‘Global grant’ set for Clay County

Tom KingFarragut, Feature

The phrase “global grants” means what it says – Rotary International approves grants annually to fund projects globally. The majority of those grants are used on projects overseas. But this time the Rotary Club of Farragut and clubs in District 6780 are partners in the “Clay County Global Grant” to help families in the Appalachian region of southeastern Kentucky. … And as the crow flies, that’s pretty close to home here. Globally includes the U.S.

This area and many of its people near London, Kentucky, are wracked by high unemployment, blight, disabilities, obesity, low income, unsafe drinking water, sanitation issues and low educational levels. This area has been called “the hardest place to live in the United States.”

In 2015, a former president of Farragut Rotary, Bruce Williamson, met with Rotarians in Kentucky Rotary District 6740 to discuss writing a grant to help the people and families of his impoverished area. Since then this on-again, off-again project has been bubbling.

Last Wednesday (5/23) Farragut Rotary’s speaker was Kathryn Hardman, past president of the Rotary Club of London, Kentucky, and a past district governor of D-6740. She gave us an update on this project that will clearly fulfill our Rotary motto for 2017-18 – “Making a Difference.”

This grant, which Hardman said should get the go-ahead any day now, totals $165,400. Hardman expects the work to begin in July. It is a partnership between our district and Hardman’s district in Kentucky, Rotary International and a club and district in Mexico. The University of Tennessee nursing program is even involved.

The grant covers the cost and installation of a water storage tank and a water kiosk for the residents and families, septic systems for 25 homes, plus an educational component for the homeowners about how to use and maintain the systems and the effects of contaminated water. Each septic system costs $5,400. “It’s not going to solve all of the problems, but it will for sure make a big difference in the lives of many people there,” she says.

When talk of this project began several years ago, Williamson met with Hardman about it, thinking that Farragut Rotary’s former partners in Izmir, Turkey, on a global grant there, would participate. That didn’t happen. So, in steps two Farragut Rotarians, a pair of past presidents – Leah Berry and Becky Duncan – to work with Hardman and to form a partnership with the Rotary Heart 2 Heart project partners in Mexico.

“This project in Clay County has been a long time coming,” Hardman said. “Rotary usually goes somewhere else overseas for global grants, but now we have a global grant right here in our own backyard and it’s special to have Farragut Rotary working with us.”

The people in this Kentucky county have the lowest median income in Kentucky (between $16,000 and $18,000). More than 50 percent do not have a high school education and 36 percent are on food stamps. Many of their homes drain their waste directly into streams there, which in turn contaminates the ground water. Part of the focus of this project is on those homes that dump their waste directly into the streams.

Farragut Rotary has made a $2,000 donation to the project plus Berry and Duncan’s work on the grant. The club will be adding in some elbow grease that will be needed when the actual work begins – like seeding the ground for septic systems and tanks, raking and putting down the straw and anything else Hardman needs. They have – or had – a need for a civil engineer. On Wednesday, Farragut Rotarian Mark Bialik, who is a civil engineer, stepped up and volunteered to help.

“I am an optimist and I am stubborn,” Hardman said. “This has been a long and frustrating ride, but we’re going to get this done. This is going to make lives better for these families.”

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