Thankful for the partnerships that help us build back better
Dr. Tom Carew, State Director
USDA Rural Development
In the aftermath of the historic flooding in July 2022, there was one question that I kept hearing, “How are we going to rebuild?”
Natural disasters do not discriminate, nor do they care about arbitrary lines on a map. That’s why it’s so important for the recovery effort that we come together and unite behind the common cause of rebuilding.
Collaborative efforts between non-profit organizations, businesses, local residents, and government at all levels are the lifeline for rural recovery and long-term resilience. In rural areas, where distances are vast and resources are limited, partnerships are the linchpin that can make recovery a reality. These partnerships help rural communities not only rebuild but also thrive, creating a more resilient future that can withstand the challenges of an uncertain world. By focusing on these partnerships, we can bolster the strength and resilience of our rural areas, turning adversity into an opportunity for growth.
Many parts of East Kentucky that were impacted by the flooding already faced challenges. There was a tremendous lack of safe, affordable housing before a single house was washed off its foundation, and water and wastewater systems were already showing their age.
It seemed serendipitous when the Rural Partners Network launched in April 2022. This initiative, at its core, is really all about leveraging partnerships, and that’s exactly what we did. We hired the first RPN staffer in the country, Rachel Chambers, who started just before the flood, not knowing the primary focus of her efforts for months would be helping communities by bringing partners together in recovery efforts.
Thankfully, East Kentucky has a strong contingent of non-profit organizations. I’m so proud of the collaborative efforts of HOMES Inc., Housing Development Alliance, Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, and FAHE among many others.
At the state level, Gov. Andy Beshear’s and Team Kentucky’s efforts have been herculean, and the first round of Rural Housing Trust Fund awards are just the latest example. These awards will help build 115 new homes and repair 45 others for disaster survivors in Eastern and Western Kentucky.
At the federal level, Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. Hal Rogers advocated for and helped pass supplemental funding that has allowed or will allow Rural Development to help families and communities rebuild.
Only through partnerships will we succeed in improving the quality of life and economic prosperity of rural Kentucky.
So this Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for the partners — the non-profit organizations, the Commonwealth, the Federal government, the many Mayors and County Judges who have stepped up to the challenge — who have come together and helped East Kentucky make meaningful strides to build back better.