BY CINDY SCHROEDER
The Cincinnati Enquirer
BUTLER - For Deborah Bivens, whose young sons normally attend a Pendleton County preschool closed by flooding, the Backyard Bible School here has been ''a real lifesaver.''
''The boys love it, and I don't know what we'd do without it,'' said Mrs. Bivens, whose family of four spent the past week in a motel after high waters forced them to evacuate their Butler home.
As retired music teacher Shirley Franck led children in a chorus of ''Row, Row, Row Your Boat'' Tuesday, Mrs. Bivens kissed 3-year-old Joshua and 4-year-old Justin good-bye, before dropping them off at the Flour Creek Christian Church.
''We were real fortunate as far as the flood was concerned, but this is still a terrific service,'' Mrs. Bivens said. ''They watch the kids, so that we can help our friends and neighbors with the cleanup.''
And that, say organizers, is the premise behind the temporary child care service.
Peggy Browning, who is supervising the Backyard Bible School, said it helps three groups: children who were displaced by the flood or lost their baby sitters because of it, and those whose parents are helping residents of Pendleton and Campbell counties clean and repair flood-damaged homes and businesses.
''A community that's totally wiped out needs every kind of service, and that includes day care,'' Mrs. Browning said.
Two weeks ago, she took leave from her job as director of the Chapman Child Development Center at Holmes High School to manage the temporary program at Flour Creek Christian Church.
''I live in Burlington now, but this is where I grew up,'' she said. ''When (Butler Baptist Church member) Carolyn Boone said (the community) needed this, I thought, 'That's something I can do to help.'''
Since March 8, about 50 children have attended the free Bible school run by a cooperative of local churches at the Flour Creek Christian Church's multipurpose center, nine miles north of Falmouth.
''We've had volunteers from all over Northern Kentucky and even Ohio - everyone from 12-year-olds who baby-sit to grandmas,'' Mrs. Browning said.
On Tuesday, the 12 children in attendance delighted in a visit from Jan Dietrich, the school services coordinator for the Cincinnati Zoo, who brought along Tether Ball, the bald python; Chanel, the skunk; Petey, the millipede; Seminole, the alligator; and Chopin, the hornbill.
The John R. Green Co. in Covington has donated art supplies, Alexandria fast food restaurants contributed much of the food, AT&T and area churches have supplied many of the volunteers, and entertainers from magicians to ventriloquists have donated their services, Mrs. Browning said.
''When you say it's for children, people just say, 'What do you need?' '' Mrs. Browning said. ''The community response has just been overwhelming.''