PARIS — Mike Herrington turns 57 on Thursday. For his birthday, he'll keep cleaning up last week's flood damage to his house.
He told his wife, Janet, "'We've got to start all over again. But we'll manage.'"
Mike Withrow, director of Paris-Bourbon County Emergency Management, said 67 houses were affected by last week's floods, including 15 on the Herringtons' street, Glenview Drive, and 17 on Rio Vista.
Many of Herringtons' and others' belongings in their houses were soaked when Houston Creek rose rapidly out of its banks Friday.
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How to help
To donate money to help disaster victims, go to Kybaptist.webconnex.com/kentuckydr.
To learn more about Kentucky Baptist Convention Disaster Relief, go to Kybaptist.org/dr.
Fortunately, the Herringtons and others had help. Twenty-four volunteers with Kentucky Baptist Convention Disaster Relief arrived Wednesday in Bourbon County to remove debris from homes so people like Vicki McCurry, 57, and other residents could begin the rebuilding process.
"I was just so grateful to see them," McCurry said. "Relief — that's the right name. Disaster relief. It was just relief when I saw them."
The volunteers came from Eddyville and Morganfield in Western Kentucky, from Ashland and Flatwoods in Eastern Kentucky, and from Lexington, Frankfort and Richmond.
They respond free of charge to misfortunes not only in Kentucky but elsewhere. Keith Stinson of Richmond, a team leader in Paris, has been involved with disaster relief since 1994. He has worked in cleanup efforts after Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast, after wildfires in Colorado, and after tornadoes and flooding elsewhere.
"We're here to help people with their physical needs," Stinson said. "We clean up so they can start rebuilding, so families can get back in their homes."
Volunteers know where they need to go by monitoring a disaster-relief website, which puts out calls for helping hands. Stinson and others stayed overnight at Central Baptist Church in Paris, then they got up early Wednesday for breakfast and a 7 a.m. briefing in the church basement.
During that briefing, Stinson advised the volunteers to be aware of and sensitive to people's emotions. And they were: Almost as soon as the group arrived at the home of Kathy Combs, Debbi Gill of Flatwoods listened attentively to Combs' story and rubbed her shoulder in a comforting manner.
Then, before the group got to work, they gathered in the street and formed a circle surrounding Combs. Gill said a prayer.
Later, Gill said she was involved in disaster relief because "I want people to know God's not guilty. He didn't do this. This wasn't his doing. He loves Kathy."
The first order of business for volunteers was to form a human chain and pass Combs' household possessions from one person to another and load them into a horse trailer.
"Everything that's damaged has got to go, and that's just about everything," Combs said.
Combs, 59, has lived in her three-bedroom house for 24 years. She said this was the first time the creek had gotten inside.
"It wasn't bad at first, but within 10 minutes everybody didn't have time to get anything out," Combs said. "When we came out, my daughter-in-law and I, and walked through the yard, it was up to our waists.
"I have nothing left. It's all sitting out on the curb. Our clothes are ruined. We don't have beds to sleep in. We have nothing to sit on. Nothing."
She said receiving help from the relief workers has been "a very uplifting experience." She needed all the help she could get. Combs is recovering from two broken ankles after a fall in November, and her son, Wayne, is recovering from back surgery.
In addition to removing possessions from the house, the volunteers will take out damaged drywall, sterilize surfaces to prevent mold and take up ruined flooring.
Despite all the damage, Combs said she plans to stay in the house. "You just want to pack up and leave it, and say 'the heck with it,' but you can't," she said.
McCurry, who has lived on Glenview Drive for 31 years, said she plans to stay as well.
"I was trying to retire in the next few years, but it looks like I'll have to work for a while to replace everything," she said.
The Herringtons hope to save some of the antique furniture they've collected.
Mike Herrington said he was glad to see the disaster-relief people come with their trucks and trailers carrying tools and supplies.
"They came this morning and I said, 'Look at God. He's here.' It means a whole lot when you've got somebody like that."