Clean Up Continues for Kentucky IGA Following Historic Flooding

USDA undersecretary for rural development visits Isom IGA grocery store devastated by floods.
Photo courtesy of Ryan C. Hermens, Lexington Herald-Leader

In the wake of the devastation caused by the recent flooding in Kentucky, Isom IGA, which was badly damaged by the storms, is working hard to rebuild.

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden made additional disaster assistance available to the state of Kentucky following severe storms, flooding, landslides and mudslides, which began July 26.

Biden and First Lady Jill Biden visited the state last week to meet with families and first responders following the state’s worst flooding in history.

And Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Under Secretary for Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small visited the Isom IGA grocery store, which was reportedly flooded under six feet of water. 

Standing alongside store owner Gwen Christon, who started working at the market in 1973, Small said, "It’s clear that Eastern Kentucky is full of resilient people.”

For Christon, the morning of July 28 was unlike any other Thursday for the 2007 IGA International Retailer of the Year, IGA said in a statement. After a 12-hour deluge in eastern Kentucky brought 7-10 inches of rain overnight and raised the North Fork Kentucky River about 11 feet above flood stage—an occurrence the National Weather Service deemed a one-in-1,000 chance of happening in the area—Christon and her husband, Arthur, drove to check on the store.

“We turned off (Route) 15, and I said, ‘We’re in trouble. We’re in bad trouble,’” Christon told the Lexington Herald-Leader, wiping tears off her cheeks. “We’re still in trouble.”

In the small, unincorporated Kentucky community of about 1,400 people, Isom IGA is a pillar of the town and the only full-service supermarket for miles. The Christons have owned the store for nearly 25 years, according to media reports. 

"You think of it as a store but it's actually a gathering place for everyone," Christon said in an IGA statement. "This is where friends meet friends. They come here not only to buy groceries but to socialize and spend time together ... The store is my home away from home, and the employees and community are an extension of my family."

With such a tight-knit community, it's no surprise that so many have pitched in to help. "Everyone has come through to tell me that they would do anything that they can to help me. We've got friends and neighbors around the place who’ve been cooking, bringing food in to feed all the workers that have been here trying to clean the store up and they just take care of you. We take care of each other,” Christon said, according to an IGA statement.

IGA CEO John Ross sees this benevolent spirit throughout the independent grocery industry. “Helping others in a time of need is what we as Americans do,” he said in a statement. “And in our industry—where the owners, associates and the community are so closely knit—is when that spirit of helping really shines.”

A recent post on the Isom IGA’s Facebook page said, "We are all standing together as we pick up the pieces and rebuild our homes and communities. We need to lean into one another during this time and lend a helping hand where we can. Here at Isom IGA, we will do our best to serve everyone with food, love, and support.”

"It's critical that everyone who is able to chip in to help Gwen and Isom IGA rebuild," Ross said in a statement. "When rural stores like Isom IGA close, communities suffer. Often the small businesses that make up a smaller town fade when the local grocery store goes away.

As clean up continues, IGA has set up a GoFundMe page for small donations, and will be leveraging the Hometown Proud Foundation to allocate larger, tax-deductible donations, IGA said.




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