Food and furniture help in recovery for Central Appalachian flood victims

APPALACHIA (April 12, 2021) – The news of flooding in Eastern Kentucky may have faded into the background for the rest of the state, but residents in Central Appalachia are still struggling to put their lives back together. With the economic fallout of the pandemic layered onto generational poverty, residents found themselves battered by a succession of winter storms including, ice, snow, and historic flooding. Christian Appalachian Project’s (CAP) Operation Sharing is committed to helping communities for as long as it takes.

“The flood may be over, but CAP and our community partners are still on the ground to serve as long as needed,” said Aaron Thoms, manager of CAP’s Operation Sharing warehouse in Paintsville, Kentucky. “We have tractor trailers with refrigerated food boxes that will be provided to partner agencies who will distribute to families in need. It will immediately reach people that can benefit from it.”

That includes food pantries like God’s Hands Ministry, the Lawrence County Food Bank in Blaine, Kentucky. The pantry was also a victim of the floods, but staff and volunteers were committed to making sure the ministry survived.

“We had five feet of water in the pantry and lost 78 tons of food and essentials that could have gone to serve the community,” said Rachael Wheeler, president of the pantry. “All I could do was stand there and cry because it was all gone. It was devasting. The community rallied around us and I knew I could call Aaron at Operation Sharing. Without the partnership with CAP, the number of people we help wouldn’t be possible.”

In the last year, the pantry has gone from serving hundreds to serving thousands, and the floods just made a bad situation worse. Wheeler has received five tractor trailer loads from CAP since March, and a sixth containing food, essential items, and furniture will be delivered on Thursday, April 15 to help residents with daily needs and to begin to put their lives back together.

Across the state line in Dunlow, West Virginia, Addie Likens, co-director of Cabwaylingo Appalachian Mission, agrees. “The need here is so great. Because of the pandemic and the storms too, people have needs that they didn’t have before.”

Cabwaylingo will also receive USDA food boxes on April 15 and other items to help the community recover. According to Likens, community residents line up as much as 12 hours before a distribution to ensure they can receive food to feed their families.

“After the flooding, we had to open as a shelter because the community was without power for eight days,” Likens added. “Without the help of Operation Sharing, we would have to close our doors. In a typical distribution now we serve 300-500 families in need.”
After the floods, Christian Appalachian Project’s Disaster Relief and Housing Programs completed 160 home assessments and had teams on the ground in the communities surrounding Floyd, Johnson, Rockcastle, and Lawrence Counties. More than 100 employees, volunteers, and community members clocked more than 3,900 hours. CAP’s Operation Sharing Program has distributed more than 20 semi truckloads to families in 12 additional Kentucky counties, plus Wayne County, West Virginia.

“Everybody can use a little help sometimes,” Thoms said. “These food boxes and furniture will help supplement what families can provide for themselves. I am glad that we can do our part in helping families dealing with poverty.”

For nonprofits interested in coordinating with Operation Sharing for essential supplies, contact the Corbin office at 606.523.5799 or the Paintsville office at 606.789.3148. For churches, groups, and community members interested in volunteering, contact Becky Neuenschwander at 606.872.0892. To help CAP meet these continued needs of families and individuals impacted by flooding, visit www.christianapp.org/flood2021.

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