Watching the devastating flooding in Hindman, Whitesburg and surrounding areas has to raise some bitter memories for the people of Carter County and, specifically, Olive Hill. If anyone understands what these communities have gone through, are going through, and will go through in the coming days, weeks, months – and for years yet to come – it’s the folks from this little community.
When Tygart Creek overflowed her banks a decade ago, it didn’t cover as much country as the various floods caused by the torrential rains south of us. It didn’t cause as much widespread devastation as they are seeing in Letcher, Knott, Perry, Harlan and other surrounding counties in the southeast corner of the state. But a home or a business lost hits individuals the same way, whether they are spread over multiple counties or clustered in one.
It might be why, almost immediately after the first reports of rising waters came in, I also began hearing stories of volunteers from Carter County joining in the rescue and relief efforts.
Carter County EM Director, Adam Stapleton, reportedly joined in to help emergency response efforts.
Library director Matt Parsons was in Hindman for a writer’s retreat, and spent 36 straight hours awake helping get people, pets, and irreplaceable items to safety. While his wife, Annie, lost her car in the flood waters, she wisely noted on social media that it was replaceable and not as important as the lives and livelihoods put in danger.
Amy Richardson, from Forgotten Foods Farm, near Olive Hill, escaped the rising flood waters at the same writer’s retreat, but she was back at the Hindman Settlement School once the waters receded – delivering supplies and helping salvage unique items of cultural significance to our region before they are lost to damp, mud, and mold.
Over in Grayson, the Grayson Gallery dedicated part of their Final Friday event to fundraising and collecting supplies for the region.
The libraries will be serving as drop-off locations for supplies like water and such as well. The folks in these areas are going to need clean water and food, first and foremost. But they’re also going to need clothing – especially dry socks and clean underwear (still in the package).
One of the things folks don’t often think about that families are going to need are pillows, sleeping bags, and blankets. Sleeping pads or cots would be an absolute luxury for displaced folks spending their nights on couches or floors.
That stuff is all bulky though. It’s difficult to store and to transport. And it’s hard to determine who gets what items. It’s hard to determine what is the most fair distribution of goods.
Probably the best way that we, as individuals, can help out – other than the direct actions of rescue and clean-up that some of our county’s volunteer minded have engaged in – is to donate money.
I won’t presume to tell any of you who you should donate money to. You know which organizations and groups you trust with your money. If you don’t, it’s easy enough to do an internet search for legitimate charitable funds and non-profits that are already operating in the area.
Or, find someone you know and trust, and ask them.
Give through your church.
Give through your job.
Give through a club or fraternal organization you belong to or trust with your money. There are many of them organizing efforts to help, and working with branches in the impacted communities.
If you have it, and can afford it, please, give something.
If you don’t, encourage those that do have the extra money to help, and then help out however you can. Even if all you can do is share links to support efforts and fundraisers on social media; that’s something.
These floods have been devastating. Heartbreaking. The communities, businesses, organizations, and people effected by this will not recover from this flood overnight. It may be several years for some, and they may need our moral support and other assistance throughout the process.
They’ll also need our insight into the recovery process.
And, perhaps most importantly, they’re going to need the hope we can provide them. Hope that there is still life on the other side of this heartbreaking tragedy. Hope that, even if it’s slow, there is a chance for recovery and renewal.
They can do it, but they’ll need help from us and they’re other neighbors. We can’t think of a community, or group of people, more ready and willing to answer that call than Carter County though.
We’re proud of what you’ve already done. And of what you still plan to do.