Around 50 Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are at work in Elkhorn City, Kentucky, helping residents recover from the state’s worst flood on record.
Cookie Baker, who is serving at the command center, said while every disaster relief deployment has its challenges, access to the homeowners has been especially difficult in Elkhorn City.
“The mountain goes straight up here, so the houses are built along the creek because it’s the only flat place,” she said.
Residents there usually access their homes from narrow bridges built across the creek from the road, but the flooding washed many of those bridges away.
“In some cases, the volunteers are having to get their tools from the trailer and walk across the creek to get to the homes,” Baker said. “It’s difficult on the teams trying to help.”
Getting it done
Mark Wakefield, disaster relief strategist for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, said what he’s hearing overall is that teams are making “slow but steady progress” and are happy to have volunteers from other state conventions joining them in the work as well. So far, 13 Disaster Relief teams from state conventions have responded to help with flood relief.
“One of the outstanding things about disaster relief, you really do see it — folks work together to get it done,” Wakefield said.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers have put in around 8,000 volunteer hours so far in the parts of eastern Kentucky affected by the flooding.
For Alabama Baptist volunteers, that work meant flood recovery and mold prevention, but it also meant manning two laundry units set up there to allow flood victims to wash clothes. Many don’t have water restored to their homes yet.
Wakefield said emergency responders in the area have expressed their gratitude for the presence of the laundry units, too.
“That has given us some positive traction,” he said.
Around 40 of the state’s other volunteers are working with homeowners to clean out homes so they can dry out without molding. Some of the homes have to be gutted completely. Some have too much foundation damage to save.
Prayer for no more rain
Baker asked for prayer for the teams as they work, but also for God to hold off the rain.
“We’ve been under a flood watch again, and there’s nowhere for the water to go — the creeks are full,” she said.
But the people there are resilient, she reflected. Even though this disaster was the worst yet, they are no stranger to floods.
“They’re thankful it wasn’t any worse than it was,” Baker said. “They’re just amazing; they consider this kind of a part of life here. It rains, it floods, they rebuild, and it happens again.”