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Local couple serving in flooded areas of Kentucky

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Volunteers removing mud from inside a home. Photo contributed.

Areas of eastern Kentucky were devastated by flooding between July 25 and July 30 with billions of dollars in property loss and dozens of lives lost. In subsequent days there was additional flooding with property losses even greater.

Across the country hundreds of volunteers have been called to the area to help with rescue and recovery efforts. Among those are Tom and Karen Hamrick of Spndale, volunteers with the North Carolina Baptists on Mission Disaster Relief programs.

The couple was deployed to Prestonsburg, Kentucky July 31 where they remained for 11 days.

The Hamricks were among a group of 14 volunteers with NC Baptists on Mission to begin setting up a response site in Prestonsburg. An additional 16 volunteers were deployed Aug. 1 to assist with assessment, recovery and chaplaincy.

Since that time volunteers have continued to go to Kentucky and will do so for months and even years.

"Our primary job is to manage the Recovery Unit Tool Trailer and to provide tools and supplies to the recovery teams that do the tear outs and mud outs of the houses," said Karen.

As the teams are dispatched to specific areas and homes, the Hamricks make sure all the volunteers have the proper tools and supplies. They are responsible for recording every piece of equipment and inventory supplies in order to make sure there are enough materials for each job.

While on the site the couple also helped with feeding, logistics and maintenance.

The Hamricks said in the mountains of eastern Kentucky many times the rivers will run in the valley between two mountains and the rivers have nowhere to go but up.

"Under normal conditions the homes along the rivers and creeks are safe but in this extraordinary event where rainfall was as high as 14" in 5 days nothing was safe," Karen said.

Tom said he visited one house where the river rose 36 feet to flood a home. At another location, Tom said a small creek rose 10 feet to damage bridges and destroy homes.

The couple has served in areas along the coasts of the Carolinas, eastern North Carolina, Florida, Gulf Coast and other places and have seen horrific situations.

"All disasters are devastating to the victims, but this was challenging to our recovery teams due to the amount of mud left behind when the river receded," Karen said. "Not only did the tear out have to be done because of the water penetration, but also the mud had to be removed from basements and floors in the home. This involved the use of mud pumps to remove water and pressure washers to remove the residue."

The Hamricks described the situation: Imagine standing in front of your home knowing that it is destroyed as well as everything that you own. Even when our teams come in to start the clean out process and now you look to see all your other furnishings and belongings in a huge pile in front of the house.

Next you see all the insulation, drywall and flooring that had to be removed now in a use pile in front of your house.

The feelings of hopelessness and despair is a big part of their challenge, which is why our teams spend time talking with them and giving them time to talk about has happened

"Our chaplains will also visit and try to offer encouragement.

Another issue is housing. When we were there all the available rooms at hotels and all rental properties were full and there were families in the local community center sleeping on cots with no other place to go."

The couple travels to disaster areas in personal RV and park it in the area of their deployment if possible.

While everyone can't go physically to Kentucky there are things the people of Rutherford County can do today.

People can donate items through their local church or association, but only items requested can be accepted.

"The community center is the food and water distribution center and can't handle items they do not need," said Karen.

Donating items through your local church and association, but only donate the items they requested, Karen emphasizes.

Monetary donations are accepted and prayers keep the teams and victims going each day.

The Hamricks have been officially training for six years through Baptists on Mission and Tom has gone on recovery trips since the early 1990s.

"We really do love this work," said Karen. "It is our way we can help people."

What to donate: Among items needed are: baby products- diapers, formula, cleaning supplies, hygiene products and canned goods.

In addition to making material donations, monetary donations are needed.

There are several avenues to donate money, including through your local church, NC Baptists on Mission, Baptists on Mission in Kentucky or Kentucky State Treasurer. In the memo line please note the donation is for the "Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund." Send check to Public Protection Cabinet, 500 Mero St., 218 NC, Frankfort, KY 40601.

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