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Nonprofit Provides Lifeboat Funding to Schools Affected by EKY Floods | Community

PIKEVILLE – Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR) has distributed more than $60,000 to schools in Breathitt, Knott and Letcher counties through its Eastern Kentucky Student Aid Fund.

SOAR, a regional, independent nonprofit organization, provides long-term advocacy and support to K-12 schools that have been impacted by devastating flooding in Eastern Kentucky.

SOAR’s Eastern Kentucky Student Aid Fund will provide resources and economic support to 13 counties that FEMA has declared eligible for federal aid funding.

“We were starting to think about the long-term recovery and the secondary and tertiary phases that were going to emerge once we got past the initial cleanup and crisis phases. There are places that are still there, unfortunately. So our minds immediately went K-12 in our public schools. Some schools have been completely wiped out – some were even wiped out last year during floods,” said SOAR executive director Colby Hall.

According to Hall, SOAR’s main fundraising goal will be to stay tuned to the needs of flood-affected schools and students.

“While our efforts in this disbursement are focused on schools, the needs of our students in the weeks and months ahead will be significant as they transition into school and housing,” Hall added. “This is just the tip of the iceberg, and we are committed to supporting students and families during this recovery.”

Working closely with local school systems and family resource centers, SOAR strives to support students by purchasing essential items for the return to class, including appliances, bedding, internet access, assistance with rental and gas cards (transportation to and from school) .

According to Joshua Ball, chief operating officer of Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc., the Eastern Kentucky Student Support Fund has already distributed more than $60,000 to affected schools last week.

Toyota Tsusho, a SOAR partner in eastern Kentucky, donated $50,000 to kick-start the relief efforts, a news release said.

“Kentucky is the home of Toyota Tsusho, and many of our employees call eastern Kentucky home,” said Mike Lavender, senior vice president of Toyota Tsusho. “We are proud to team up with SOAR to help distressed Eastern Kentucky students/families get back to school and back to normal.”

The initial breakdown and distribution of these funds from the EKY Student Support Fund are:

Hindman Elementary School in Knott County received $35,750 to purchase 90 laptops to replace those destroyed by flooding.

Letcher County schools received $14,840 to replace 56 Chromebooks destroyed by flooding.

Riverside Christian School in Breathitt County received $9,850 to purchase computers, laptops and networking equipment that was destroyed by flooding.

According to SOAR officials, when the organization contacted eastern Kentucky school officials to discuss specific areas of need, educators said access to technology was a top concern. The floods have devastated many local school buildings – some that won’t even be open for the first part of the school year.

“We thought there would be a pretty big need, but we reached out and talked to some superintendents, managers, and even talked to IT people who deal with a lot of the technology,” Hall said. “We wanted to focus on specific needs that help kids get back into the classroom…That’s the first place we’re going to start.”

SOAR focuses on long-term development in Eastern Kentucky and advocates for counties mandated by the ARC (Appalachian Regional Commission) of Eastern Kentucky, which covers an area of ​​54 counties, including the county of Madison. The SOAR organization primarily focuses on the neediest Kentuckians, which currently includes many mining communities. This organization offers various community resources in the region to help organizations, businesses and individuals with education and economic development.

“Most of our work is in counties that have the highest levels of economic distress…We’re focusing on areas of Kentucky that need the most help,” Hall said. “…The body of our work resides south of I-64 and east of I-75, and even farther east than that.”

As part of the resources they provide, they help connect people seeking help with granting agencies and funding opportunities that match the goals, outcomes, and overall missions of projects that need funding.

Mainly federal funding via:

Economic Revitalization of Abandoned Mining Lands (AMLER)

Appalachian Region Commission (ARC)

US Economic Development Administration (EDA)

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)

Small Business Administration (SBA)

Congressman Hal Rogers, founding co-director of SOAR, said the Eastern Kentucky Student Relief Fund meets the basic needs of schools, students and families in a unique way.

“SOAR’s Student Relief Fund is compassion in action with dollar-for-dollar impact on our students where they need it most,” Congressman Rogers said in a statement. “As we study the multitude of needs in the region, SOAR is targeting technology losses in schools that have been heavily damaged by flooding. This investment will ensure that our students are not left behind due to computers and laptops destroyed by mud and water. I commend SOAR for helping students return to school as soon as possible through these donations. »

If a school in a FEMA-declared disaster-disaster county needs assistance, please email [email protected]

If you would like to donate, you can do so online at www.soar-ky.org, by mail to SOAR, c/o Student Relief Fund, 137 Main Street, Suite 300, Pikeville, KY 51501, or by phone at 606 -766-1160.