Aug. 9—Science Hill School staff members and their families got an up-close lesson in the devastation faced by eastern Kentucky this past weekend when they went to go help a fellow educator affected by the flooding.
Working with local clergyman Greg Wells, the man behind this Teachers Helping Teachers initiative, about 45 faculty and classified staff members and family associated with them traveled to Perry County on Sunday to lend a hand in the most difficult of times.
"We were invited to come over there by one of my teachers' husbands," said Science Hill Superintendent Jimmy Dyehouse, referencing Wells, married to Science Hill math interventionist Andrea Wells. "He knew that there was a need over there in the mountains, and he came up with the idea of Teachers Helping Teachers."
The group went to assist at the home of a special education teacher at Robinson Elementary School in the community of Ary, located in Perry County.
"Not only did her school get wiped out — they're probably not going to be able to have school there ever again in that building — but her home was absolutely (devastated)," said Dyehouse, noting that the location was near the infamously named Troublesome Creek in eastern Kentucky. "We were on this highway down through there, and there was just nothing but home after home after home that had water completely up to the roof."
The crew from Science Hill got to the home at about 9:15 a.m. Sunday and worked until about 4:30 p.m., said Dyehouse. They helped clean up, getting mud out of the basement and getting it in shape to store things down there. They also went to the teacher's father's house, which was in terrible shape as well.
"(The mud) was six-to-12 inches deep in the basement; they couldn't even get to the door hardly because of the mud," said Dyehouse. "All their vehicles were destroyed.
"Her dad has been living on the porch since the flood and that's where his bed's at," added Dyehouse. "She asked us if we could help her dad get a room ready so he could get off the porch. He had one room that wasn't destroyed and we were able to strip it down all the way to the studs so that another crew could come in and start putting up some paneling, new flooring, things like that."
Wells operates a local non-profit to work with underprivileged families called Love Your Neighbor, and is involved a mission organization Encuentro Missions. He used to be the youth pastor at Science Hill Church of the Nazarene, then left for about seven years before Wells and his family were called back to the area to help people in the community, he noted.
Wells said they got a call last weekend about facilitating bringing teams in to help in eastern Kentucky. This led to Sunday's visit from Science Hill personnel, but Wells had been on the scene there for a week before that.
"We've worked hand-in-hand with the school system (in Perry County) as they have run the distribution process, to distribute all the items that have been donated there in Perry County," said Wells. "We partnered with CoreTrans (trucking company) here in town to come over and help them move all of that stuff ... that was left when they had to get out of the schools so they could clean schools and get ready to start."
Being in the schools, Wells realized how they would be delayed, "and as we watched everything that was going on, it just hit me one day that the best thing that could happen is for school to start back, and create some normalcy in the lives of these kids, because you've kids who, if they're not in school, they're not being fed."
Wells said that the schools there are currently trying to figure out how students will go to school in the affected areas with classes getting ready to start and where they'll be going.
"It just hit me as we were working there one day, what would it look like if we were to bring in teachers to help teachers," he said. "Educators helping educators, that's kind of the slogan we've picked up. I put it out to Jimmy and (Principal) Jeff Wesley at Somerset High School, just kind of as a feeler. Jimmy jumped on it immediately, and I talked to Jeff again (Monday), he's very interested in the possibility of bringing a team over as well."
Pictures of the Science Hill crew's efforts were posted on social media, along with information about what they were doing, but Dyehouse said they don't want the credit — they only publicize it to encourage other schools in the state to get involved and do similarly.
"Maybe (they could) adopt a teacher, a couple of teachers, and have their school do the same thing, show up just to help with clean up," said Dyehouse. "It's just a little thing, but if a lot of people were to get on board with it, it could make a big, big difference."
Dyehouse said that the experience was an "eye opener," and that it added so much to just seeing pictures of the devastation in eastern Kentucky on the news — until you're there, you can't understand what it's really like, he observed, as it's worse than the photos can convey.
"We came in here and had meetings (Monday) morning, and that was the first topic of discussion, was how blessed our people felt when they got back home last night and they felt so fortunate to have a home to go into and take a shower and get cleaned up," said Dyehouse. "At the same time, they felt so sad for those people we had just left. Those people, when they woke up (Monday), they woke up to the exact same thing they woke up to (previous days after the flooding). Nothing but mud, and the smell is really bad. You just can't help but have such a heart for those people who have lost everything."