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Heal the Heartland: How your donations have helped tornado victims recover

Money for disaster relief provides millions in funds for victims in five states
Find out how your donations to the Heal the Heartland campaign are being used to help others.
Updated: Feb. 24, 2022 at 9:45 PM CST
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MAYFIELD, Ky. (KFVS) - Brian and Heather Ashley still can’t believe their eyes when they look out over what they used to call home outside of Mayfield, Kentucky.

“It was beautiful, I just loved my home,” said Brian Ashley.

The tornado on December 10, 2021 destroyed just about everything.

“It was heartbreaking you know, just everything you worked for all your life,” said Ashley.

Even with so much devastation, they are still counting their blessings.

“It made us realize what’s important, our lives,” said Ashley. “Four of our neighbors lost their lives. One of our neighbors was thrown. We just realized how blessed and lucky we are. I’m so grateful for that.”

He also has so much gratitude for the many people who have helped him and his family over the last couple of months.

“I just wish I could really let people know just how much I appreciate all that they’re doing for us,” said Ashley.

The Ashley family said they had to drop their home insurance policy after Brian suffered an automobile accident injury that kept him from working.

He said he couldn’t afford the insurance, and now has no home and no back up plan.

Many church groups and organizations are lending a helping hand.

“The Salvation Army gave us five gift cards of 50 dollars a piece,” said Ashley. They were one of the easier organizations as they didn’t ask a ton of questions.”

He said with that money they were able to buy some of the basic things that they needed like pots and pans.

The Salvation Army has raised millions of dollars in the past two months to help those impacted by the December tornadoes.

According to Aimee Murry, divisional communications director with the Salvation Army, they have raised more than $3.4 million for disaster relief in Arkansas and Kentucky.

That includes money from the Heal the Heartland Campaign.

That effort raised about $650,000.

Many of you contributed to that when you saw the call for help on KFVS-12 and opened your hearts and wallets right after the storms hit.

“There’s not enough thank yous that could ever repay all the dedication and compassion I’ve seen over the past couple of months,” said Lt. David Donegan.

Lt. David Donegan with the Salvation Army works out of the Paducah office.

He has many applications in his office that represent the people they have recently helped.

“Our office has given away over $100,000 in disaster assistance since the December tornado hit, and that’s just our office,” said Donegan.

According to the Salvation Army, so far they’ve spent about a million dollars in Arkansas and Kentucky on food, recovery supplies and gift cards for families.

Aimee Murry also said the Salvation Army has committed approximately $2.6 million for long-term recovery plans which are slated to go through December 31, 2023.

The numbers for Illinois, Missouri and Tennessee were not readily available.

“You don’t realize how much that costs until you have to replace it and you have to replace it before you get money from the insurance company, before you get money from FEMA,” said Lt. Donegan.

One family Heartland News met in Mayfield said FEMA denied their application.

Right now, they are relying on the generosity of others.

“We lost everything,” said Heather Cole. “We got a little bit of our clothes out.”

Rayburn Sanderson and Heather Cole were living at an apartment building in Mayfield when the tornado hit.

“I watched it rain sideways both directions and the whole sky lit up,” said Rayburn Sanderson.

Their apartment building is still standing, but Sanderson said most everything inside is ruined.

“Man, we’re ready to go back home,” said Sanderson.

He said getting help has not been easy.

Sanderson and Cole didn’t know about resources available through the Salvation Army until we told them.

“[People need] a place to live, help with getting utilities turned on, finding a new place, clothes, food, everything,” said Cole.

Lt. Donegan said resources are still available.

“Either we will meet them here, or we’re an army on the move...we’ll come out and meet you,” said Lt. Donegan.

For families like the Ashley’s, the road ahead is long, and full of many uncertainties.

Knowing they’re not alone make this journey a little easier.

“It just gives you a boost,” said Brian Ashley. “You’re just like wow, I can get through another day of this.”

One of Brian Ashley’s friends started a gofundme page for them as they try to build their lives again. You can find that page by clicking here.

Also, you can still donate to the Heal the Heartland campaign.

You can text HLTORNADO to 51555.

You can also call (800) SAL-ARMY, or click here to visit the link to take you to the website where you can give online.

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