Month: August 2022

Allen Purnell of Purnell’s ‘Old Folks’ Country Sausage Honored as Distinguished Rural Kentuckian

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (August 17, 2022) – Kentucky’s electric cooperatives honored Allen Purnell as the 2022 Distinguished Rural Kentuckian. Purnell of “Old Folks” Country Sausage has been making “gooo-od” sausage in Simpsonville for more than half a century. The company has over 250 employees. The Distinguished Rural Kentuckian award is the highest honor bestowed by Kentucky’s electric cooperatives, which consists of 26 member co-ops across the Commonwealth.

Chris Perry, CEO and president of the Kentucky Electric Cooperatives, presented the award following a special video tribute to Purnell at the 76thAnnual Meeting of the Kentucky Electric Cooperatives on Monday, August 15. The tribute and remarks from the meeting can be viewed on the association’s YouTube channel.

Photo by Tim Webb

“The Good Lord has been with this company,” Purnell said in an interview for the video tribute. “We’re country and proud of it! I do the best I could, and I really love what I do. It’s not hard.”

“For generations, Kentuckians have been greeted by Al with a wave and a warm ‘Hello, Friend.’ His entrepreneurial success, paired with his love for the Commonwealth he calls home, make him a wonderful choice for this year’s Distinguished Rural Kentuckian award,” said Chris Perry. “Every year, this award recognizes someone who leaves a lasting impact on Kentucky and its people. I’m proud Al ‘the Sausage Man’ Purnell is joining the ranks of our honorees.” 

The Annual Meeting’s Monday night banquet also featured a keynote address from former college basketball coach and ESPN sportscaster, Bob Valvano, in front of several hundred co-op members, friends and guests.

Background on Distinguished Rural Kentuckian Award:
Since 1982, the Distinguished Rural Kentuckian honor has been awarded by Kentucky’s member-owned electric cooperatives. Previous Distinguished Rural Kentuckians include elected leaders, authors, journalists, business executives, physicians, and sports champions. The award recognizes outstanding individuals who have devoted their lives to Kentucky in a way that matches the co-op mission of enhancing the quality of life here.

Co-ops send help after floods ravage Eastern Kentucky

Two months after South Kentucky RECC handed out buckets and light bulbs at a member appreciation day drive-thru, many of those same consumer-members are driving back to the co-op to drop off donations for victims of massive flooding in Eastern Kentucky.

“Our membership and our cooperative family are a blessing,” said Robin Pendergrass, a supervisor at the co-op’s call center. “We are just so thankful for everybody.”

In a video at the co-op’s member appreciation day on June 8, Pendergrass explained that it was her favorite time of the year to step out from behind the scenes to meet face to face with co-op members. Now, she is letting members know that their generosity and compassion for flood survivors is personal for her. She is a native of Perry County where her relatives are literally digging out of mud, muck and debris.

Yet their focus is not on what they have lost.

“I am very blessed to say that my nephew survived,” Pendergrass says with a sob catching in her throat. “Oh my goodness, I’m sorry.”

Her nephew, Eric Watts, got caught up in surging floodwaters while trying to drive home to his wife and three children in Vicco, Kentucky, a tiny city that sits in a mountain valley. Waters from a tributary of the North Fork of the Kentucky River filled that valley when more than 10 inches of rain fell in under 48 hours in late July.

“It was chest deep inside his vehicle, and he had to swim out,” Pendergrass explained. “We’re just blessed he was physically able to fight the water and to get to safety.”

After managing to get his family to higher ground at his mother-in-law’s home, Watts returned to find his own home overtaken by the flash flood. He and his wife are now trying to clear the home of several feet of mud, armed with cleaning supplies donated by electric cooperative members.

“We got such a huge response from our employees and members,” said Morghan Blevins, a service center representative at South Kentucky RECC. “People were still bringing stuff in as we were loading up to deliver it.”

Blevins is a native of Knott County, where ten adults and four children died in the flash flooding and where some survivors are still trying to assess what can be salvaged and others are still trying to locate their homes.

“The amazing thing is the resilience of the mountains,” Blevins emphasized. “The people have pulled together like nothing that I have ever seen. People who have lost everything. Instead of dwelling on that or mourning that, they’re helping people two or three houses up the road who didn’t lose their home. They’re helping them clean up and salvage what they have. It’s just a testament to the people of the area and it just makes me proud to be able to say that that’s where I grew up, and that’s where I’m from.”

Blevins and Pendergrass are among dozens of electric cooperative employees coordinating relief efforts in the region.

Several Jackson Energy employees spent a day in Oneida, Kentucky helping restoration efforts and taking care of neighbors in Clay County.

“It was humbling to see just a glimpse of the damage to the roads that are still impassible, homes that are destroyed and the daily livelihoods that will never be the same,” said Lisa Baker, the co-op’s executive administrative assistant. “But the care and concern shown through the donations and people wanting to help was immeasurable.”

At its Paintsville office, Big Sandy RECC is inviting members to drop off items and the co-op will see that they are given to families in need. Licking Valley RECC has delivered supplies and encourages more donations in hard-hit Breathitt County. Kentucky Electric Cooperatives, the statewide association of co-ops, coordinates the Kentucky Rural Electric Disaster Fund which assists electric cooperative employees who have suffered any losses.

Meanwhile, Appalachia is focusing on survival.

“There is no time right now to mourn what you’ve lost or dwell on that,” Blevins said “You’ve just got to clean up.”

Co-op effort to help flood victims

Eastern Kentucky disaster affects multiple counties and communities

Electric cooperatives in Eastern Kentucky are doing their part to help their neighbors affected by devastating flooding that began on July 26 and continues to take its toll on a wide swath of the commonwealth.

Though power outages persist in Southeastern Kentucky, all but a handful of the outages are tied to investor-owned utilities and not electric cooperatives. Kentucky co-ops employees, relatives and board members have been affected by the disaster.

Co-ops from across Kentucky and the country have inquired of how and where to help.
Here is a sample of efforts aligned with Kentucky co-ops. We will update this list as we confirm co-op and local efforts.
Big Sandy RECC is inviting donors to drop off items at its office in Paintsville:

504 11th St, Paintsville, KY 41240

The co-op will see that these items are given to families in need. The co-op office is open 7:00am – 5:30pm Monday-Thursday. Please let co-op staff know at the drive-thru that you have items to donate and they can help unload them. “Together, we can make a difference in the lives of our neighbors that have been devastated with the flooding in our area,” the co-op posted on its Facebook page. “No gift is too small.”

Licking Valley RECC has delivered supplies and encourages more donations in hard-hit Breathitt County:

First Church of God – 1772 Hwy Ky 30

Items requested by relief workers include mops, buckets, manual can openers, Clorox, baby diapers, totes, rubber gloves, brooms, flash lights, toilet paper, trash bags, baby wipes, plastic silverware, paper plates and anything camping such as tents.

Jackson Energy is collecting donations for their neighbors in Clay, Owsley and Lee counties. Items can be dropped off at one of the co-op offices in London, McKee, Manchester or Beattyville by August 8 – or you are welcome to send items directly to:
Jackson Energy Cooperative
115 Jackson Energy Lane
McKee, KY 40447
The most requested items are: cleaning supplies, toothpaste and toothbrushes, brooms and mops, toiletries, toilet paper, batteries, trash bags, non-perishable food, baby items, clothing and shoes, buckets, gloves and shovels. Once the items are collected, Jackson Energy will reach out to local agencies to see that the items are given to families in need.

Kentucky Electric Cooperatives, the statewide association of co-ops, is thinking of and praying for everyone affected by the devastating flooding.
Electric cooperative employees who have suffered any losses can receive immediate assistance from the Kentucky Rural Electric Disaster Fund.

.If a cooperative would like to make a contribution it can be sent to:
Kentucky Rural Electric Disaster Fund
1630 Lyndon Farm Ct., Ste. 200
Louisville, KY 40223