Harlan County Schools, community help flood victims

Published 5:25 pm Monday, August 8, 2022

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The Harlan County School System has gone into action to assist those in neighboring areas adversely impacted by recent flooding, using the school district’s busses and a large box truck to deliver donated items needed by the flood victims.

Harlan County Schools Superintendent Brent Roark provided some information on the activity.

According to Roark, as of Tuesday morning, four buses and a box truck filled with relief items have made the trip to Letcher County, with more on the way.

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“On Friday, the severity of the destruction came to light,” Roark said. “My board members and staff members started contacting me wanting to help. So, we started putting together relief efforts.”

Roark said the first supplies left by bus for Letcher County early Friday.

“Friday afternoon, we sent out a box truck that was full,” Roark said. “Our box truck is huge, it’s refrigerated, and we sent it out completely full of supplies.”

Roark said after the box truck made its first trip, many Harlan Countians heard what was going on and decided to help.

“We opened it up to the community, and they started bringing supplies in,” Roark said. “We sent three busses and a box truck yesterday (Monday), and we’ve already sent two busses today (Tuesday).”

Roark mentioned he went with one bus to Fleming Neon on Monday, with the rest of the supplies taken to Letcher County Central.

“The reason we’re sending them to Letcher County Central is we’re getting word from different folks over there that a lot of the supplies were stopping before they made it to Letcher County,” Roark said. “Letcher County was totally devastated. It was one of the hardest hit areas, but stuff wasn’t getting to them, and they were sending out word they were running out of cleaning supplies. So, we focused on food and cleaning supplies.”

A bus is being utilized for collecting donated items.

“We’ll keep a bus on our parking lot at the Harlan County Schools Central Office,” Roark said. “Anybody can come out at any time during the day from 7 a.m. until dark, and they can put stuff on the bus. We’ll have folks to help them if they want to come out during our work hours from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m.”

Roark noted many churches have been donating items to be delivered by the school’s vehicles. He emphasized a significant need for supplies in the areas that have been hit.

“We went into Fleming Neon,” Roark said. “I’ve never experienced destruction on that scale. It’s unbelievable.”

Roark estimated approximately 30 to 40 percent of the homes in Fleming Neon had been damaged or destroyed.

“It’s not you’re helping just a handful of people,” Roark said. “It’s horrific.”

According to Roark, the items most needed are things such as canned food.

“Canned food that can easily be opened is nonperishable and can be eaten without being cooked,” Roark said. “Also, any kind of hygiene items, water, cleaning supplies.”

Hygiene items would include things such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, etc.

Roark added there is no timeline on how long the deliveries will continue.

“We’ll keep doing it, as long as folks want to continue to bring stuff, we’ll take it to them,” Roark said. “We’ll keep doing it as long as there’s a need. Folks in Harlan County have got a huge heart, and they want to help people. I’ve seen that my whole life. They want to be good neighbors, and that’s what they’re doing right now.”

Roark mentioned an example of Harlan County’s giving spirit.

“One of our principals, Stan Nicely, he had $1,000 from his church to go and buy supplies,” Roark said. “As he was in Walmart buying things, people kept walking up to him and handing him $50, $100, to buy more stuff with. People he didn’t even know were handing him money … People are very generous in our area. They know what it’s like to be without, and they don’t like seeing other people without.”

Roark stated his appreciation for those doing the driving, loading, collecting, and other work involved in getting the supplies to their destination.

“I just want to let our people know that we appreciate their time,” Roark said.