Science Hill School staff members and their families got an up-close lesson in the devastation facing eastern Kentucky this past weekend when they went to help a fellow educator affected by the flooding.
Working with local priest Greg Wells, the man behind this “Teachers Helping Teachers” initiative, about 45 faculty members and classified staff and their associated families traveled to Perry County on Sunday to lend a hand in the toughest of times.
“We were invited to come there by the husbands of one of my teachers,” said Science Hill Principal Jimmy Dyehouse, referring to Wells, who is married to Science Hill math interventionist Andrea Wells. “He knew there was a need up there in the mountains, and he came up with the idea of ’Teachers Helping Teachers.’
The group went to help out at the home of a special education teacher at Robinson Elementary School in the Perry County community of Arie.
“Not only was her school destroyed — they’re probably not going to be able to have a school ever again in that building — but her home was absolutely (devastated),” Dyehouse said, noting the site is near the infamous Troublesome Creek on the east Kentucky. “We were on that highway over there and there was nothing but house after house that had water up to the roof.”
The team from Science Hill got to the home about 9:15 a.m. Sunday and worked until about 4:30 p.m., Dyehouse said. They helped clean up, scooped mud out of the basement and shaped it to store things down there. They also went to the teacher’s father’s house, which was also in a terrible state.
“(The pot) was six to 12 inches deep in the basement; they couldn’t even get to the door because of the mud,” Dyhaus said. “All their vehicles were destroyed.
“Her father lives on the porch after the flood and that’s where his bed is,” Dyhouse added. “She asked us if we could help her father prepare a room so he could get off the porch. He had one room that wasn’t destroyed and we were able to strip it down to the studs so that another crew could come in and start putting up some paneling, new flooring and things like that.
Wells runs a local non-profit organization to work with disadvantaged families called Love Your Neighbor and is involved in a missionary organization called Encuentro Missions. He was a 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 received a call last weekend about facilitating crews to help in eastern Kentucky. That led to Sunday’s visit from Science Hill staff, but Wells had been there a week before.
“We worked hand-in-hand with the school system (in Perry County) as they managed the distribution process to distribute all the items that were donated there in Perry County,” Wells said. “We partnered with CoreTrans (a transportation company) here in town to come and help them move all that stuff … that was left when they had to get out of the schools so they could clean the schools and get ready to started.”
While at the schools, Wells realized how they would be delayed, “and as we were watching everything that was going on, it just occurred to me one day that the best thing that could happen was for the school to start up again and create some normalcy in the lives of these children because you have children who, if they are not in school, are not eating.”
Wells said schools there are currently trying to figure out how students will go to school in the affected areas, as classes prepare to start and where they will go.
“It just hit me while we were working there one day, what it would look like if we had to bring in teachers to help teachers,” he said. “Educators helping educators, that’s sort of the slogan we’ve chosen. I played it to Jimmy and (Principal) Jeff Wesley at Somerset High, just as a feeler. Jimmy got on with it straight away and I spoke to Jeff again (Monday), he’s also very interested in the possibility of bringing in a team.”
Photos of the Science Hill team’s efforts have been posted on social media, along with information about what they’re doing, but Dyehouse said they don’t want the credit — they’re only posting it to encourage other schools around the state to get involved and do similarly.
“Maybe (they could) adopt a teacher, a few teachers, and have their school do the same, show up just to help clean up,” Dyhouse said. “It’s just a small thing, but if a lot of people get on board with it, it can make a big, big difference.”
Dyhouse said the experience was “eye-opening” 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 really understand what it’s like, he noted, because it’s more -worse than the pictures can convey.
“We came in here and had meetings (Monday) morning and that was the first topic of discussion, how blessed our people felt when they came home last night and felt so happy to have a home to go to and take take a shower and clean up,” Dyehouse said. “At the same time, they felt so sad for those people we had just left. When these people woke up (Monday), they woke up to the exact same thing they woke up to (the previous days after the flood). Nothing but mud and the smell is really bad. You just can’t help but have such a heart for these people who have lost everything.”