Public employees across the nation give back to their communities in extraordinary ways every single day. As readers know, on Saturday, December 11, tornadoes left a deadly trail across six states: Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Since the tornadoes struck, public employees across these states have heeded the call to help. Whether they are first responders, municipal employees, medical professionals, or other public employees, they have done their part to repair communities. This week, we will honor the hard-working public employees from the Commonwealth of Kentucky who have risen to the occasion to lend a helping hand. 

Kentucky school bus drivers are delivering tornado aid since classes are canceled as heard on All Things Considered (NPR). With school canceled in Bowling Green, Kentucky, school bus drivers are checking on their students and delivering meals to their families. Two of the bus drivers, Rhonda Stamper and Lana Spears, along with several colleagues, fanned out through their regular neighborhood bus routes to deliver food boxes and speak with parents and children about the devastation. “It is hard. It’s emotional. It’s hard to believe the destruction,” Stamper commented. Spears, who spoke with families who completely lost their homes, said, “It’s hard, I mean, because you see these children every day, a.m. and p.m., and you develop a relationship with them. And, you know, you know a lot about them.”

Lexington teams send crews to Western Kentucky for storm relief by Grason Passmore. Firefighters from around Kentucky raced to devastated areas of the state to help out. “In disasters like this, this is where community is built,” said Lexington Fire Department Battalion Chief Jordan Saas. Lexington Fire Department sent 17 firefighters to help with search and rescue operations. “Several of the challenges we face now is time. That’s why we’re still operating in rescue mode. Time is of the essence. Survivability goes down as the day goes on. Another challenge is the weather. Last night reached below freezing, tonight is expected to do the same. However we are still planning on operating in rescue mode the rest of today and tonight,” said Saas. The crews are working 12-hour shifts and are focusing their efforts at the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory, where the tornadoes took the lives of nine people. 

Kentucky first responders help clean up efforts by Tosin Fakile. Police officers from Lexington, Kentucky, helped with Mayfield’s clean-up efforts this past week. Phillip Johnson and Brandin Gibbs, both officers with the Lexington Police Department, stayed in Mayfield for six days. “It’s kind of a shock and awe factor when you start seeing stuff,” said Johnson. “Physical items that people donated like food and canned goods and clothing that we brought down and dropped off at the distribution center. We went and picked up a lot of supplies on the way like tarps and things like that, and we’ve tarped a bunch of people’s houses that we can find.” Gibbs, who has family in Graves County, commented, “It’s what we’re supposed to do. People need help and we’re perfectly capable of doing so. We understand this is probably some of the worst things they’re going to have to go through in their entire lives. Our main goal here is just to take a little bit of pressure off them and make it a little easier to navigate,” Gibbs said. 

If you would like to help in recovery efforts, please visit the Courier Journal’s comprehensive list of organizations you can donate money or your time. Please consider donating to the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund, which is helping with the funeral expenses of those who lost their lives. Also, to find your local blood bank to donate blood, please visit the American Red Cross

Be sure to check back in the new year for more stories of public employees giving back to their communities!