Volunteers share hugs and ‘God stories’ after flooding

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Key points:

  • Help pours in for Kentucky flood survivors.
  • The United Methodist Mountain Mission, a project of the Kentucky Conference, is helping coordinate donations for those affected by the worst flood in the history of Eastern Kentucky.
  • As volunteers organize and distribute aid, they also offer a listening ear.

Debbie Holcomb and Rose Calhoun were cheerfully sorting through tons of food donations that were coming in by truckloads and from individuals to the United Methodist Mountain Mission for the survivors of the worst flood in the history of Eastern Kentucky.

The two United Methodist women were offering just as many hugs as bags of food.

“We are seeing pitiful, pitiful people. People who sat for hours before they were rescued from dark, wet places. They were alone and they could hear babies crying. Sometimes they just need to be held,” said Holcomb.

Flood survivor Rosemarie Peak (left) visits with volunteers Rose Calhoun (left) and Debbie Holcomb while picking up relief supplies at United Methodist Mountain Mission. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News. 
Flood survivor Rosemarie Peak (left) visits with volunteers Rose Calhoun (left) and Debbie Holcomb while picking up relief supplies at United Methodist Mountain Mission.

Belinda Gross came in looking for food for her family of four. “It destroyed everything I had,” she said. “I had a brand-new washer and dryer, refrigerator. It is the first time I ever got water in my house.”

Tony Struzziery was bringing in a truckload of donations from Roanoke, Virginia.

“My heart told me to come. I’m a contractor and I’ll be back to help people stop mold in their homes before it gets a grip.”

Karen Bunn (left) visits with Dolly Barnett amid growing piles of relief supplies donated for flood survivors at United Methodist Mountain Mission. Bunn is the center’s executive director and Barnett is employed there. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News. 
Karen Bunn (left) visits with Dolly Barnett amid growing piles of relief supplies donated for flood survivors at United Methodist Mountain Mission. Bunn is the center’s executive director and Barnett is employed there.

United Methodist Mountain Mission is a project of the Kentucky Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Andy Mitchell, communications director for the mission, said help is coming in from everywhere from all different faith groups.

“The Islamic Relief group came in and brought tons of water. At 6 p.m., prayer time, they just went out into our parking lot and laid down their mats and prayed after working their butts off helping,” he said.

Bishop Leonard Fairley visits with Karen Bunn (center) and the Rev. Karen Stigall at United Methodist Mountain Mission. Bunn is the center’s executive director and Stigall is superintendent of the Kentucky Conference’s South East District, where much of the recent flooding occurred. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News. 
Bishop Leonard Fairley visits with Karen Bunn (center) and the Rev. Karen Stigall at United Methodist Mountain Mission. Bunn is the center’s executive director and Stigall is superintendent of the Kentucky Conference’s South East District, where much of the recent flooding occurred.

Karen Bunn, director of the mission, said she came to Jackson for one year and has stayed for 30 years.

She and her team have been sorting through mountains of donations that have grown even larger since the floods.

“People have lost everything. They are living in tents on their property and it is still raining. Can you imagine how they must feel?” she asked.

Austin Herald unloads relief supplies donated for flood survivors at United Methodist Mountain Mission. Herald is an employee of the center. Holding the door is volunteer Debbie Holcomb from Hampton (Ky.) United Methodist Church. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News. 
Austin Herald unloads relief supplies donated for flood survivors at United Methodist Mountain Mission. Herald is an employee of the center. Holding the door is volunteer Debbie Holcomb from Hampton (Ky.) United Methodist Church.

Holcomb and Calhoun said they have witnessed “God stories” time and time again. Such as the woman who came in and tearfully told them her washer and dryer and refrigerator survived the storm but were stolen by looters.

Just a short time later, someone called saying they had just those items and wanted to donate them, Calhoun said.

“The flood was bad, but this help is on the opposite end of the spectrum,” said Mitchell.

Gilbert is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tennessee.

News media contact: Julie Dwyer, news editor, [email protected] or 615-742-5469. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.


To donate, give to the United Methodist Committee on Relief’s U.S. Disaster Response and Recovery through Advance #901670.

Donations also can be made directly to the Kentucky Conference's Disaster Response Advance 200902.

Return to main story, Kentucky churches care for neighbors hit by floods


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