SHEDS of HOPE — Shedding the Love in Neon

On the evening of July 27, 2022, Rev. Jay Bennett, pastor of Neon Reformed Presbyterian Church (OPC) was asleep his family’s apartment, which is situated upstairs from the storefront church building, located on Kentucky Highway 317 at the center of town. His wife and daughter were visiting family in Georgia. Pastor Jay and his son, Cole, reported waking up to the sound of a flood warning coming through their phones. One of the first things they noticed after waking up was a banging noise in the front stairwell. 

Pastor Jay’s jon boat that knocked on his door the night of the floods

The sound, they soon discovered, was a small Jon boat that they stored in the stairwell. They found that it had floated to the top of the stairs and was banging against the apartment wall. Jay thought it wise to move the family’s car from the back of the church building to higher ground, but soon discovered that he would not be able to do so. Minutes later, Jay and Cole watched two family vehicles float down the river that had once been the main street through town. 

Volunteers from Grace Community PCA Trenton GA point to the high water mark at the doctor’s office behind the church

Fleming-Neon is a former coal mining town located in southeast Kentucky. In fact, the building occupied by the church still has a coal company sign over the back door. The main roads in town run alongside two seemingly innocuous creeks, that come together just south of the church building. On most days you could walk across the creek without any trouble. Anyone in town would tell you that these creeks often flood, but the water rarely rises above the sidewalk. But the flood that occurred the evening of July 28 was different. There were places in town where the water reached as high as 8 – 10 feet. Water levels in Pastor Jay’s church reached over 6 feet. 

Mucked-out debris piles at the rear of the church. Notice the sign from the former coal company that formally occupied the church physical plant

As the Orthodox Presbyterian Church’s (OPC) disaster response team began its work in Neon, MNA Disaster Response Director, Arklie Hooten, reached out to OPC Disaster Response Coordinator, David Nakhla, with offers to help in any way possible. On August 3, MNA Disaster Response sent three staff members, Arklie Hooten (Director), Marty Huddleston (Logistics Specialist), and Mike Kennamer (Warehouse Manager) to Neon to deliver a mud out trailer and a mini-track loader, along with a trailer and associated implements. Arklie Hooten trained local church members and volunteers to operated the mud out trailer, which includes pressure washers, water tanks, and other equipment for flood remediation. Mike Kennamer trained the local team to operate a Bobcat mini track loader and to safely change implements and load and unload from the trailer. 

MNA Disaster Response staff Marty Huddleston, Arklie Hooten, and Mike Kennamer deliver equipment and training in Neon, KY
Mike Kennamer trains volunteers and church members to operate a mini track loader

In the months since the flooding, the PCA has sent a number of teams to minister to the people of Neon. As the work transitioned from clean-up to long-term recovery, Arklie offered the OPC up to 20 Sheds of Hope to be deployed and assembled in the Neon area. 

OPC volunteers take advantage of a non-rainy day to set-up a Shed of Hope

On October 26-27, Mike Kennamer transported the first Shed of Hope from the Charles H. Jones Family Disaster Response Center in Rome, Georgia to Neon to train a team of volunteers to assemble the kits. This shed kit, built by Lake Oconee Presbyterian Church in Eatonton, Georgia, was constructed for the purpose of providing tool storage for the work teams. 

Mike Kennamer, in blue, poses with team after building the first Shed of Hope in Neon, KY

Two weeks later, an OPC Disaster Response volunteer traveled to Rome to pick up an additional 6 sheds. These sheds, valued at $1900 each, were transported to Neon and assembled by volunteer teams. 

OPC volunteer Mike Kelly picks up 6 Sheds of Hope at the PCA Warehouse in Rome GA to transport to Neon, KY

The OPC has suspended the work in Neon until March, when they expect to open back up to volunteers and build more sheds. Please continue to pray for the people of Neon as they recover from the storm and for the church and the OPC as they continue to minister to those impacted by the floods.

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