Donations for Storm Victims Reach Beyond County and State Lines
Putnam County and the City of Cookeville, Tennessee Allocates Tornado Relief Funds to Neighbors in West Tennessee and West Kentucky
BY SABRINA BATES
PUTNAM COUNTY, TENNESSEE (March 3) – On March 3, 2020, a series of tornados ripped through middle Tennessee, hitting the town of Cookeville, located in Putnam County. As a result, the EF-4 tornado took 19 lives in Putnam County. Two years later, on the anniversary of that devastating storm, the county of Putnam and the City of Cookeville, made an announcement that reached across not just county lines in Tennessee, but the state line of Kentucky, when officials decided to donate funds to help their neighbors. The night of December 10, 2021, a line of tornadoes crossed into West Tennessee before moving into Kentucky. Damaged were the towns of Kenton, Tennessee, located in Obion County; Dresden, Tennessee, in Weakley County and Mayfield, Kentucky, where 24 people died in the storms.
Cookeville Mayor Randy Porter and Putnam County Rick Shelton chose Thursday, March 3, 2022, as the day to invite Mayfield, Kentucky, Mayor Kathy O’Nan, City of Dresden (Tennessee) Mayor Jeff Washburn and City of Kenton (Tennessee) Randy Jowers to a virtual meeting, organized by Larry Stone, around 3:15 that afternoon.
Mayor Porter shared with the mayors on the video conference call that their communities “know what you went through.” Porter announced his community was a very generous community and when they decided to re-open the Cookeville-Putnam County Tornado Relief Fund to help out their neighbors, donations started pouring in from Putnam County and beyond. Wanting to do something positive and helpful for those who are hurting, the two mayors announced they were handing over the donations to help survivors and victims’ families in Kenton, Tennessee; Mayfield, Kentucky; and Dresden, Tennessee.
Tears began to flow as the mayors received the news. From the $240,000 donated funds, Mayfield, Kentucky, will receive a check for $100,000; the City of Dresden, Tennessee, will receive a check for $100,000; and the City of Kenton, Tennessee, will receive $40,000.
Jowers shared his town is trying to rebuild. When a tornado ripped through his town the night of December 10, 2021, people asked, “where do we go now?”
“That’s a hard thing to say,” Jowers noted in the conference. In his community (Kenton), 27 houses were destroyed and a total of 78 homes damaged. In a town with 600 water meters, Jowers shared the number of those with damage or loss is a great impact to the small community. There was approximately $130,000 donated to help the victims in Kenton after the storm hit in December. Jowers said they have a ministerial alliance that handles allocations of donated funds through a detailed application process. From medical expenses to helping to make repairs and rebuilds, the $40,000 Cookeville donation will further assist his residents with rebuilding.
“God’s been good to us,” the Kenton mayor added.
With nearly 3,300 people in the community of Dresden, the December storm impacted nearly 180 homes and more than 20 businesses. Dresden saw no loss of life as a result of the tornado, but community members are without homes, vehicles and are still cleaning up debris throughout the town.
Mayor Washburn shared many community members were underinsured or not insured, and the Cookeville donation will help with those types of needs. From rent assistance to relocation assistance to vehicle replacements, Washburn will ask his city board to turn the donation over to the Dresden Rotary Club’s Tornado Relief Fund, which will eventually be under the umbrella of the West Tennessee United Way’s 501c3 status. Through vetting and a blind application process, donations will go to those most in need, such as those who were underinsured or lacked insurance, after funds have been distributed to victims through FEMA and the SBA (Small Business Administration). The Cookeville donation will be earmarked for community members with the greatest needs.
In Mayfield, Kentucky, Mayor O’Nan shared her community lost 24 lives, numerous industries and businesses, as well as the courthouse and municipal buildings and residents are still trying to clean up from the storm.
O’Nan said from the bottom of her heart, she was so appreciative of every bit of help that has come to Mayfield and thankful to the mayors who reached across state lines to help her community. From down payments to rehousing to the loss of vehicles, the donated money will be earmarked for those immediate needs of community members.
All mayors noted they do not sit on any of their donation allocation boards, which are made up of community members, those in the ministerial field, and even some sheriffs who sit on the boards.