Just days after country music stars Chris Stapleton and Tyler Childers put boots on the ground in Eastern Kentucky to help flood victims, another famous face showed up.
Actress Jennifer Garner, who is from West Virginia, visited the region over the weekend “to support Save the Children’s flood response in the region, as it works to meet children, families, schools and communities’ most immediate and long-term needs,” according to Jeremy Soulliere, a spokesperson for the aid organization.
“Hundreds of children and families have lost everything they have,” said Garner, a trustee and ambassador. “I spoke with families who are unsure of where they’re going to live, and children who don’t know when they’ll be getting back to school. I visited an elementary school that was 8 feet under water for three days.”
At least 37 people have died due to the flooding, and hundreds have been displaced after losing their homes. Two women are currently still missing from Breathitt County, according to a release from the Kentucky State Police.
“Save the Children staff are distributing essential items – including water, hygiene kits, diapers, wipes, cribs, and cleaning supplies for schools – and helping deliver critical meals to affected families living in the hardest to reach places following the flooding,” the group said in a release. “The global humanitarian organization is also providing art activity kits, games and toys to kids in area shelters – so they can have a moment to be kids again during this difficult time – and identifying kids’ short- and long-term needs as this emergency persists.”
Garner and Cynthia McFadden, a senior correspondent at NBC News, met with Jonathan Jett, Perry County superintendent, at Robinson Elementary School on Sunday to survey the damage to the area. Devastation to the school’s library caught Garner’s attention.
“My little elementary school library totally shaped my life. I wanted to be a school librarian. I wanted to work in a library space just like this,” she said on the Today show. Save the Children helped create the library at Robinson, but now, it’s completely covered in debris from flooding.
On her trip, Garner also met with James Fugate, the principal of Robinson Elementary, and his family. Although James was out of town the night the flooding occurred, his family huddled on the top floor of their house, and they were eventually rescued by family and friends.
Garner praised the people of Eastern Kentucky, saying those she had met on her trip to the area were “strong” and had “incredible intelligence,” work ethic and nobility.
“They just wanted to tell us over and over again how the community had come together to help them, how they hadn’t had to hire help, how people had come to muck out their houses,” Garner said of families in the region. “They were inundated with family and friends.”
Though families in Eastern Kentucky are strong, she said they still need help.
“They need basic necessities,” Garner said. “They need water, they need somewhere to live, they need schools to be up and running. These kids need to go to school.
Garner said Save the Children has assisted with building 16 libraries in Kentucky.
Contact reporter Rae Johnson at RNJohnson@gannett.com. Follow them on Twitter at @RaeJ_33.