Dear Rotary Club of Westerville members,
At my request, our Club Board of Directors has authorized a special fundraiser for our neighbors in need in Kentucky. As you may know, whole swaths of the western side of the state were demolished by a devastating tornado strike Dec. 10.
The scope of devastation from this record-setting tornado is hard to imagine. Some of you may remember the awful Xenia tornado of April 3, 1974, which destroyed almost all of Xenia’s downtown and more than 1,000 homes and businesses overall, killing 33 and injuring another 1,150 people.
The Dec. 10 tornado in Kentucky was worse. It wrought a trail of destruction 165.7 miles long and 1 to 1.5 miles wide, causing catastrophic damage to the towns of Mayfield, Princeton, Dawson Springs, and Bremen, among others. Fifty-eight people were killed in the storm. It was the second longest “continuous path” on the ground tornado recorded in US history.
Our Rotary Club of Westerville will respond to this terrible tragedy in our neighboring state. The board last week authorized matching our members’ donations to this relief effort, dollar-for-dollar, and we will produce a minimum $5,000 donation regardless of individuals’ contributions. I have informed our Rotary District 6690 Governor Maryjane Shackelford that we intend to publicize this campaign, and challenge the other 58 Rotary clubs in the district to respond with like donations in kind.
We will work through the Disaster Relief Campaign of our neighboring Rotary District 6710, which covers western and southern Kentucky. This will allow us to receive regular reports about the recovery work and the impact of our donation.
I reached District 6710 Governor Gail Story by phone Friday, Jan. 28, to firm up these plans and get a first-hand account of what’s happening on the ground now in Kentucky. DG Gail tells a harrowing story of the catastrophic tornado damage, and the painfully slow going of initial recovery work.
“The destruction is beyond comprehension,” she said. “The photographs do not do it justice. FEMA didn’t even know where to start.” At a public meeting Thursday, Jan. 27, FEMA officials reported that Mayfield, just 11 percent of the debris from demolished property has been removed. That was 47 days after the tornado. And Mayfield, benefitting from initial national publicity of the disaster, is better off than some other areas. In Dawson Springs, 75 percent of the town was destroyed. In another small town of about 300 residents on the Kentucky River, every single house must be razed.
In Mayfield, of the town’s 15 powergrids, 10 have been completely destroyed. DG Gail said District 6710’s first distribution of funds will pay up to $1,000 for residents to be reconnected to the electrical grid, but as so much else right now, it’s not known how many homes will have access to the currently working grids. The Maysfield Rotary Club itself has started a “Hope and Homes Program” that will construct modest homes that with donations will cost $60,000 each. Groundbreaking on the first three was planned Friday. The Kentucky governor was to attend.
The state disaster fund with FEMA funds has $39 million for the recovery, but release of that money isn’t expected until much later. Residents generally will have to expend funds and apply for reimbursement. DG Gail said the District 6710 grants – from its own Relief Fund now building past $360,000 – will seek to fill gaps other programs do not reach with impactful, small-sum awards. She promises us regular updates with newsletter stories and photos of the progress, and future visits to our meetings via Zoom. We hope to make a road trip to the region as well, later this spring.
So, Rotary is responding to this tragedy. And the Rotary Club of Westerville will play its part.
DG Gail said she and others in the impact zone are extremely touched by the outreach.
“The gratitude we feel is so great. Please tell your club members, it is your generosity and caring that gives these communities hope.”
Our club members can contribute in the following manner, with tax-deductible donations:
- By no later than Feb. 28, make out a check payable to the Westerville Rotary Foundation
- Write ‘Kentucky Relief Campaign’ in the memo line
- Deliver to Club Treasurer Dave Coffman at an upcoming lunch meeting, or mail to: Rotary Club of Westerville, P.O. Box 595, Westerville, OH 43086-0595
You will hear regular updates on our Kentucky Relief Campaign in the coming weeks and months. Thank you for considering a donation to this relief effort.
Yours in Rotary,
Joe Meyer, 2021-22 President
Rotary Club of Westerville
READ MORE – Stories from the Evansville Courier & Press:
‘It just don’t seem real’ Bremen resident recounts story
The Rotary Club of Westerville
Founded in 1959, the Rotary Club of Westerville is a service club of business professionals and leaders working to improve our community and larger world. We are part of Rotary International. Find out more at WestervilleRotary.com. Contact the Club and learn how to join at www.westervillerotary.com/contact-form.
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The best way to pursue membership is to contact an existing Club member and attend one of our lunches or events as her or his guest. Members of the public also are welcome to attend our events on their own, to see what our service club is all about. If possible, please give notice of your intent to attend a luncheon or social by emailing WestervilleRotaryEvents@gmail.com. Learn more about Rotary International at Rotary.org.
We hope to see you soon!