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  • Hands Across the Hills

"We are the Appalachia of Appalachia"

HATH's Gwen Johnson said her friend, photographer Malcolm Wilson, said to her: "We are the Appalachia of Appalachia" as she was in the midst her flood relief efforts at Hemphill Community Center in Neon, Kentucky. Gwen says, "This is the hardest work I've ever done in my life."

Hemphill has been feeding over 80 people a day, and is serving as a distribution center for food, water and vital goods to keep life going in this flood-stricken area of eastern Kentucky. This devastating natural disaster overlays so many other eastern Kentucky challenges, unemployment, opioid crisis, and scant or nonexistent social services.

"There are angels among us," she said. Often those who have lost the most--homes, electricity--serve as volunteers at the Center. The Howard Family Farm in Harmony, North Carolina, trucked fruits and vegetables and flowers in to Hemphill this week. The American Water Company in Clarksville, Indiana, sent a tanker with 7000 gallons of water, so that makeshift showers could be rigged with buckets (water heated on the Center's stove), and provided water for cooking and cleaning.

All this we learned today as the Hands Across the Hills board met via Zoom to plan for the future. Nell Fields, also from Kentucky and in on the Zoom, will be joining a group of four other grandmothers to go to a friend's home to clean it from mud and flood damage. Everyone pitches in.

Here are two organizations, run by Kentucky Hands Across the Hills members, where we know funds will be used wisely to help their community:

Photo: Gwen Johnson, sitting, and friends, all with positive spirit, at the Hemphill Community Center in Neon, Kentucky.


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