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Mayfield-Graves County Fairgrounds prepares to send supplies to eastern Kentucky flood survivors

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Lily Burris
The Mayfield-Graves County Fairgrounds were a center for donated supplies in the aftermath of the December tornado outbreak. The distribution closed at the end of June and the group had a back-to-school event in July to help tornado-impacted families prepare for the upcoming school year.

When a tornado outbreak devastated Mayfield about eight months ago, the Mayfield-Graves County Fairgrounds became a donation and supply hub. Now, as floods devastate eastern Kentucky, volunteers and workers at the fairgrounds are getting ready to send extra supplies across the state to help with initial recovery efforts there.

The fairgrounds has been working toward regular, before-disaster operations after closing as a distribution center at the end of June. There was also a back-to-school event in July to give out some of the remaining donations and help area residents prepare for school. Mayfield-Graves County Fairgrounds Operations Manager Sandra Delk said they’ve been going through trailers of supplies they still have left that they didn’t have space for at the site.

“We just had so much,” Delk said. “People were very generous with us and very kind and so we're passing it on, we're paying it forward.”

Fairgrounds workers plan to send tarps, rubber boots, diapers, baby wipes, backpacks and other things they have left in their supplies they know are helpful in the aftermath of a disaster. The plan is to get the supplies to Hindman in Knott County.

This group isn’t the first in Mayfield to assist communities in the east. In the early days of the flooding, local emergency responders went out to help with growing recovery and relief efforts.

Delk said while she wouldn’t want to go through again how to handle the aftermath of a natural disaster, it’s been “priceless” to know what to send to eastern Kentucky and how to help the impacted communities.

The fairgrounds workers and volunteers are sending supplies on a truck with the Michigan-based nonprofit Disaster Relief At Work (DRAW) sometime next week. DRAW Executive Director Greg Martin said the organization sent supplies and follow-up teams to help in Mayfield, along with helping rebuild a park about three months after the storm.

“When I was there I knew that they had a surplus of items, so I reached back out to Sandy. I said DRAW’s been delivering stuff,” Martin said. “I told them that if they wanted I'd be happy to help with some of the delivery.”

Delk said she believes relief efforts in eastern Kentucky will have a head start toward recovery because of the past relief work in western Kentucky as a recent example.

Delk’s advice to anyone wanting to help eastern Kentuckians was to not send everything. She used children’s toys as an example, and said while they might have received a lot because it was so close to Christmas, families who received these things didn’t have a home to put the toys in. Delk recommended small items that don’t make noise and are easy to carry from place to place like soft baby dolls and things that don’t require batteries.

As for advice on what to donate to eastern Kentucky, she said to check the expiration dates on food being donated since items close to the end of their shelf-life won’t last as long.

“Just pay attention and ask yourself, ‘If you were in their shoes, what would you want most? What would you need?’” Delk said. “Then we're talking things too like Aspirin, Tylenol, band aids, that type of thing. There's always going to be a need for that.”

The fairgrounds won’t be accepting donations to be sent to eastern Kentucky. Delk said people also shouldn’t be in a hurry to send all kinds of supplies to eastern Kentucky because the communities will still need supplies in upcoming months.

“The main thing is don't be in a hurry. They're not going anywhere,” Delk said. “That's their home just like us, and they're still going to need months from now.”

When Delk heard about the floods, she wanted to go there herself and help out. However, she realized the best thing she could do was send supplies.

“You feel like you're just family, the whole state,” Delk said. “If you can't help eastern Kentucky, if you can't help your own state, then who can you help?”

Various state and local relief funds are still collecting donations to go to eastern Kentucky flooding survivors.

Lily Burris is a tornado recovery reporter for WKMS. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Western Kentucky University, worked at the College Heights Herald, and interned at Louisville Public Media during her time there. In her free time, she enjoys reading, crocheting and baking.