Local man spearheads donation effort to help flooding victims in southeastern Kentucky

COLUMBUS, Ind. — At 75, Roger Neptune may use a cane, but it sure hasn’t slowed him down much. You might say he’s on a mission.

The Columbus native has made four dozen relief trips to southeastern Kentucky in recent years. His charitable work has been such a blessing to the Bluegrass state that the governor in 2018 awarded Neptune the commonwealth’s highest honor, naming the retired Hoosier machinist a Kentucky colonel.

Now that deadly floods have devastated the places where Neptune has hauled a Ford 450 flatbed pickup and trailer full of donations over the years, he’s hoping local people will load him up next weekend for his 49th trip. Maybe even his 50th.

“I am interested in first-stage needs” to help people clean up and recover from the deadly floods, Neptune said. The emphasis is on cleaning supplies, such as nonbleach chemicals and sanitizers, brooms, mops, water, towels and paper goods, though nonperishable food and personal hygiene items also will be accepted.

“People need to stop and think, ‘What would happen if I were flooded out? What would I need?” he said.

Neptune and a crew of volunteers will be collecting such items beginning at 7 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, at the Columbus Cheer Fund building, 2674 Verhulst St., near Columbus Municipal Airport.

“I’m going to be there till the last car comes through,” Neptune said. He’ll then haul the donated items to hard-hit Whitesburg in Letcher County, Kentucky. It’s a place Neptune knew well before it became known as the epicenter of disastrous flooding that has killed dozens.

“He’s always been kind of big in that part of the country,” Columbus firefighter and Cheer Fund co-chairman Justin Simms said of Neptune. When Neptune asked if he could use the Cheer Fund building as a distribution drop-off point, Simms quickly agreed.

For more on this story, see Saturday’s Republic.