PRESTONSBURG — The COVID-19 pandemic has hampered progress on home repairs for low income residents in Floyd, Johnson, Martin and Magoffin counties.

Hand-in-Hand Ministries Director Gail Spradlin reported that she expects her nonprofit organization, which provides a food pantry, home repair and other services to low income residents, will lose 35 percent of its budget, as well as up to an additional $20,000 that usually comes from a fundraiser that's open to volunteers who visit there.

"We housed anywhere from 800 to 1,000 volunteers a year, and 35 percent of our annual budget came from those volunteers," Spradlin said. "And when the volunteers would come, when they would pay for their trip, $60 for every person went toward the building materials that we use to do the home repairs with for the low income families in this area."

She said Hand-in-Hand usually gets about 100 applications for home repair services every year — requests for wheelchair ramps, roof repairs, flooring repair and other needs. Of those, Hand-in-Hand usually completes about 50 projects. Because of the pandemic, Spradlin explained that the organization will not meet that goal this year, and that will make life more difficult for these families.

She reported that, even though the pandemic has kept volunteers from coming to serve with Hand-in-Hand, she has two construction staff members working and they can continue these projects. Their work, however, has been halted due to lack of funding.

She talked about several of those families during an interview last week, including a Floyd County couple who lost custody of their children because they can't provide them a suitable home, an elderly couple in Paintsville who need a new roof, a young Floyd County family expecting a baby in September who need several repairs on their home and an elderly Prestonsburg cancer patient who has to crawl up her steps because she does not have a wheelchair ramp.

"I have over 100 applications, and range from somebody needing a handicap ramp to somebody whose about to lose their house because the roof is falling in," Spradlin said. "Some of them are very serious, and then some of them are not so serious, but we always try to get the serious ones first. We do have a couple that we started working on their house before all of this happened, but they have lost custody of their three kids. And we were working to get their house back in good repair so they could get custody of their kids back. They lost them because the house was in such a bad shape. So, we just had to kind of pull off of that because we don't have the funding to pay for the material."

She said Hand-in-Hand had already started some of the work on that mobile home, reporting it needs new flooring, roof work, new bathroom facilities, work in the kitchen, and other things.

Spradlin said the elderly couple in Paintsville has been on the home repair waiting list for some time.

"They've needed it repaired for a couple of years, but it's such a big project that we didn't have the means to go in and do it. And I'm afraid that if we don't get that roof fixed that their house, they're going to lose their house," she said.

She said the couple expecting the baby are also in need of immediate assistance. She said Hand-in-Hand tore up flooring in the hallway in their home and found a wire without insulation.

"It's a young couple that are set to have a baby in September. Both of them are employed, and they're trying, you know, but they are working jobs that don't pay very much. But their trailer had black mold in it," she said.

In addition to repairs at these home, Spradlin said Hand-in-Hand hopes to help elderly residents who need wheelchair ramps.

"If the community were to step up and help us, we would continue working on this young couple's mobile home and make it safe and livable for that baby to come in September, then we would continue on to the couple that don't have their kids anymore," she said. "We will continue to work on that mobile home because nobody's living there and we can go in there and work safely and make that home livable, for, not only the mom and dad, but for those kids to come back, too ... I have an 82-year-old lady that needs a handicap ramp, and I have a lady that just called in this morning that lives in Prestonsburg, I think it's in Spurlock Creek, she said she was crawling up her steps. She is going through chemo and she needs a handicap ramp and right now she's having to crawl up her steps. So, those would be the things that we would look at in the next month or so."

Spradlin said the number of applications has remained steady at around 100 for Hand-in-Hand over the past 16 years, but she's seeing more homes that used to be well=kept that are now in need of repair because homeowners can no longer afford to make repairs.

She said the home repair program has not received donations from local residents, but the center's food pantry has received donations from Destination Community Church, Fitzpatrick Baptist Church and others.

The organization has laid off one employee and Spradlin said she was cutting hours for other workers because of the loss of funding.

"I don't anticipate our groups even, you know, I think the governor's going to open it up so we can allow them to come, but I don't think anybody is going to be, I don't feel like they're going to feel secure enough to come, you know," she said.

The center has 18 beds per dorm and that would make housing groups difficult, she said.

Spradlin invites the public to donate financially, by buying gift cards at Lowe's or VanHoose Lumber, by dropping off donated building materials or donating online at, myhandinhand.org.

Donations may be mailed or dropped off to: Hand-in-Hand Ministries, 21 S. River St., Auxier, KY 41602. For more information, call, (606) 886-0709.

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