By The Southern Staff
Southern Illinois (The Southern Illinoisan) — With two weeks left before Christmas, people across Southern Illinois are coming together to gather supplies, raise money and donate toys for Mayfield, Kentucky tornado victims.
Jena Parson, with Robin’s Nest Learning Center in Marion, said these donations can help bring some semblance of a normal Christmas to these families.
“Most of these families had their Christmas trees up in their home and presents wrapped under their tree,” said. “They are wanting to still be able to do those things with their children come Christmas day. Our goal is to be able to provide a means to be able to provide that for them.”
Robin’s Nest Learning Center is accepting diapers, wipes and toys from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday at all their buildings in Marion, Carterville, and Carbondale.
“We just feel like we want to look at the other side of this for our young children, our young generation, to help them through this hard time as they aren’t understanding what’s happened to them and their world being turned upside down.”
Marion Elks #800 is also accepting donations of puzzles, board games and coloring books as well as non-perishable food and cleaning supplies per requests from Kentucky schools, according to Michelle Hamilton, associate dean for Workforce and Community Education.
Marion Elks is accepting donations from 10:30 a.m. till 10 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Damage and deaths across Kentucky
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said at least 64 deaths due to the tornado had been confirmed in his state as of Monday, Dec. 13, and he fears there will be more. Eighteen people who died in the storm are still unidentified.
Those who died range in age from 5-months-old to 86-years-old. About 105 people remain unaccounted for, according to the governor’s office.
The governor said this was the worst tornado in the state’s history. Beshear said lives were lost in eight counties and an estimated 1,000 homes were damaged or destroyed after four tornadoes touched down in the state on Friday.
Beshear said he has opened up the state’s parks for housing for those impacted.
“Pennyrile is already full, I think we have (more than 100) adults and a lot of kids that are out there, we’re going to guarantee at least two weeks of stay. There may be other options by the end of that, but we’re not going to let any of our folks go homeless,” Beshear said.
At least 300 National Guard members have been deployed to help with relief efforts, according to the Kentucky Governor’s office.
Emergency department initiatives
The Williamson County Fire Protection District’s Station 3 is teaming up with Crab Orchard Schools to collect care items, such nonperishables, bottled water, and more, for Kentucky tornado victims, according to the district’s social media page.
Crab Orchard students can bring items to school during regular class hours. Families of non-students can drop off items from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 14, through Friday, Dec. 17 and from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Station 3, 9066 Paulton Rd. in Marion.
The Du Quoin Fire Department, Benton Fire Department and West Frankfort Police are accepting donations this weekend as well.
Johnston City is accepting donations at City Hall to be taken to Mayfield on Thursday, according to Jimmie Barter with the police department.
Anyone who is unsure if their local police or fire department is accepting donations should reach out to those departments before dropping off supplies.
Churches reaching out
Across the region, faith communities are responding in a variety of ways. Two large trailers will leave Murphysboro’s United Methodist Church Wednesday morning filled with a variety of items.
“There are times of tragedies when we can do nothing but pray, but when we can do something, we must,” Pastor Marty McDonald told the congregation Sunday. “The Bible is clear about this. Faith without works is dead. Period.”
A team from Marion’s Cornerstone Church traveled to Fancy Farm, Kentucky, about ten miles northwest of Mayfield, where they are distributing collected items and assisting with clean-up and relief efforts. Additional trips to Kentucky are planned with relief items currently being collected by the church.
Anna lent a helping hand
The City of Anna Illinois filled a box truck and trailer with donations and supplies in the Shawnee College Parking lot on Saturday in an effort to help Mayfield.
“The City asks that we all do our part for our neighbors in great need. We all stand with Mayfield,” The city said in an announcement.
Schools collect supplies for those affected
Several local schools are also accepting donations for tornado victims.
Johnston City is accepting donations from Dec. 14 through Dec. 17 at the Johnston City High School.
They are accepting non-perishable food items, baby food and formula, new clothes, hygiene products, portable chargers, gift cards, flashlights and more.
Donations were also dropped off at Mrs. Cameron’s room in Marion High School on Monday, Dec. 8.
Giant City is accepting donations in their cafeteria and is asking that no one donate used clothes.
Instead they are asking for: baby supplies (diapers, wipes, formula); paper products (paper towels, toilet paper, tissues); cleaning supplies (trash bags, gloves, bleach and bleach products); feminine hygiene products; personal hygiene products (deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, shampoo/conditioner and disposable razors).
Organizations start fundraising campaigns to donate to
Those wishing to donate directly to Kentucky can donate to a fund established by Gov. Andy Beshear at secure.kentucky.gov/formservices/Finance/WKYRelief or by sending a check to Public Protection Cabinet, 500 Mero St., 218 NC, Frankfort, KY 40601.
As of this morning, the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund has received 30,175 donations and has a $4,009,817.71 fund balance.
Those who wish to volunteer can sign up at surveyhero.com/c/viuf4h7p
Beware of scams
The Better Business Bureau warns those wishing to donate money to relief efforts to carefully evaluate which charities they choose to give to.
“Heartbreaking scenes of storm damage may prompt many people to look for ways to help by donating time or money to help those in need,” Michelle L. Corey, the BBB’s St. Louis president and CEO said. “Publicity about disasters often is used by scammers to solicit money that never reaches those who need it.”
To ensure that the money goes to those who need it and not to a scammer, the BBB advises donating to established charities, relying on experts to evaluate and recommend charities to donate to and understanding that gifts of food and clothing may not be wise.
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