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Eastern Kentucky mutual aid groups need your help ahead of the holidays

EKY Mutual Aid

Two grassroots groups are hosting holiday drives to benefit residents in different parts of eastern Kentucky.

Misty Skaggs is part of the community effort to give back. She said donations will benefit residents in need and those affected by the summer flood.

“We want to make this something special because it’s been a hard year on so many levels for so many people. Eastern Kentucky as a region has been struggling long before we had a huge climate disaster to contend with,” Skaggs said. “You don’t have to be from a certain county, you don’t have to bring any kind of proof of income…It’ll just be a wide open door for anyone who may need some help.”

Grayson County

Eastern Kentucky Mutual Aid is asking people to donate holiday items like toys, decorations and gifts. The group is also collecting necessities like blankets and other cold weather gear, including coats, scarves and gloves.

Skaggs said the group created an online wishlist of gift ideas for youth. Skaggs said they’re also accepting monetary donations for gift shopping through PayPal and other apps:

  • Cashapp – $ekymutualaid
  • Venmo – @ekymutualaid

“We don’t want anybody to feel left out. So that’s also why we accept donations for folks of all ages. Because a lot of our caretakers around here are super exhausted and won’t buy themselves anything for Christmas or any other time of the year,” Skaggs said.

People who would like to donate gently-used items can arrange pick-up or drop-off by contacting the Eastern Kentucky Mutual Aid Facebook group.

The drive is going on through Dec. 17. Skaggs said people can even bring items to donate to the group’s Holiday Hoedown event happening that day. It’ll take place at the Grayson Gallery and Art Center in Grayson County.

“We’ll open the doors at 11 a.m. and are planning on being there pretty much ‘til we give everything away. But at least until 3 or 4 o’clock,” Skaggs said.

The group will provide food, and residents will have the opportunity to browse and take donated items home for free.

“There’ll be art on the walls and they have a stage that they’re willing to let us use for musical guests,” Skaggs said. “I just hope to see a lot of folks turn out just to socialize even if they don’t need something. It’s a great way to come out and meet people in your community that you may not get to know otherwise.”

Letcher County

Another branch of the Eastern Kentucky Mutual Aid group is hosting a holiday drive for Lechter County residents affected by the summer flooding.

Jessica Shelton, director of the Appalachian Media Institute at Appalshop, is volunteering with the effort.

“Mutual aid is a big community, region-wide effort,” Shelton said. “The community is this whole region. And there are people in different areas of the region that are focusing on more local efforts for mutual aid.”

The group is also raising funds, and is asking for physical items such as toys for youth of all ages, and gifts and wrapping supplies for adults.

“I feel like teenagers sometimes get a little forgotten about when we do these toy drives, so, please include them,” Shelton said. “We’re also going to have some sort of wrapping paper kits that [residents] can take with them and have Christmas on Christmas Day. We’re just trying to give them all the resources that we’re able to so they can celebrate the holidays this year.”

Shelton said the drive will culminate in a community celebration at the Hemphill Community Center in Letcher County on Dec. 17 starting at 5 p.m.

“The community center is right outside of Neon, Kentucky, which was very hard hit by the flood…We are going to be having a toy giveaway and a community dinner,” Shelton said. “We’re gonna have Santa there to take pictures and meet kids. Families that have been affected by flooding can come and have Christmas. There’s still a lot of need and a lot of people still haven’t found permanent homes.”

The group is accepting donations through Dec. 15. People can drop off items at either of the following locations:

Shelton said people living in the central part of the state can also email her at to arrange mailing donations or having items picked up.

Breathitt County

Another group, 502 Revolutionary Events, is also calling for donations as well as volunteers to help residents of Jackson, Kentucky, who were affected by the flood over the summer. Brandy Brewer, a sales coordinator with the organization, said federal relief funds are used up and people in the area are struggling with food and housing insecurity.

“It’s particularly difficult when you have areas that are already suffering from impoverishment, and then have a natural occurrence like this. It just compounds all of the existing issues and makes them even more complicated,” Brewer said.

While the Rosseau Volunteer Fire Department has been working to deliver food and holiday items to people in need, Brewer said it’s understaffed and lacks enough resources, like service and rescue vehicles. She said it takes longer to cover ground and reach residents in rural areas like Breathitt County and the fire department could use some help.

“I was just asking [Department Chief Greg Wilson] basic information, like…if somebody had two hours of time to donate to you, how many people do you think they could reach? And his answer was like 10,” Brewer said. “In downtown Jeffersonville, [Indiana], I can reach 10 people in four minutes.”

Brewer said Wilson told her it would likely take two to three weeks, and working 14 to 16 hour days, to fulfill holiday deliveries to the entire county — that’s not including food and meal deliveries. People interested in helping out can browse available volunteer needs and sign up through this Google Form. Brewer added monetary donations also go a long way, as the department is raising funds to stock up on non-perishable items.