MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) — Recently flash flood emergencies were reported in portions of Southeastern Kentucky after the region was hit by extreme rainfall. Flood victims lost a multitude of things like houses, cars, food, and even some, their lives. Two West Virginia chefs will be traveling down to Kentucky on Monday, August 1 with trucks and vans loaded with supplies and necessities.

Marion Ohlinger, executive chef and co-owner of “Hill & Hollow,” as well as, Matt Welsch, executive chef and owner at  “Vagabond Kitchen,” are gathering supplies on Sunday, July 31. Ohlinger will accept donations in Morgantown at the U.S. Department of Agriculture building at 1550 Earl L Core Rd. between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Welsch will be accepting donations in Wheeling at Vagabond Kitchen at 1201 Market St., also between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Items that are being asked for as donations are:

  • Bottled water
  • Gallons of water
  • Food that does not need cooked – Peanut butter, bread, protein bars, etc.
  • Full propane tanks
  • Sanitary items – Toilet paper, body wipes for both babies and adults, diapers, etc.

Flood victims have no electricity, gas, or even water supplies at this time, due to the flooding contamination. Everyone is currently cooking on propane tanks, so full tanks are an essential need. People are cooking for hundreds of people on home grills. Those who donate propane bottles will not get them back, but both Chefs are appreciative of those who are willing to donate despite that.

Both chefs are going down to help cook in the community kitchens that are being set up in Kentucky for those affected by flooding. They were receiving updates on Sunday that there are hollows that are just now being opened due to roads being completely wiped out. A lot of people have not had food, water, electricity, or medical attention in days.

The decision to go down was a “spur of the moment” decision. Ohlinger saw a photograph on Facebook of a young lady with her dog sitting on top of a house roof that was almost completely underwater. He was so moved by the picture and how the girl put her dog in a tub and swam seventy yards through flood waters to get to higher ground. He instantly thought, “man, we have to do something.” he called Welsch on Saturday morning and asked if he could go with him. They both had to clear a few things from their schedules, but they will be hitting the road to Kentucky bright and early on Monday.

To leave for a week in the spur of a moment is a big deal, so there had to be a reason they felt that the flooding was important enough to put everything on hold and go to help.

“I felt very much like when this happened in southern West Virginia four or five years ago [6 years], we were neglected by much of the rest of the country, Appalachia, and West Virginia and Kentucky, in particular, just kind of get forgotten when things happen. We just felt like we were going to go down Kentucky and make sure that’s not happening there, we’re not going to let them be neglected,” Ohlinger said.

At first, they were afraid that they would be getting there too late to actually help, but then they realized that it is an ongoing crisis and that they do not even know the amounts of people who need help right now.

“Hundreds of cooks from Appalachia and around the country are there now cooking for people 24 hours a day,” Ohlinger said.

If you cannot make it out to donate items, people can still make monetary donations through Chef Welsch’s Kitchen PayPal, which is Chef@theVagabondKitchen.com. As of Saturday night, they had already raised $5,000. All proceeds will go directly toward buying supplies in need for the flood victims. Anything they do not use for supplies will go to somebody down in Kentucky that can help put it toward something useful for victims. They will go wherever and whenever they need to get more supplies while down in Kentucky. Ohlinger and Welsch will be there for a week.

Ohlinger mentioned that donations through bigger charities tend to take longer before people receive it, whereas, the money raised will go directly to the victims since they will be down there to give it to them.

When asked how it made Ohlinger feel to be able to go and help the flood victims, he mentioned that he was glad that they both had the time to go do it. He added that it is not about either of them at all, it is about the fact that they are both able to do it, so they are going to do it. They are doing what they can, and like to think that everyone would, if they could.

“West Virginians are kind and generous people, and sometimes we’re misunderstood, this is our chance to show folks who we are,” the Hills & Hollow chef added.