner, live music and good company.  Make plans to come and bring someone special.

Cowan Homemakers Club

meets on the second Thursday of the month for home economics workshops offered by the UK Extension Service, community service projects, food and good fellowship. Everyone is welcome!