After 35 years, Rebecca Simpson and her husband, Bobby, continue to operate the Cranks Creek Survival Center. Beginning in 1977 after the devastating flood that left so many homeless across Harlan County, 76-year-old Simpson said she always wanted to find a way to help others.
“I was raised poor,” said Simpson. “Poor as a church mouse. Because of that, I always had a desire to help needy people. I had never worked outside the home, but after seeing so many in need throughout our county, I made up my mind I’d find a way to help.”
Simpson said she began making phone calls and going to meetings trying to find some way to start a charitable organization to help the people of Harlan County.
“I operated the organization out of my home until about 1982 and then my husband built me a little room with a telephone in it because I got so many calls,” said Simpson. “I had a lot of help from Janie Douglas and Anna Lee Gibson. I would travel with them to make contacts and sometimes I wouldn’t have money for a sandwich. Janie and Anna Lee would buy me something to eat when we traveled.”
Simpson said thousands of people have been helped through the survival center where she is the director.
“Because of health problems, my granddaughter, Cherish Stewart, opens the center for me one day a week, every Thursday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.,” said Simpson. “We’ve got clothes and most of the time food for anyone who is in need.”
During the spring, Simpson said charity organizations from other states gather at the center and she and her husband let them know who needs home repairs in the community. She said they also have a Christmas giveaway every year.
“My husband, who is 75 years old now, can’t drive, but he supervises what the groups do,” said Simpson. “He used to work for Harlan Farmers Supply before he became disabled.”
Simpson said she never had the opportunity to further her education, but she wanted to stress the importance of children going on to college.
“I tried the best I could to help others with the education I had,” said Simpson. “If I’d had more, I think maybe I could have done more. I love the people of Harlan County and guess I’ll stay at this until the day I die. I never wanted people to think they were getting a hand-out, but rather a helping hand.”
Simpson and her husband, who reside in Cranks, have six children and a total of 40 grand and great-grandchildren.
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510 or at email@example.com