By Shirley Shuman
Saturday morning, Joe Green and Adam Tanner left Gassaway in a U-Haul truck filled with supplies for the flood victims of Letcher County, Kentucky. The project was the idea of Laura Green, manager of Encore in Gassaway. After the idea came to her, she explained the procedure she used to “get things moving.”
“I talked to Adam Tanner of Annabelle,” she said, “and his response was a quick ‘Let’s do it’. Of course that’s what I wanted to hear.” Green’s next move was to call the office of the Governor of Kentucky. “They put me in contact with the Emergency Flood Relief Office, who gave me the name of an area which hadn’t had much attention,” she noted. That area was Letcher County, Ky, and its main town, Fleming-Neon.
Letcher County, she learned, is sparsely populated, and had received little relief. The area has “around 1500” people, with maybe 700 living in the small community itself. Green also learned that, in addition to flood damage to homes, the Methodist church, where people might have shelter, had collapsed. The town hall was gone along with walls of many structures, and bridges and foundations washed away. FEMA engineers were checking remaining structures to determine those which were unsafe. When Joe Green and Tanner arrived in Fleming-Neon, they saw several of the buildings marked with a huge red X.
Green’s next move was publicizing the drive for supplies for the people in the selected area. “The outpouring from the community was marvelous,” she said of the response. In addition to monetary donations came all types of sanitation materials along with shovels, rakes, scrapers, rubber boots, mops, brooms, cleaner, canned food, bottled water, and so much more.
In addition to individual local contributions, Joyce Morton collected supplies in Webster County, WV Caring and Sharing had a drop-off site for items, and WV Outreach Center donated two pallets of supplies. Kroger, Walmart, and the Produce Shack all contributed generously, along with the Elk River Baptist Church. There were, of course, many others.
The two young men who delivered these goods, both of whom had seen numerous photographs of damage caused by the flood, were shocked when they arrived at one of the sites. Both had volunteered to do cleanup after the 2016 flood in the Clendenin area, and they said what they saw in Letcher County was far worse. They described driving in deep mud and found flood water still standing in many areas.
Laura Green’s quick decision to provide as much help as possible to the Kentucky flood victims was not surprising since she manages Encore, a non-profit business dedicated to helping others. Encore’s mission is “to help alleviate the burden of poverty” where others have failed. The local Encore, in addition to having a Thrift Store which sells clothing, household items, and some furniture at nominal prices, also has an emergency food pantry that will provide enough for food for several days. Another service is the SJRC Mobile Outpatient Clinic which is there every Thursday to provide mental and substance abuse treatment.
Obviously, the practice of helping others found at Encore served as a motivation for the project to assist the people of a small, poverty section of flooded Letcher County, Kentucky.