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Surprise meeting with the president, first lady

Morris and Jill Biden

Kentucky School Advocate
September 2022

By Brenna R. Kelly
KSBA staff writer

When the flood waters destroyed parts of her county, Anna Morris was lucky. The Breathitt County board member’s home was not impacted – so she decided to help.

Morris started volunteering at Marie Roberts-Caney Elementary School which was unscathed and quickly became a donation distribution center and cooling shelter.

The surrounding community was devasted with entire homes washed away including the home of school secretary, Vanessa Baker. Three weeks after the flood Baker was one of two people still missing.

Morris knew how much help was needed so on Aug. 8 she went to the school to answer the phones and do whatever she could. She had been working for more than an hour when the principal mentioned that President Joe Biden was coming to the school.  

“I knew he's coming to eastern Kentucky, I had no idea he was coming actually to Breathitt County,” she said.

Later as Morris was in the gym folding clothes, first lady Jill Biden, Kentucky first lady Britainy Beshear, and Cynthia Rogers, Congressman Hal Rogers’ wife, walked in.

They folded and sorted clothes alongside Morris and shared stories about the flood and what they had seen.

“I was really impressed with it, with Jill Biden. I mean, I sat there and talked to her for a long time and she sorted the clothes,” Morris said. “All three of them were there and they did so many that I started carrying piles of clothes to the right place.”

First lady Jill Biden and President Joe Biden tour the area with Gov. Andy Beshear. (Provided by Gov. Beshear’s office) 

Meanwhile, President Biden, Gov. Andy Beshear, Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman and Rogers were holding a press conference with FEMA officials in the school library. When the press conference was over, the group came to the gym, she said.President Biden shook the volunteers’ hands, when he got to Morris, he asked what she did. Morris explained she was a kindergarten teacher for 33 years and now serves on the board of education.

“He put his hands on each side of my shoulder, and he said, ‘Being a board member is the most thankless job in the United States,’” she said.

“I said, ‘Amen,’” she said. Then she added that she doesn’t do it for money but, “we do it because we love children.”

Morris said it was nice to see the president and other officials cared about what happened to her community.

“It was just a blessing to have him here,” she said. “And him pledging that he was going to make sure that we got what we needed.”

Top photo: First Lady Jill Biden and Breathitt County school board member Anna Morris sort and fold clothes at Marie Roberts-Caney Elementary during the president’s visit to see the flood damage in eastern Kentucky. (Provided by Jill Biden’s Office)

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