By Eugenia Jones
Seeing such an outpouring of love and concern from Kentuckians across the state for their neighbors in flood-ravaged eastern Kentucky has been a powerful reminder that compassion and kindness are still alive and well in the Commonwealth. With countless individuals left stranded by raging waters, dozens of lives lost, hundreds of homes and businesses destroyed, and thousands left huddling in the dark without electricity, McCreary Countians and others across Kentucky immediately stepped up to assist their neighbors in the hills and hollers of eastern Kentucky.
Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife (KDFW) employees, including eight from McCreary County’s Southeast Region, quickly had staff on the ground in eastern Kentucky transporting supplies to those
in need, doing flood relief, and cutting out roads to access stranded individuals and families who were isolated with no way out.
According to KDFW’s regional supervisory biologist Mike Strunk, who is also a McCreary County native and resident, the devastation of the area is shocking.
“I have never seen such devastation,” Strunk commented. “Before I went there, I though I had an idea of what to expect. However, when I arrived, the terrible reality was not even close to what I had imagined.”
In addition to the many KDFW law enforcement officers who are also assisting in the stricken areas, Strunk said a statewide total of twenty-six KDFW employees have transitioned in and out of the region and will continue to do so as long as needed.
“Law enforcement has done an amazing job taking responsibility for rescue, recovery, and security,” Strunk noted.
Strunk recalled hiking with one of his group into an area where a young family with multiple children were stranded.
“The children just started smiling and nodding when we asked if they needed anything,” Strunk recalled, obviously touched by the memory.
Strunk has nothing but admiration for one non-profit group, World Central Kitchen, who move into devastated areas to help feed the hungry.
“We found a role helping them get food and essentials to people who were isolated or stranded,” Strunk said. “We were able to get a lot of food and water to people. From August 1-August 8, we worked with World Central Kitchen and their volunteers to deliver 18,563 hot meals.”
KDFW and others relied on UTVs (souped-up four-wheelers with beds on the back) to transport hot meals and essentials to those in need.
For Strunk and others, the images from the ravaged area are ones they will never forget.
“We are happy to help,” Strunk remarked. “There are lots of people there who are in need. We are just doing what they would do for us if we were in that same situation. There’s no need for thanks. We are just happy to help them.”
In addition to the efforts of local KDFW employees, many other McCreary County individuals and groups have reached out to help their fellow Kentuckians. Local efforts include (but are not limited to) the following: Whitley City Church of God (Hope City), Christ the King Anglican Mission, KY Wildlands, Simpletymes, Kroger, McCreary County EMS, Magistrate Bobby (& Missy) Strunk, McCreary County Public Library, McCreary County Fair Board, Grace and Truth Tabernacle and donors to the Team Eastern KY Flood Relief Fund. The Voice apologizes to any individual or group whose name was omitted.
Photo by Mike Strunk/Kentucky Department Fish and Wildlife
McCreary Countians were among those from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife who quickly responded to help eastern Kentuckians devastated by recent floods. Many other individuals and organizations from McCreary County also sent donations and provided assistance to their eastern Kentucky neighbors. KDFW is pictured above delivering hot meals and essentials to stranded individuals.
Parishioners of Christ the King Anglican Church in Pine Knot were joined by several other local churches, businesses, volunteers, and generous donors from across McCreary County, including Donald Coffey, who donated $1,000 worth of groceries, the McCreary County EMS, and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, as part of the McCreary County’s many efforts to help the victims of the historic flooding in Eastern Kentucky. This week, the church planned to make their second journey into the flood ravaged region.