Rebuilding Hope After the Flood

After a destructive flood in Knott County, Kentucky, the community faced loss and trauma. Despite challenges, they’ve supported each other, most recently providing nearly 400 students with new shoes. Now, they’re extending their efforts to another school and inviting you to join. Witness their impact and contribute to spreading hope to more students in need by reading the story below.

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“It was a dark time,” said Emma, affectionately known as Gran to everyone she meets, as she described the days following July 28, 2022 in Knott County, KY when an unexpected flood took belongings, homes, and the lives of many.

But on March 19, 2024, Gran described the day as “precious.”

The flooding in 2022 came during the night, clearing out homes, sweeping away toys, books, clothing, shoes, entire houses in the shadows. The sound of rain can still haunt the children who experienced it, often leading them to text their parents to ensure everyone is safe or to come pick them up from school.

The rural community rallied around one another to help rebuild. Everybody was in it, together. Families in the area still rely on clothing closets, temporary housing in RVs, and food from the school cafeteria’s “shared tables.”

“During the summer, we saw kids coming up to the vocational school to giveaways that didn’t have shoes on their feet. They were here without them,” said Cathy Jones, Kentucky River Health Consortium Liaison for the Kentucky River District Health Department. Jones, who had already connected with non-profit Samaritan’s Feet, then had a chance-meeting with a representative from Save the Children who agreed to fund a shoe distribution for one of the local schools affected by the flooding, Carr Creek Elementary.

“On several different days, I have had students come to me telling me their feet hurt. Most of the time, they are hurting only because their shoes are too small. Having a new pair of shoes that actually fit them helps to relieve some stress,” said Ms. Hollifield, Kindergarten teacher at Carr Creek Elementary.

Excitement built, not only in the classrooms, but also throughout the town as community members eagerly awaited the arrival of March 19th, the day Gran would describe as “precious.” And when that day came, over 80 volunteers (from as close as five minutes away to as distant as two hours away) arrived at Carr Creek to give students a special day.

“For these students, I think this is a sign of hope. A sign that there is always somebody here willing to lend a hand or help as long as they have openness or an open heart,” said Becky Pigman, Family Resource and Youth Service Coordinator (FRYSC) at Carr Creek Elementary.

During the event, kids were literally jumping for joy at the sight of their new shoes. Whether their favorite color or a much loved cartoon character emblazoned on their shoe, these students were excited.

“My 4th grade students were ecstatic with their shoes. I heard so many of them talking about how much they loved them and how they couldn’t wait to wear them with a particular outfit or how comfortable they were. I even heard a child say that they could jump higher in them,” said Lauren Dials, 4th grade teacher at Carr Creek Elementary. “A lot of our students come from poverty-stricken homes, and I can’t tell you how much this meant to those students. I have seen several of them wear the same shoes each day until they are too worn to even be wearing.”

These 390 students, 80% of which receive free and reduced lunch, have endured something incredibly heartbreaking and traumatic, often being left in the shadows feeling forgotten.

But as community members served each student one-on-one, they were the center of attention, encouraged, and asked about their hopes and dreams

“I served a little girl in kindergarten and asked what she wanted to be when she grows up. She told me she wanted to be a tree because when the flood came, it washed away the big tree in her yard that her and her brother love to play in and if she was a tree, they could have fun in the yard again,” said one volunteer.

The donation by Save the Children didn’t only allow Samaritan’s Feet to give each student new shoes, but also socks, a tote bag and a Hope Note – a personally written message of encouragement from a community member.

Reflecting on the day, Dwight Creech, Principal at Carr Creek Elementary, emphasized the school’s commitment to nurturing dreams and providing hope for the future. “Here at Carr Creek, we want to give our kids a future, so I love these notes of encouragement,” Creech stated, highlighting the significance of community support for these students.

Another school principal in Knott County is hopeful that her school, Emmalena Elementary, can also experience a day like March 19th.

Kimberly Mosley, Principal at Emmalena Elementary, noted that more than half of her 200 students are still physically and mentally rebuilding from the flood. While in a fifth grade classroom, Mosley asked students to raise their hand if their home was impacted by the flood—more than 50% of their hands went up.

“It’s a hierarchy. If you don’t meet students’ basic needs, we’re not going to get to the education,” said Mosley.

The effects of the flooding in this tight-knit community are lingering: students are still living in temporary homes, internet and electricity go out often, and students are traveling 30-40 minutes with multiple buses to get to school.

“Our kids still struggle with it, and they probably always will,” added Mosley.

So, Samaritan’s Feet and the Eastern Kentucky community want to give Emmalena Elementary a “precious” day, too. You can help create a day of encouragement and hope for Emmalena students by donating at SamaritansFeet.org/KY. In what has been a dark time for these students, a little flicker of hope could be transformative.

Help Serve Emmalena Elementary

Students and families who are a part of Emmalena Elementary were greatly impacted by the flooding in Eastern Kentucky. Check out this video to get an inside look at the school and let’s join together to give them hope, just like what we did at Carr Creek Elementary.