Union’s spring convocation to feature Irma Gall as speaker

Published on
January 11, 2017

Irma GallIrma Gall, who founded a community outreach center in Knox County nearly 60 years ago, will be the featured speaker during Union College’s 2017 spring convocation. The event will be held in Robsion Arena on January 19 at 9:30 a.m.

“Service to our region of Appalachia is woven into the Union College mission,” said President Hawkins. “Irma Gall, Peggy Kemner and the Lend-A-Hand Center are wonderful examples of service that enriches the lives of others in ways that respect the land, the history, and the culture of southeastern Kentucky.  I believe it is important for our campus community to hear Irma’s stories and to know that each of us has an opportunity to make a difference in this world.

Gall and Kemner each came to rural Kentucky in the 1950’s; Gall to begin service work as a teacher and Kemner as a midwife. Lend-A-Hand Center was founded in 1958 in an abandoned farmhouse on 50 acres in Walker, Kentucky, one of the small, rural Knox County outposts within the Stinking Creek Community. For the next half century, Gall and Kemner would develop and operate numerous outreach programs that have had a lasting effect on the people of the area. Their service work centered on education, healthcare, agriculture and ministry; but the pair found themselves addressing many needs of the people they served.

“We arrived in time to experience mountain life very much like it had been from the beginning,” Gall said in her 2008 book, Walk With Me. “The lack of roads, bridges, vehicles, and communication services made for real isolation. We were here before television, cell phones, large consolidated schools, house trailers and double-wides changed the speech patterns as well as the way of life here on Stinking Creek.”

Gall is considered the first American Tree Farmer in Knox County; served on the Knox County Agricultural Extension Board; helped to lead the establishment of KCEOC during President Johnson’s War on Poverty; was a small business owner and founding member of the Bed & Breakfast Association of Kentucky and served on Berea College’s Council of the Southern Mountains, an organization based in providing resources to outreach organizations throughout Appalachia.

She holds a teaching certificate from Union College; is an official Kentucky Colonel; the 2012 recipient of the Helen M. Lewis Community Service Award, presented by the Appalachian Studies Association, recipient of the 2014 Susan Arthur Historical Preservation Award and was named the 2016 Knox County Chamber of Commerce Woman of the Year. On the 50th anniversary of the Lend-A-Hand Center, Gall and Kemner were presented a citation from Union College honoring their service.

Gall is the author of the 2008 book, Walk With Me, which details 50 years of experiences with Lend-A-Hand in Knox County and is currently working on her second book, The Stones Cry Out, which will further detail her connection to the people of Knox County.