Local churches help fund eastern Kentucky school

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By Kenny Colston

Two local churches are helping make Christmas special for students at a school in the mountains of eastern Kentucky.

Pewee Valley Presbyterian and Crestwood Christian Church are taking donations for the Lotts Creek Settlement School, which is based in Knott County.

One shared member, Jill MacNiven, who leads mission trips to the school and collects donations year-round, is leading the church’s Christmas time donations.

“Right now Christmas is a very hard time for people in the mountains,” MacNiven said. “The coal mines are shutting down and there’s no work.”

For Christmas, MacNiven is asking for donations of small toys like cars, dolls, coloring books and other items as presents for younger children at the school. Canned goods and used clothes are also needed and can be donated through either church or with MacNiven.

“The kids think this is the best thing they’ve ever got, every year,” she said.

The settlement school was founded in 1932 and is privately funded. MacNiven said the only public funding provided is to pay teacher’s salaries through the Knott County public school district. Books, buses and bills are all paid through private donations, she said.

The school was founded for multiple reasons, namely to improve education in that part of eastern Kentucky as well as to educate students in the winter, when mountain roads became too treacherous to transport students to regular public schools. It currently has 350 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

A relative of MacNiven’s started the school and three generations of her family have been involved in volunteering with the school.

MacNiven makes about six trips a year to the school, which is roughly three and a half hours away from Oldham County. In the summer, she takes clothing and school supplies for the upcoming year. In the fall, backpacks and more supplies.

MacNiven also drives donated clothes and canned goods up all year around, having dedicated a shed at her home to donations for the school. Monetary donations are also accepted and are tax deductible, MacNiven said.

Most of the students at the school go onto college and come back with master’s degrees and invest their education back into their local community, MacNiven said. The school also helps with scholarships for those students.

Those looking to help the school can donate items to either church or can contact MacNiven to pick up a donation at 502-614-6407. MacNiven also leads a mission trip to the school every summer to help with repairs or other work as needed.

MacNiven said her drive to help the school comes in part because her family is originally from the area, but also to help combat poverty.

“This is in my soul, it’s my mission,” she said. “It’s in my blood, I don’t know why. The poverty is real right here at home and it’s only three and a half hours from our area.”

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