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'Still have the heart to help': Jessamine County inmates volunteer at flood-damaged farms

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Posted at 7:00 PM, Aug 17, 2022

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. (LEX18) — Along with structure and equipment damage, many farmers caught in eastern Kentucky's flood zones lost their hay supply. The crop is critical for feeding livestock in the winter, but with the help of an unexpected group, farmers have replaced some of what they lost.

“People don't stop and think about the feed for the livestock and all that other stuff,” said William “Dooder” Hager.

The Jessamine County Road employee grew up on a farm in Letcher County. Seeing farmers in his hometown hurting for hay, he felt called to help.

“It just hit home,” said Hager. “I thought, ‘Well, maybe I need to do something with hay and take some up there,’ ya know, try to help out as much as I can."

While adamant about helping, Hager knew he couldn’t bale all the hay alone.

“You’ve got square bales of hay, they're 36 inches long and 50 pounds,” explained Hager. “If you're taking 400 bales, 50 pounds at a time, that takes quite a bit, so you can do it, but the more people you’ve got, the easier it is on you."

Hager made calls to Jessamine County Judge Executive David West and the Jessamine Jailer Jon Sallee. In no time, he had a plan and a team consisting of county officials and five Class D inmates, all from Kentucky.

The inmates were asked if they wanted to volunteer. A connection to Kentucky had each of them jumping at the opportunity.

“These guys have messed up in one way or another, they're on this path in life, but knowing they still have the heart to help shows who they really are,” said Sallee.

At times like this, getting help can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack, but in Jessamine County, help is never far.

“Any community project, we do a ton every year, but this one was special in particular,” said Sallee.

After a day of baling, hauling, and transporting, 400 bales of hay made their way to eastern Kentucky. With the help of the Letcher County Cooperative Extension, over a dozen farmers will receive a portion of the hay for free.