MAGOFFIN – Once the floodwaters subsided, Magoffin Countians rolled out, helping the communities hit the hardest by the historic Eastern Kentucky flood.
The SI reached out to as many people as possible who are coordinating flood assistance in the community, but a total list would be completely impossible since the fact of the matter is every organized group, as well as so many individual citizens with a personal boat or a trailer big enough to haul a pallet of water and some cleaning supplies, are doing something to help. “Eastern Kentucky Strong” isn’t just an empty motto – it’s proving truer every day with Eastern Kentuckians helping their fellow Eastern Kentuckians.
Lakefront Church of God opened up their building – the former Middle Fork Elementary School – for people needing showers, hot meals, clothing from their resource center and a place to stay. Since Breathitt County doesn’t have a food bank, Lakefront’s Water Into Wine Food Pantry serves many Breathitt families.
“We have one family – a single dad with three kids and their trailer wrapped around a pole – living in a tent on the side of a hill,” Jeff Tackett with Lakefront Church of God told the Independent on Friday.
By Wednesday of this week, Tackett said they were good on all donations except bottled water, which the boil water advisory had made a bit trickier for them to serve the 75 people that have come through their doors since the flooding began.
They’ve housed the National Guard, and are now waiting for a crew to come in from North Carolina to help with the cleanup in the region.
“We faired pretty good comparatively, so really we just need water and volunteers to help muck out homes,” Tackett said.
For those who would like to donate to Lakefront Church of God’s efforts, help distribute items or food to affected areas, or would like to volunteer, call 606-331-9681.
Licking River Baptist Church, Salyersville First Baptist Church and Bethel Bible Church have all teamed up to deliver supplies to churches and ministries in Floyd, Breathitt and Knott counties to help them have the means and abilities to distribute to their community, Clay Herd, pastor of the Licking River Baptist Church told the Independent on Wednesday.
So far, the group has distributed 1,200 cases of water, bleach and cleaning supplies, with donations coming from all over.
“These groups consistently need water, gloves like you would use for washing dishes, and contractor bags,” Herd said while he was in the Caney area of Knott County. “Today is the first place we’ve been where they still have water.”
The group encourages anyone wanting to help to contact their local ministry, which can coordinate with the churches already participating, to bring a unified effort of assistance from local churches to the ministries that serve these communities.
“It’s just a complete loss,” Herd said. “There in Emmalena, there’s nothing left of that town. The main part of town, the hollers – it’s all gone. Houses are moved from their foundations and you see people sitting on their foundations with nothing around. I’ve never seen devastation like that before.”
Herd reminded people to remember these communities in the upcoming weeks.
“There’s been a lot of help so far, but their greatest need is in the days to come,” Herd said. “That’s why I’ve been sharing posts and pictures on Facebook. It’s not for self-glorification, it’s to make people aware of the situation. In the long term, they will be abandoned. They’ll be building back for months, if not years, to come.”
When the tornado hit in 2012, Avavan Deaton handled the distribution of donated supplies to farmers in the community, so when she saw on the news Thursday night a girl swimming in the flood waters with a small dog in a box to get to safety, she knew she had to do something.
“People came from all over to bring us feed and supplies then, so I figured it was time to pay it forward and help them,” Deaton said.
Deaton, who farms, works at the West Liberty Vet Clinic, owns and operates the Creekside Stitchin and Feed Store on Bear Branch off of Rt. 30, and sits on the county’s soil and conservation board, has rented a box trailer and flat bed trailer and is taking up animal supplies for the communities hit by the flood. Currently, she said they still have a need for dry and wet cat and dog food, crates, pet taxis, carriers, cat litter, bedding, feed, straw, and especially buckets, which she plans to deliver on Friday.
So far, she’s made daily trips to the flooded communities, delivering water and supplies needed.
And where did the donations come from? Well, that would be from other farmers.
“This is farmers helping farmers, literally,” Deaton said.
She noted she has drivers donating their time and diesel to transport the goods, and an animal supply store out of Flemingsburg, Frank Hinton and Son, donated 5 tons of feed on Wednesday.
Deaton started reaching out to the farmers along Rt 30 in need (in Breathitt County), then on to Rt. 476 and 542, taking buckets, push mops, trash bags and more to every day since Sunday.
“I couldn’t do anything without the help of all these people – farmers and supply stores reaching out to donate all of these much needed items,” Deaton said.
Downed fences, washed away livestock, destroyed barns, and everything covered in muck, Deaton said it’s something no one can fathom until they see – and smell – it.
“You can’t find anything that foul to compare it to and it’s coming through your vents in your vehicle,” Deaton said. “It’s stagnated mud, which has now got hot, so it’s just so bad.”
She also noted that many of these people are living in tents on their property to protect what is left from looters, with camping supplies and chairs some of the most needed items for those families.
“They’re protecting their property and hoping to find one photo, a family Bible, just anything – so they can save at least that one thing,” Deaton said, explaining that these people need church vans or buses to visit the area, take them somewhere they can shower, take their laundry to be cleaned at one of P&G’s Tide’s Loads of Hope mobile units and then bring them back home.
“It can’t be safe to stay there, but I get why they want to stay,” Deaton said. “They’re not going to leave, but they need help.”
Deaton is working with the Farm Service Agency out of West Liberty to help document the farms affected by the flooding – right now estimated somewhere between 250 and 500 farms – so they can apply for more governmental emergency assistance.
“These people’s homes washed away, their cars, their barns – they have nothing left, and the flooding has destroyed this year’s crop and depleted the soil for next year, so they’ll have to fertilize and add all the nutrients back to the soil for a chance to grow something then, but they can’t afford a fence post right now. They need help, and not just reimbursements after the fact.”
She asked farmers to document everything they’ve lost and to contact her or the FSA West Liberty office to make sure it has been recorded for the application.
For those wanting to donate monetarily, Deaton has set up a PayPal at email@example.com. People can contact for either assistance or to help her efforts by her by calling 606-477-3795.
The Independent will continue to cover the local flood assistance efforts as information becomes available. If in doubt about how to help, contact your local church, your child’s school family resource center, local vet clinics and other nonprofit groups to make sure your donation or your offer of volunteering goes where it is needed most. The Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund is also established through the governor’s office and will also assist the communities impacted by the floods and severe weather system, which can be found at https://secure.kentucky.gov/FormServices/Finance/EKYFloodRelief.