The Long Path to Rebuild

March 18, 2022

Damage and debris in Mayfield, KY in March 2022. Photo taken by Susanne Gilmore.

In early December 2021, the town of Mayfield, Kentucky, was devastated by a series of tornados that impacted the U.S. Midwest and South. Thousands lost their homes, businesses and towns. Many lost loved ones, friends and neighbors. While the people of Mayfield have begun to rebuild their lives, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.

CWS is supporting Mayfield’s recovery by focusing on both short-term and long-term assistance. In our initial response to the tornado, CWS provided a total of 6,752 CWS Blankets, Hygiene Kits, School Kits and Emergency Cleanup Buckets. These kits and blankets provide the people affected by the tornado with free basic supplies and allow them to commence the extensive clean-up process that follows a natural disaster.

To begin building a long-term recovery plan, CWS Emergency Response Specialist Susanne Gilmore recently visited the affected area in Mayfield.

“When I arrived, I was still heartbroken because it’s been three months and I still saw piles and piles of debris and people living in destroyed homes,” Susanne says. “In Mayfield specifically, the center of town, which is the old town, was hit by the tornado. This is an area consisting primarily of old homes, churches and small businesses. It’s just utter devastation.”

Many people may not realize that the devastation of a disaster like these tornadoes is felt for months or even years. “The long-term effect of a disaster is felt economically and psychologically,” Susanne says. “While I was in Mayfield, there were severe storms that recreated trauma to the population. It’s a vicious cycle. You go from periods of hope to periods of grieving.” Susanne also noted that businesses closed, and property owners lost rental properties. These are long-term effects of disasters, and these lost jobs and incomes can take years to recover…if people are ever able to. To better understand the needs of the people of Mayfield, Susanne has partnered with local organizations and programs including the Migrant Education Program in the Mayfield School District, Catholic Charities, the American Red Cross and Mayfield’s volunteer-led long-term recovery group. These groups have been especially important in identifying ways to help Mayfield’s large migrant and refugee population.

Damage and debris in Mayfield, KY in March 2022. Photo taken by Susanne Gilmore.

When a disaster happens, recently arrived migrants or people who are undocumented are often among the most vulnerable members of our communities. They may be afraid to seek out help, they may be ineligible for the same relief that their neighbors can access, or they may just not know what help is available or how to ask for it. “Some migrants already live in difficult conditions even prior to the disaster and it gets even worse for them after the disaster,” Susanne explains. In CWS’ long-term recovery plan, Susanne aims to help the migrant and Latino community develop preparedness so that they can understand how to protect themselves and their loved ones in the event of a disaster.

Without long-term assistance, those affected “often feel like they have been left alone, there’s nobody to help them and there’s nobody to advocate for them,” Susanne says. She hopes that further support will “give people hope” and “help them feel that there is still a process and agencies that will help them rebuild their homes and lives.” She also elaborates that while “long-term recovery groups will try their best, their work often depends on the funding they receive.” With the proper funding, Susanne strongly believes she and her team would be able to “rebuild the lives of the immigrants and the people affected in Mayfield” and ensure that the stability in the community is long-lasting.

When you support CWS through a donation, you are helping keep hope alive in the Mayfield community and allowing people to rebuild their homes, communities, and ultimately their lives. To join CWS in its long-term recovery assistance, we invite you to donate and join us as we continue to pray for and assist the people of Mayfield.